Robert James Investments was the next step in Bob Podraza’s calling to serve clients financial planning needs.
As a fiduciary, financial advisor and planning professional Podraza wants to chart his next professional stage and steer its business succession.
Robert James Investments, which opened Aug. 1, 2021, is located at 1313 W. Broad Street in downtown Quakertown.
Creating a signature-named firm “comes with a high level of responsibility and commitment,” Podraza said.
A familiar face in Upper Bucks County, Podraza spent 10 years with St. Louis headquartered Edward Jones, a financial services firm founded in 1922 and serving clients in the U.S. and Canada.
Starting a company is never easy, but Podraza said the time was right – despite the challenges of opening a business during the coronavirus global pandemic.
From independent decision making and policies to having the ability to define service to clients, Podraza can steer the company by his vision. Among his top priorities is to continue service to clients and create a succession plan for Robert James Investments future.
“I have a long runway,” Podraza explained, “and my goal is to continue to remain healthy and serve families for at least the next 15 years.”
While the service area is primarily Upper Bucks County, Podraza continues to serve clients he met who have retired to Florida, and other parts of the country.
During the coming years Podraza plans to bring in “…some young energy who will understand my values and [enjoy] doing business face to face and continue deep relationships” with clients, he said.
He said while the coronavirus pandemic prompted more use of technology to keep in touch with clients, and he continued to make in-person visits to those comfortable meeting that way.
“Zoom meetings are great and are a great tool, but at the end of the day l believe people want to be together,” he said.
In-person prospecting is among the many valuable skills Podraza honed his time at Edward Jones.
“I believe that’s the best way to begin a relationship,” he said.
Finance, insurance and investment are significant contributors to the economy.
According to the U.S. Department of Commerce International Trade Administration, the finance and insurance sector represented about $1.5 trillion of gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018, or roughly 7.4%.
The growth-oriented financial services sector includes banking, asset management, venture capital and private equity and related professions.
For those at or nearing retirement, knowing money goals and desired outcomes can drive a successful financial plan.
Annual meetings review client goals and portfolio performance, and Podraza typically schedules these meetings on or near client birthdays to ensure current desires and goals are aligned and current with investment strategies.
As a fiduciary and a licensed Series 7 general securities representative Podraza must put client interests ahead of his own.
He is also licensed to sell annuities and life insurance “…as part of a complete financial plan.”
Robert James Investment Tips:
As a dependable source of retirement income – backed by the U.S. government, larger social security monthly checks can take the pressure off of other sources of retirement income, Podraza said.
“The difficult part is discerning these things and maybe they’ve been avoiding them,” Podraza said.
The Upper Bucks Chamber community is proud to have members like Bob Podraza in our region. Special thank you to Bob for continuing his commitment to help individuals with financial services and serving on the Upper Bucks Chamber Board of Directors.
For more information on Robert James Investments contact Bob Podraza at 215.583.5013 or log onto www.robertjamesinvestments.com.
John Olson believes everyone needs a solid financial plan.
What’s why he specializes in retirement and estate planning in his role as first vice president at Janney Montgomery Scott, LLC, in South Whitehall Township, Lehigh County.
Founded in 1832 Janney Montgomery Scott employs over 1800 people and is a regional boutique wealth management firm, with more than $115 billion in client assets under advisement, the firm’s website said. Janney is an independent subsidiary of The Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company.
From creating wealth and remaining financially independent to understanding the legal documents necessary for a smooth transition of assets and estate planning, Olsen believes this service is an important aspect of his job.
“Think there’s a gap, and retirement and estate planning is an underserved segment,” Olson said.
“It’s not just about selling a product for the minute or this year, but to dig into the details and find out where they want to be in five, 10 or 15 years and to help them reach those goals,” Olson said.
“Advice beyond investments, that’s the key term,” he said.
When shopping for a financial planner Olson recommends making sure the candidate in consideration has appropriate education and is a certified financial planner [CFP]. A CFP is also a fiduciary, and must put the client’s best interests first and foremost. Certified financial planners are a professional designation conferred by the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc.
A CFP is recognized to have expertise in such areas as financial planning, taxes, insurance, estate planning and retirement planning and investments. Olson received his CFP in 2020.
