During this time of uncertainty, The Chamber’s Public Policy team will continue to provide you with the most up to date state and federal information that you can use right now for your business and your employees. We thank our public officials for recognizing that businesses need immediate assistance as you work to stay above water and be helpful to your employees. We continue to be in daily communication with our legislative leaders and staff to monitor progress and will update you immediately on results from which you may be able to benefit. Please contact us (contact information at the bottom of this email) with any questions you may have.
July 2, 2020
3 Major Changes that Could Affect your Business
Still time for you to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program...
U.S. Senate focuses on liability protection for business…
Speaking of liability... could you use 20 minutes of FREE legal advice?
1) Still time for you to apply for the Paycheck Protection Program… Last night, the U.S. House unanimously passed legislation that would extend the deadline to apply for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans through August 8. The U.S. Senate passed the extension on Tuesday and now it is on the President's desk for signature. We anticipate as early as today he will sign the extension into law. Of the $660 billion in total funding for the program, approximately $130 billion is still available. The Chamber would like to thank all of our federal representatives - U.S. Senators Bob Casey and Pat Toomey - and our members of Congress - Matt Cartwright, Tom Malinowski, Dan Meuser and Susan Wild - for supporting the extension. More big news on the PPP front… If the proposed PPP Small Business Forgiveness Act is passed, your PPP loans of $150,000 or less will only require a simple, one-page attestation form to your lender for forgiveness. The Chamber supports this legislation introduced by North Dakota Senator Kevin Cramer that would also benefit chamber members in the following ways:
The borrower shall be held harmless from any enforcement action if the borrower’s attestation contained any falsehoods.
The borrower attestation will include a means by which a borrower, on a voluntary basis, will provide the following demographic information: sex; race; ethnicity; and veteran status of owner.
2) “…any bill that passes the Senate will have liability protections in it.” Those words were said on Tuesday night by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell regarding stimulus legislation. While no specifics have been given by McConnell, he has indicated the legislation would include significant liability protections against lawsuits anyone may bring because of the COVID-19 pandemic, unless in cases of gross negligence and intentional misconduct. The Chamber has heard your concerns loud and clear and will continue to express to our legislators at the federal and state levels that businesses have had it hard enough the past few months and needs to be protected against frivolous legal action. The Senate will recess today and return July 20. Chamber staff will keep you updated as we continue to work with our congressional offices.
3) Speaking of legal action…could you use 20 minutes of FREE legal advice? To support our members, The Chamber is offering member businesses a FREE 20 minute legal consultation with one of our four Chamber Law Firm Partners:
Lesavoy Butz & Seitz FOR Business, Corporate, Real Estate, Estate Planning & Litigation Needs
King Spry Herman Freund & Faul FOR Employment and Labor, Employee Benefits;
Zator Law FOR Estate Planning, Bankruptcy, Business/Commercial Law, Real Estate, Criminal Defense, and Workers’ Compensation
Gross McGinley FOR Business, Corporate, Employment and Real Estate
This new benefit is designed to provide our members with access to general legal guidance concerning the required safety regulations and procedures on the reopening of their business.
To take advantage and to be connected with one of our firms, please contact Alison Pickel, SVP of Member Relations, at (610) 739-1512. Disclaimer: Information discussed during the Chamber legal consultation call is intended for general informational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. The legal consultation call does not create an attorney-client relationship between the attorney and caller. Likewise, none of the information discussed during the initial consultation call is covered by attorney-client privilege. If more information or legal guidance is needed beyond the legal consultation call, you may formally retain an attorney who can examine the complete facts and provide a legal opinion on your matter.
PA STATE UPDATE:
The COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program is Now Open Pennsylvania is now accepting applications for grants to help small businesses recover financial losses caused by the statewide business shutdown order due to COVID-19. Small businesses in Pennsylvania can apply for grants of between $5,000 and $50,000 to affected businesses that have 25 of fewer employees and meet other eligibility requirements. The application period opened June 30 and will remain open for 10 days. Information on the grant program including eligibility requirements and application details can be found at the Rising Tide Community Loan Fund.