Olson said people often don’t realize that risk management – including having legal documents like a will, financial and medical powers of attorney and named beneficiaries, among others “…comes before the investment of a true financial plan.” While sometimes uncomfortable to begin, Olson uses education to help buffer the emotional toll discussing wills and a medical power of attorney can trigger.
He recommends revisiting and reviewing documents – especially wills – every 5 or 10 years, or after a major event such as marriage, divorce, birth or adoption of children, retirement, hitting the lottery, or receiving a major asset windfall.
Having legal affairs in order can provide not only peace of mind, but a welcome relief to family members and caregivers. “I frame it [in the context] of education, and I illustrate what can happen when you don’t have these documents in place by sharing my own personal experiences,” Olson said.
Relieving the burden of making difficult decisions during disability or after death – because those decisions were made by the individual – is a priceless gift available to anyone to give.
As a life-long learner, Olson understands the value of receiving, as well as sharing knowledge. And he genuinely enjoys teaching others.
Olson completed a Master’s Degree in Personal Financial Planning in 2019. He spends time annually keeping pace, taking classes to further professional development.
“I try to do one professional development item a year. I think it should be part of your job, and mission to educate clients,” he said.
Next up, Olson plans to become a Chartered Life Underwriter. This expert designation in life insurance planning will go hand-in-hand with estate planning issues, he said.
A Chartered Life Underwriter is a professional designation of expertise in life insurance, estate planning and business planning. An Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce member for more than 15 years, Olson is a past chamber board president. He spent 10 years chairing the chamber’s legislative committee.
Olson served as an Infantryman with the 2nd Battalion 14th Infantry Regiment “Golden Dragons” from 1995 to 1998. Highlights of his duty included training West Point cadets in land navigation skills, and serving in the NATO mission Operation Joint Guard in Bosnia as part of the stabilization force. Olson and his family live in Richland Township.
For more information on Janney Montgomery Scott contact John Olson at 610.674.6983 or log onto https://advisor.janney.com/johnmolson/.
In ways big and small – and across 144 years – QNB Bank takes its role in the community seriously.
Since 1877, only seven presidents have filled the top spot at QNB, that’s about 20 years of service at the helm, on average.
Part of QNB’s remarkable stewardship – from weathering world wars, financial disasters like The Great Depression and The Great Recession (2008), two global pandemics (in 1918 and 2020, respectively) – is an unwavering mission to embrace a role in community partnership and service.
“The bank [QNB] provides support for community events, raising awareness of our downtown businesses, and bringing visitors to our downtown, which helps to drive the daytime downtown economy,” said Naomi Naylor, executive director at Quakertown Alive!
Organizations supported by QNB have a common denominator: they promote the common good. That means more time, talent and treasure to share.
“QNB Bank has been a long-standing supporter of The Open Link with time, talent and treasure,” said Stuart Bush, executive director of The Open Link in East Greenville, Montgomery County.
The Open Link provides adults services to promote socialization as well as operating a food pantry and providing volunteer opportunities.
In addition to monetary, leadership and goods donations – like bottled water and golf outing goodie bags, QNB employees serve on area boards of directors, and volunteer in varied and countless ways.
“The community aspect of service is what we feel sets us apart as a community bank, it’s one of our main pillars,” said Brian Schaffer, senior vice president and chief marketing officer.
From pencils to playgrounds – “and everything in between,” requests of all shapes and sizes are considered at QNB.
With its largest financial sponsorship to date, QNB provided significant investment – and naming rights – to build the new QuiNBy’s Playground located on the 600 block of West Mill Street in Quakertown,
Currently under construction, QuiNBy’s Playground will feature age-appropriate activities for youngsters. It replaces the more than 30-year-old Panther Playground.
Schaffer said taking care of employees translates to taking care of customers and operating profitably to shareholders.
“And all that allows us to give back to the community,” he explained.
Employee “sweat equity” and board seat representation runs across the organization with the vast majority of QNB employees involved in one or sometimes half a dozen different community organizations and events, Schaffer said.
At Keystone Opportunity Center in Souderton, QNB’s long-standing support has included seats on the non-profit’s board and supporting various events and fundraising efforts. “Together we have housed the homeless, fed children, adults and families, across the community [we are] fighting food-insecurity, and delivered adult-education programs that have led to a life of self-sufficiency,” said Malcolm Friend, director of resource development at Keystone Opportunity Center in Souderton.