PA Unemployment Extension The Pennsylvania Department of Labor and Industry has announced that unemployment compensation benefits are being extended. Individuals who have exhausted their regular Unemployment Compensation (UC) and federal Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC) may qualify for 13 additional weeks of payments through the state’s Unemployment Compensation Extended Benefits (EB) program. The Extended Benefits payments will begin to be rolled out at the end of next week and eligible individuals will receive notification by mail. More information about eligibility and how to file claims for extended benefit can be found here
Don’t Forget Your Mask Governor Tom Wolf is reminding all PA residents and businesses that masks are mandatory the entire time while visiting a business. Also, yesterday the PA Secretary of Health Dr. Rachel Levine signed an executive ordermandating that Pennsylvanians wear a mask anytime they are in a public setting.
State agencies have sent communications to PA businesses this week outlining mask requirements. The state’s business guidance outlining mask wearing requirements can be found here
NEW JERSEY UPDATE:
Governor Phil Murphy has announced that indoor dining, which was initially set to open today, July 2, has been postponed indefinitely. Governor Murphy announced the restrictions will remain in place due to a surge in COVID-19 cases in other states driven in part by the return to indoor dining.
For the most up to date information regarding COVID-19 and resources available in New Jersey please here
PA CareerLink Lehigh Valley is here to help provide you with skilled workers. The employment, training, and labor market services you receive through their workforce delivery system are professional, comprehensive, and on-target. These services come at no cost to you.
To learn more about employment and training programs, call 610-437-5627, extension 136, or emailBEST@careerlinklv.org
June 24, 2020
This Friday, June 26, the Lehigh Valley will join the remainder of Pennsylvania counties in the Yellow Phase and move into the Green Phase. The only county to remain in the Yellow Phase is Lebanon.
What does this mean for your business:
Continued tele-work is strongly encouraged,
All businesses operating at 50% occupancy in the Yellow Phase may increase to 75% occupancy in the Green Phase,
Large gatherings of more than 250 are prohibited,
Restaurants and bars open at 50% occupancy,
Personal care services (including hair salons and barbershops) open at 50% occupancy and by appointment only,
Indoor recreation, health and wellness facilities, and personal care services (such as gyms and spas) open at 50% occupancy with appointments strongly encouraged,
All entertainment (such as casinos, theaters, and shopping malls) open at 50% occupancy,
For a complete listing of what can and cannot be done, please clickhere
PA STATE UPDATE:
GRANT $ for BUSINESSES The Department of Community and Economic Development (DCED) announced the new COVID-19 Relief Statewide Small Business Assistance Program to provide grants ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 to small businesses that have been economically impacted by COVID-19. The program is expected to open Tuesday, June 30. Information about the program and how to apply can be found here.
Small businesses must apply through their local Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs).
COVID-19 Stimulus Senate Leaders and Trump Administration officials are working on negotiating a new COVID-19 stimulus package. At the forefront of these negotiations is another round of $1,200 stimulus payments to help those struggling financially due to COVID-19. As of last evening, many Senate Republicans said they were not apt to agree to additional payments at this time. Also being discussed for possible inclusion in the next stimulus funding legislation is another round of the Paycheck Protection Program, a payroll tax holiday, as well as federal funding for schools and colleges to return in the fall. Chamber staff will keep you updated as we learn more from our federal officials.
CARES ACT BENEFITS --- 7(a) LOANS Unknown to most of us, there is a clause in the CARES Act that allows any Section 7(a) loan closed before Sept. 27, 2020, the CARES Act provides for the forgiveness of the first six months of both principal and interest payments, plus any related fees, for the borrower. In real terms, it means that a small-business owner can save about $33,000 on a $500,000 loan.
Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) The SBA will begin accepting new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) and EIDL Advance applications from all eligible small businesses and U.S. agricultural businesses. To learn more about eligibility and apply, click here.
Application DEADLINE for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) June 30, 2020 remains the final day to apply for a Paycheck Protection Program loan. If you are interested in applying for a PPP loan, you can find information here.
The Chamber supports extending the application deadline and are told there is pending legislation to do that. Thank you to U.S. Congresswoman Susan Wild and her team for all of your assistance.
PPP Loan Forgiveness Made Simple The Small Business Administration introduced the 3508EZ Form which simplifies the process of applying for loan forgiveness for certain borrowers. The EZ PPP Loan forgiveness application requires fewer calculations and less documentation for certain borrowers. You may be eligible to apply for forgiveness with the 3508EZ application if you meet at least one of the three qualifications below:
You are self-employed and do not have any employees.
You did not reduce your employees' hours or did not reduce their salaries or wages by more than 25%.
You experienced reductions in business as a result of health directives related to the Coronavirus (COVID-19) AND did not reduce the salaries or wages of your employees more than 25%.
NEW JERSEY UPDATE:
The State of New Jersey has entered Phase 2 of its reopening plan.
In Phase 2, outdoor dining is allowed at restaurants and non-essential retail stores can now allow customers inside again at half capacity. Governor Murphy has announced that Casinos in New Jersey as well as indoor dining throughout New Jersey can resume at 25% capacity on July 2. Governor Murphy has not announced when he expects New Jersey to enter Phase 3 of its reopening.
To view Governor Murphy's “Strategic Restart Plan” click here.
June 4, 2020
Tomorrow, June 5, Lehigh and Northampton Counties will join all of PA, including Carbon and Monroe Counties, and move to a less restrictive "yellow" phase from the Governor’s “Process to Reopen PA."
What does this mean for your business:
Tele-work must continue where feasible,
The Stay-at-Home order is lifted,
Large gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited,
In-person retail allowed, however curbside is preferred
Restaurants and Bars may open outdoor dining, in addition to carry-out.
For a complete listing of what can and can’t be done, please click here
State issued new guidance for re-opening the restaurant industry, click here.
Counties will be monitored for “increased risks” for 14 days. If mitigated, the county will transition to the final green phase.
Positive Modifications to PPP (Paycheck Protection Program) Heading to the President’s desk for his signature is the “Paycheck Protection Program Flexibility Act" changing the restrictions you must abide by in order to be forgiven of your PPP loan. Information about the Paycheck Protection Program can be found here.
You will now have 24 weeks to spend the PPP loan funds –original period was 8 weeks
You may spend up to 40% on NON-payroll costs—original amount was 25%
For any PPP funding that is not forgiven, you will have up to 5 years to repay—original was 2 years
For more details on this flexibility legislation, click here
We spoke on your behalf to our federal legislators encouraging their support of this legislation and they really listened to your voices! A BIG THANKS to U.S. Senators Casey and Toomey, as well as U.S. Reps Cartwright, Malinowski, Meuser and Wild for supporting business!
HEROES Act The House of Representatives passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act on a partisan vote, which would provide an additional $3 trillion in relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Senate Leadership expressed many concerns over this bill and have expressed interest in working on other legislation.
Proposed PA State Funding for Business
Pennsylvania Senate Democrats have announced their “Main Street Business Revitalization Grant Program.” Senators Costa, Hughes, Blake, and Iovino are calling for $550 million of funds allocated to Pennsylvania through the federal CARES act to be used for this program. Some of the eligible businesses would include barbers, salons, restaurants, bars and taverns, retailers, coffee shops, hardware stores, garden shops, realtors, childcare facilities, and other small businesses. Negotiations are ongoing between Governor Wolf and the legislature on how the remaining CARES funding will be allocated.
Governor Phil Murphy announced a 3 phase reopening plan and is currently in stage 1. During stage 1, restrictions are relaxed on low risk activities. New Jersey is expected to enter stage 2 of the reopening process on June 15th. This includes limited in-person government activities, limited fitness/gyms, reopening of museums and libraries, outdoor dining, and limited in-person retail. Hair salons and barbershops can reopen on June 22nd.