About 600 community support fulfillments are provided annually by QNB in Bucks, Lehigh and Montgomery counties, about a 25-mile radius from its Quakertown Borough headquarters.
“When you think about that amount spread out in a small geography, it’s a lot,” he said.
During 2020, QNB provided about 350 fulfillments, still a high number considering events like golf outings, silent auctions and other events had been cancelled or postponed.
From big capital campaigns like QuiNBy’s Playground to donating roughly 100,000 bottles of water since 2011 and its “batting for books” Iron Pig’s sponsorship program, resulting in about $40,000 donated to area libraries.
Batting for books benefited from Rhys Hoskins (current Philadelphia Phillies first baseman) time with the Iron Pigs, according to Schaffer. “He lit up the park, and the donation was $5,000 that year because he had most of the doubles they hit,” he said.
The program contributes $25 for every double the Iron Pigs hits at home in Coca-Cola Park during the season.
“We’re not just writing checks, we are deeply involved with our community,” Schaffer said.
For more information on QNB visit www.qnbbank.com.
With many businesses upended and rethinking sales and growth strategies because of the coronavirus pandemic and its impact, the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce is proud to announce a complimentary year-long membership to former Pennridge Chamber of Commerce members, available for the asking through July 31.
A regional approach to business could be a successful first step to going global, according to a recent Harvard Business Review report https://hbr.org/2005/12/regional-strategies-for-global-leadership.
“Business has changed dramatically. Regions are competing on a global scale with the advent of ecommerce. To have [the entirety] Upper Bucks represented regionally makes the most sense,” said Steven Noll, former Pennridge Chamber of Commerce chairman.
Noll is executive director of Transportation Management Association, in Trevose, serving all of Bucks County.
He said the coronavirus pandemic had been a hyper-accelerator in changing much of the business landscape - now and in the future.
Noll said approaching business on a regional level in the wake of Covid-19 made sense, especially for businesses that either already operate, or want to participate, on the global commerce stage.
“UBCC is thrilled to have a chance to promote and be a more active part of the identity the Pennridge business community has crafted. I can't wait to get started!” said Danielle Bodnar, UBCC executive director.
The Pennridge Chamber of Commerce recently announced after more than 60 years it would no longer provide business community services to members.
The membership transition to UBCC is not a merger, Noll said.
The move could add 75 Pennridge area businesses to UBCC’s roster of 400 business members, resulting in a roughly 15% membership increase.
SERVPRO of Upper Bucks will host a “Welcome to the Chamber Family” event with an official transition ceremony of the former Pennridge Chamber of Commerce on June 17, 2021. UBCC continues to serves the Palisades, Pennridge and Quakertown Community school districts.
“It doesn’t matter if you’re in Dublin, Quakertown or Ottsville – pick a place on the map in Upper Bucks! I’m looking forward to that camaraderie and to have everyone united,” Noll said.
“Growing up in Sellersville and Perkasie, the Pennridge Chamber of Commerce transition is a homecoming. I understand and embrace the unique traditions and values creating this special and unique place,” Bodnar said.
Vickie McClatchy, a long-time Pennridge resident and first vice president of the UBCC board of directors said the transition is a “win/win for everybody.”
“It’s an opportunity for all the businesses to come together. To encompass all of Upper Bucks and make us all one big group to participate in many activities,” McClatchy said.
From UBCC’s popular golf outing, clay shoot, regular business mixers and annual Foodie, she said board members were already in discussion about how to incorporate popular Pennridge Chamber events like it’s March Celtic Fest, Fishing Derby on the opening day of trout season, and the Pennridge Community Day.
“When you think of Bucks County, there's no doubt the geography naturally creates regions - from Lower, Central and Upper Bucks. We're proud to be the entry-point for the previous Pennridge Chamber members to take advantage of the regional approach to business, community, promotion and engagement that position us all for greater success,” said Chuck Hotter, owner Hotter Painting and president of the UBCC board of directors.
Todd Hurley, chief relationship officer of Penn Community Bank and a UBCC board member said members of the former Pennridge and UBCC already had crossed paths so this is a great way for people to work together.
“Former Pennridge chamber members can expect really thoughtful and communicative leadership from Danielle,” Hurley said.
“Danielle’s energy is infectious and engaging and she wants to hear what all of the members have to say, including the new members who will come from Perkasie,” he said.