Information on Governor Murphy’s Plan to reopen NJ can be foundhere.
May 1, 2020
Thank you for staying strong through this crisis. The Chamber continues to fight for you and call on our elected officials to reopen our state and provide additional funding to keep your employees employed and your business strong. We remain focused on providing the most important resources available to you, our members. We will all come out of this stronger together #ChamberStrong
We anticipate a press conference this afternoon fromPA Governor Tom Wolf updating Pennsylvanians on his plan to reopen the state. We are anxious to find out when Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Monroe businesses can open their doors. We will keep you updated!
Here is what we know right now… Governor Wolf’s current plan to re-open PA includes three phases coded in red, yellow and green.
Currently the entire state is in the red phase focused on minimizing the spread of COVID-19 through strict social distancing, non-life sustaining business and school closures, and building safety protocols.
The plan dictates that to move from the red phase to the yellow phase, one of the deciding factors is the determined regional area must have fewer than 50 new confirmed cases per 100,000 population reported to the department in the previous 14 days. For example, an area with a population of 800,000 people would need to have fewer than 400 new confirmed cases reported in the past 14 days to meet the target.
To give you an idea of where we stand in the Lehigh Valley, the latest PA Dept. of Health numbers of new cases of COVID-19 are: Carbon (5), Lehigh (77), Northampton (42) and Monroe (16)
The Governor has stressed that additional factors will weigh in on the reopening decision including:
Robust case investigation and contact tracing infrastructure.
Identification of area’s high-risk settings and what safeguards are in place
This week, Republican lawmakers voted to subpoenadocuments from the Wolf Administration over their controversial coronavirus waiver process for essential businesses.
How $4 Billion in Federal Stimulus will be Spent in PA PA State lawmakers discussed this week how to spend the nearly $4 billion allotted to PA from federal stimulus dollars. The Senate Democratic Caucus proposed spending $1.1 billion to assist working people, $900 million on education and child care, $650 million to assist health care workers, first responders and other front-line workers in the COVID-19 fight, $425 million to help small businesses and $300 million to help African American and Hispanic communities.
Senate Majority Leader Jake Corman, R-Centre, said he would like to see stimulus legislation sent to Gov. Tom Wolf for signing before Memorial Day.
AT THE FEDERAL LEVEL:
Today, the U.S. Supreme Court has ordered Governor Wolf to respond to a lawsuit by a group of Pennsylvania business people who claim the state’s shutdown violates their constitutional rights.
U.S. Senator Pat Toomey was named to the bipartisan White House task force assisting the President with a plan to reopen the economy. Senators Toomey and Bob Casey shared their perspectives here.
More Federal Stimulus: This week $310 billion was made available for the PPP (Paycheck Protection Program). The Chamber’s Public Policy staff worked with many chamber members who were not successful in the first round but still had an application in the lineup and many who were applying first time for this round. Thank you to all of our banks for working countless hours for Lehigh Valley businesses.
Due to the stimulus in the last round going to many not so small businesses, the SBA has pledged to increase scrutiny of any loans distributed above $2 million under the PPP.
Knowing that the $310 Billion is not going to be enough for all businesses in need, we are joining with other chambers around the country asking Congress to create a CARES Act 2, which would be phase 4 of the relief packages. We are told phase 4 may include financial aid for state and local governments, liability protections for businesses (we are fighting to include this - we joined other associations in sending this Letter to House and Senate Leadership) and health care workers, hazard pay for front line workers, expanded unemployment benefits, tax relief, and additional direct payments.
What else are we focused on for your business? The Chamber joined a nationwide group of business and manufacturing industry associations to request action from Congress to ensure that businesses which have remained operational during these times of legal uncertainty, don’t risk becoming the targets of coronavirus-related lawsuits which would derail our recovery.
PA STATE ASSISTANCE: Independent contractors, gig workers and self-employed, are now able to apply for unemployment through the state Department of Labor and Industry’s website: here's the link.
For questions about program eligibility and information about the documents you will need to provide when applying,click here.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is part of the federal CARES Act and expanded eligibility for these individuals who are traditionally ineligible for unemployment benefits.
For questions specific to applying for PUA, please email UCPUA@pa.gov
NEW JERSEY UPDATE: New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy held a press conference earlier this week to reveal his plan to reopen New Jersey.
In his address he mentioned a “responsible” economic restart which would see the state looking at reopening businesses that are low-risk first, though he did not give examples of what businesses would fit into this category. He also stated that when businesses can re-open, customers should expect to wear face coverings in certain locations, ands some businesses will continue to have employees working from home if possible.
You can find Governor Murphy’s “The Road Back: Restoring Economic Health Through Public Health” planhere
April 20, 2020
As of 8:00 p.m. Sunday, April 19, masks must be worn in public.Employers must require all employees and customers to wear masks or the business may face a fine and/or citation.
Today, Governor Wolf addressed the Commonwealth extending the stay-at-home requirement through May 8. He said more details will be forthcoming on the process for reopening the state and reaffirmed those decisions will be data driven related to COVID-19. Two positives for business:
Online car sales will resume after the Governor signs into law later today legislation enabling PA notaries to perform online notarizations.
Public and private residential and non-residential construction may resume on Friday, May 8 following safety guidance coming soon from the Administration.
Seeking FEDERAL ASSISTANCE for your business:
The $350 billion allocated by the federal government through the CARES Act to assist businesses in keeping employees paid, is out of money. Our small businesses need immediate financial relief. The Chamber is calling on Congress to immediately restore funding for the CARES Act small business loan and grant programs. The Public Policy Team is closely monitoring the situation in Washington and will alert you as soon as there is concrete information to share.
Independent contractors, gig workers and self-employed, are now able to apply for unemployment through the state Department of Labor and Industry’s website: here's the link.
For questions about program eligibility and information about the documents you will need to provide when applying, click here.
The Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) is part of the federal CARES Act and expanded eligibility for these individuals who are traditionally ineligible for unemployment benefits.
Ready to reopen for business!
With nearly 1.5 million Pennsylvanians filed for unemployed as a result of COVID-19, legislation was passed last week, mostly along party lines, to reopen a good portion of PA businesses. It was a partisan vote that redefined what businesses are life-sustaining and non-life-sustaining as long as they as they took certain safety precautions according to CDCP (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention).
The Governor did not sign that legislation and announced he will veto it. The legislation was passed mostly upon party lines and there are not enough legislators in favor to override his veto.
On Friday, April 17, Gov. Wolf announced his Plan for PA focused on relief, reopening, and recovery. His specific plan addressing business is here.
For those businesses who are deemed life-sustaining, the state department of health has issued a workplace safety measures document.
Employer Support Webinar
On Thursday, April 23rd, PA CareerLink® Lehigh Valley/EDSI will be hosting an Employer Support Webinar at 3PM for Lehigh Valley employers. During this webinar, you will get a chance to learn about strategies from a turnaround professional, who has helped save hundreds of financially distressed companies during times of crisis. You will also get a chance to participate in a Q&A session. Companies within the Lehigh Valley that attend the webinar will also be able to schedule 60 minute, one-to-one sessions (free of charge), where turnaround professionals can help you assess your situation and put together a plan of action.
In response to the Coronavirus, Congress has passed and President Trump has signed a $2.2 Trillion relief package with $350 million being targeted specifically to small businesses. The money is to be used to keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Known as the “Paycheck Protection Program,” the initiative provides 100% federally guaranteed loans to small businesses who maintain their payroll during this emergency. Importantly, these loans may be forgiven if borrowers maintain their payrolls during the crisis or restore their payrolls afterward.
The Greater Lehigh Valley Chamber of Commerce is here to work with you and answer questions you may have on the numerous programs and guidelines. If we can’t answer it, we will find you the answer. We know you are being inundated with emails and it becomes quite confusing for all of us. The Chamber’s Public Policy team focused on sorting through to provide you with the most updated information in the most expedient manner and the most important links available at this time to you, our members. The NEW Stimulus Bill —How Can It Help Your Business? (Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act) Congress has approved $350 billion in emergency loans for small businesses to help keep their workers employed. In fact, if small businesses maintain or later restore their payrolls, they may not have to repay some — or possibly any — of the loan.