Former Pennridge Chamber of Commerce members will need to complete a UBCC application and return it to the chamber by July 31, 2021 to receive a complimentary one year membership to UBCC. For information about how to sign up, call UBCC at 215.536.3211 or email Danielle Bodnar at firstname.lastname@example.org.
For 75 years community, commitment and customer service have been Wehrung business hallmarks
It takes entrepreneurial intuition, legacy persistence and a diverse playbook to stay in business for 75 years.
Three generations of Wehrung men have helmed the Ottsville-based family of businesses, employing about 250 across its established and growing locations.
Jason Wehrung, the third generation to steer the company, is grounded in the values and principals his father Vernon and grandfather Woodrow “Woody” Wehrung taught him – treat everyone with respect, go the extra mile to satisfy customers and always, always do the right thing.
Business at Wehrung’s locations has been brisk with a sustained spike in construction, homeowners clambering for DIY project materials and a hunkered down pandemic-weary population.
With time on their hands DIY or Do It Yourself property owners have driven sales since the coronavirus hit the U.S. in March, 2020, with no signal the trend is slowing down.
Estimates of the U.S. home improvement sector place its value at roughly $400 billion per year.
And home construction, repair, renovation and additions are expected to continue to be a bright spot in economic forecasts for 2021.
According to a September article published on NPR’s website, deck construction since the pandemic began is up 275%.
“People weren’t traveling or going on vacation, and if they had $5,000 they built a patio or a deck,” Jason Wehrung said.
Wehrung prides himself on well-trained staff, happy to help retail customers by taking time to consult and help them with project planning and materials purchases.
“We don’t install it, but we’ll take the time to answer their (customer) questions,” Wehrung said.
For those who’d rather leave the drills, measurements and lumber or patio pavers to the pros, Wehrung's has a backlog of professionals in the trades to refer to retail customers.
Across all areas – from yard, landscape and garden to repairs and expansion projects he expects the soaring demand to continue well through 2021.
With the purchase of two locations, Wehrung’s Macungie (Doing Business As) Dries Do It Center in Macungie, Lehigh County and Wehrung’s Collegeville Do it Center in Montgomery County, the goal is to expand services and products to a larger, regional audience.
With the expansion of the M&W Precast & Construction Supply, Wehrung’s owned hardware centers, Wehrung’s Specialties (lumber), its flagship Wehrung’s Lumber & Home Center in Ottsville and Solid Products Marketing & Promotions, there are many opportunities to join the Wehrung team.
“We’re looking to fill 35 different positions across the company, and it’s the most vacancies we’ve ever had,” Wehrung said.
Plans to celebrate 75 years in business will include open house events and grand openings for the Wehrung’s Macungie and Wehrung’s Collegeville store locations.
Even with multiple locations, Wehrung maintains the family-owned and operated culture.
In addition to weekly visits to each location, he makes a point of personally keeping in touch with his growing workforce – and customers.
“One of my goals is to know everyone by their first name,” Wehrung said.
For more information visit www.wehrungs.com.
Chuck Hotter loves paint.
Whether his professional canvas is a converted garage or carriage house, a new home addition, exterior or interior surfaces and trim or a health care facility, retirement village apartments or common areas no space is too big or small for Hotter’s brushes, rollers and his well-appointed tool kit.
Chuck Hotter owns and operates Hotter Painting with his son Greg Hotter in Milford Township.
“Painting is relaxing,” he said of routine maintenance essential to preserving surfaces, and which many love - or loathe- doing themselves.
The end result is its own reward.
A new business begins and grows
In business since 2003, the Hotters handle a mix of commercial and residential jobs – hiring various local subcontractors to round out the job’s requirements as they go.
“We can take anything…and make it beautiful,” he said.
With decades of experience in health care facility maintenance Hotter is drawn to the caring, personal touch inherent in patient and resident interactions. Hotter’s specialty niche is the health care sector.
Community is everything
Being part of a community is important to Hotter, and he lives into a community-focused mission – from his approach to family and friends to his professional life and current position as president of the Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce.
Working local is a mainstay of his business – and among his business values.
“What makes this a great community are the referrals we get from those we run into on a daily basis. They want to make the community stronger and the way to do that is to refer and buy local. I like the fact that we buy and work local, and it builds our community,” Hotter explained.
Working with an extended team
Area plumbers, electricians and carpenters are part of Hotter Painting’s extended network of trades professionals, once again with the mission that includes “…working together in the Upper Bucks Community.”
By extension, local businesses like Hotter Painting contribute to the global painting, coatings and finishes industry – which includes exterior and interior painting and flooring epoxy coatings. By 2027, the global market for painting, coatings and finishes is expected to be worth about $232 billion, according to the statista.com website. https://www.statista.com/topics/4755/paint-and-coatings-industry/
Hotter Painting services include wallpaper removal and installation, interior and exterior painting, deck staining and power washing, calking, drywall repairs and epoxy floor coatings.
“With paint there is instant gratification, for me and for the home or business owner,” Hotter said.
When Hotter Painting was founded in 2003, the lion’s share of customers came from the residential, home or property owner side of the business.
Going with the flow and a global pandemic
The shift to commercial work - now representing about 80 percent of Hotter Painting’s trade began about six years ago, and it continues to grow.
An important sustaining life raft during the coronavirus pandemic, the commercial painting sector helped Hotter weather 2020. Since beginning in the U.S. in March 2020 Covid-19 has infected more than 1 million Pennsylvanians and killed more than 25,000 in the commonwealth.
Worldwide the pandemic has sickened about 132 million and claimed the lives of nearly 3 million people, according to the Google News website.
Closer to home every business and industry has been touched by it.
“Early last year from the residential side it took just about everything away,” he said.
And while April and May were slow, Hotter said commercial work picked up again last summer.
What customers want – and don’t want any longer
From those hard to reach places in vaulted foyer and great room ceilings to the desire for a fresh look or pairing wall colors to new furnishings, Hotter said on average, homeowners opt for new paint every five to six years.
Current color trends – across all customer sectors continue to be earth tones- “Everyone is staying with those,” Hotter said.
“And faux finishes, those are out. No one wants those anymore,” he said.
Whether it’s pandemic weariness and a yearning for surroundings to be comfortable, or whether it’s the inherent flexible and versatile nature of soft earth tone shades Hotter expects earth tones to continue to be hot for the foreseeable future.
“There are pets, kids, wear and tear in the home, changing things up or buying new furniture, flooring or rugs, folks want something that looks different,” he said.
For more information on Hotter Painting contact Chuck at 267.261.5261 or visit www.hotterpainting.com.
Whether Urbane Bronze, the 2021 color of the year or a classic staple like Dover White, Sherwin Williams has customers covered
Few home improvement projects satisfy the urge for a new look like a fresh coat of paint.
From a classic shade like Toile Red to Naval, the 2020 color of the year, paler shades of white or creamy neutrals the coronavirus pandemic surged the “nesting” demand among home and property owners, prompting many to reach for a brush or hire a professional painter for a bright updated look.
Jon Josko, Sherwin Williams of Souderton store manager said the coronavirus pandemic reinvented how some services are delivered.
“It drew a lot more DIY customers to the store. With everyone stuck at home people were looking for something to do, or they finally had the time to make the changes they wanted to make to their homes,” he said.
According to a National Public Radio report released in September, 2020, 3 out of 4 homeowners tackled some type of major home improvement project during the year. (https://www.npr.org/2020/09/11/909264580/why-home-improvement-has-surged-and-how-its-changing-america)
Nationwide paint sales have been up in response to an otherwise difficult year in 2020 – and light natural gray tones continue to be popular trends to open up and soften interiors.
“We’ve seen and heard people working from home revamping (or creating) a home office to make it a comfortable professional space and to have a nice space to work in,” he said.
New Tools in the Kit
Sherwin Williams has included new online tools for both consumers and professional painters, who can access paint without coming to the store by ordering from their PRO App.
Retail customers can order and pay online and have their order ready for curbside pickup.
“It’s a huge benefit for consumers and for professionals,” Josko said.
Home consultations have been replaced by virtual consultations and phone calls. Sherwin Williams color consultants are available free of charge, by appointment for 30 minute phone or video chat times.
Video consultations replaced in-home color consulting as a coronavirus safety precaution for employees and customers.
“When we had to stop consultants going to homes because of the pandemic, we opened up the other services. Thank goodness for technology,” Josko said.
Online color tools include color paint chips, a bonus for those who either don’t have time to stop, or who don’t feel safe coming, into a retail store, he explained.