Paycheck Protection Program Q&A for employers (file above)
What Coronavirus Emergency Loans are Available? Click here to find out.
For a list of the most updated list from the Governor’s office of Life-Sustaining and Non-Life-Sustaining businesses, click here. (Last updated on Tuesday 3/24 at 2:30pm)
To apply for a waiver to keep your business open, click here.
New loan program (up to 100,000 per business available) approved in Harrisburg today for small businesses impacted by COVID-19 under the Pennsylvania Industrial Development Authority’s (PIDA) Small Business First Fund, the COVID-19 Working Capital Access Program (CWCA). For information, click here.
If you own a business and had to close either temporarily, consider layoffs or believe you are financially at-risk for permanent closure the Rapid Response Assistance Program is available to you and your employees: RA-LI-BWPO-Rapid@pa.gov
SBA Offers Daily Disaster Loan Training Webinars for Small Business. Click here for information.
Thursday, March 26: 9:00-10:30: SBA Disaster Loan Webinar and Pennsylvania State Financing Programs to help Small Businesses with COVID 19. Clickhere!
Friday, March 27: 9:00-10:30: SBA Disaster Loan Webinar and Pennsylvania State Financing Programs to help Small Businesses with COVID 19. Click here!
You are hearing much about financial assistance coming from our federal leaders. As soon as information is finalized, we will get it out to you asap!
March 24, 2020
PA Governor Tom Wolf has released an updated list of business types that may continue physical operations, in relation to the Governor's Executive Order mandating closures for COVID-19 mitigation.
Governor’s list (UPDATED: Friday, 3/20) of life-sustaining and non-life sustaining businesses: https://bit.ly/33D4Jhm
March 20, 2020
PA Governor Tom Wolf mandated that all non-life-sustaining businesses close their physical locations. The governor is granted extraordinary powers upon his declaration of a disaster emergency, such as COVID-19. To view the governor's list of non-life-sustaining vs. life-sustaining businesses, click here. (In extenuating circumstances, special exemptions will be granted to businesses that are supplying or servicing health care providers.) Failure to comply with these requirements will result in enforcement action that could include citations, fines, or license suspensions. Enforcement Actions for Non-Compliance will Begin at 12:01 a.m. Saturday, March 21. If you would like to seek a waiver for your business, at this time the process available is to email: RAemail@example.com. If you would like to contact the Administration with questions about whether you need to close your business, the process provided is to email: firstname.lastname@example.org Help for you available as of this morning:
Yesterday afternoon, the SBA (Small Business Administration) extended its approval of disaster loan assistance to ALL PA Counties. Click here.
State officials announced $61 million is now available through the Small Business First Fund for working capital loans of up to $100,000 directly to small businesses. The current interest rate is 3% but we are told that may be adjusted. The PA Industrial Development Authority expects that applications will be accepted as early as next week. The Small Business First Fund is administered by certified economic development organizations (CEDO) in each county. Click here to find your CEDO.
March 19, 2020
A lot happened last night!
President Trump signed an emergency relief package [Families First Coronavirus Response Act] providing funding and other changes to law to assist the Nation responding to COVID-19. Key elements of $100 billion, bi-partisan bill are: paid emergency leave to workers, provisions for free coronavirus testing and bolstered unemployment benefits. More details to come…
The SBA (Small Business Administration) approved areas of PA for disaster loan assistance. At this time Monroe and Northampton Counties are listed as approved. We will keep you updated as our other counties are approved. (See More)
State officials announced $61 million is now available through the Small Business First Fund for working capital loans of up to $100,000 directly to small businesses. The current interest rate is 3% but we are told that may be adjusted. This funding will be administered through PIDA (PA Industrial Development Authority). PIDA expects that applications will be accepted as early as next week. (See More)