Brisk Home Sales Market Drives Paint Sales
An energetic housing market prompted paint sales, too, with both buyers and sellers coming to pick colors – either to sell the home or customize it after the sale.
“The home seller is repainting to sell with neutrals, and the new buyer is coming in to pick colors to make the space their own,” Josko said.
Pandemic Silver Linings
Josko said from strengthening employee bonds to galvanizing a local network of Sherwin Williams stores into supportive resources there have been some pandemic- related silver linings.
“Teamwork among our stores has really come into play. If we don’t get something one week, a nearby store might have extra supply,” he said, of the almost daily calls he either receives or makes from neighboring stores.
Working together, offering understanding and recognizing co-workers may handle stressors differently, has made all the difference in the workplace.
“Having a good crew you enjoy working with every day is a big help,” Josko said.
Covid-19 has been an unpredictable teacher, but Josko said he’s learned a lot about customer resilience and determination – other silver linings from challenging year with traumatic and stressful headlines and tragic losses for so many families.
“I’ve found a lot of customers have been patient with one another. They seem to realize there are a lot of forces we can’t control,” he said.
Founded in 1866 Sherwin Williams serves the paint and coating manufacturing industry and local communities from its Cleveland, Ohio, headquarters selling products to consumers and professionals.
Sherwin Williams of Souderton is located at 739 Route 113 Space 12 in Souderton. For more information visit www.sherwin-williams.com or call 215.723.2037.
Sherwin Williams joined the chamber in early 2020 and we are excited to promote services they offer to community members that want in person and virtual options. Thank you Jon, we look forward to Sherwin Williams offering a fresh brush of color to Upper Bucks Chamber!
Covid-19 related tax relief provided to employers now could have a big impact on small businesses.
Under the new legislation all employers can take advantage of delaying employer payroll taxes, like Social Security, to give them more liquidity and operating income.
Here’s how it works: Catch-up payments for those who defer paying those taxes will require 50 percent of the deferred taxes to be paid by Jan. 1, 2021. The balance will be due by Jan. 1, 2022.
“Nobody is talking about this, and it can make a difference,” said Neil Bradley, executive vice president and chief policy officer at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington D.C.
But for those who will have loan forgiveness under the CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program or other loan forgiveness initiatives, payroll tax delays do not apply.
Other tax changes benefiting employers impacted by Covid-19 may be found on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website at www.uschamber.com.
Employee retention credits, along with incentives to retain employees or hire back employees laid off because of Covid-19 hardships since February 15, aim to keep workers on the books.
Participation in these programs ultimately will require “…some deep soul searching by the business owner,” said Danielle Bodnar, UBCC executive director.
To better understand its provisions, the CARES Act has been rolled out in stages.
Here’s what’s been done so far, and what might be coming next.
Bradley said the CARE Act Phase I provided federal investment and infrastructure for the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and health care function, including free [Covid-19], regardless of an individual’s current health care coverage.
Phase 2 expanded the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) to cover those who become sick, are caring for sick family members, or who must remain at home to care for children due to Covid-19 closures of schools and day care centers.
“It is one of the rare times we have had a fully funded mandate. It’s 100 percent repaid,” Bradley explained.
Phase 3 deals with automatic payments of $1,200 for adults. Families with minor children will receive $500 per child. Phase 3 provides expanded unemployment benefits of $600 per week, and a 13-week extension of benefits on top of state unemployment benefits. Under the act, small business owners, sole proprietors, contract employees (form 1099 workers), gig and freelancer workers are covered. No timeline for when the UC application process opens to the new sectors covered has been set. Benefits must be applied for through the state unemployment compensation website.
Phase 3 also includes the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) offered through the CARES Act. It is intended to recover lost income due to the coronavirus and to keep employees on the payroll.
A potential Phase 4 of the package is currently in discussion to fill gaps Phase 3 did not address, Bradley said.
He noted a possible Phase 4 rollout could include relief and financial resources to 501 C 6 non-profit organizations, like chambers of commerce and state and municipal governments who are also employers.
“We know state and local tax revenues have fallen off a cliff,” Bradley said.
Relief for companies funded through venture capital was also being explored, he said.
Bradley said government officials are keenly aware of marketplace concerns over how quickly relief money from the Paycheck Protection Program, Small Business Administration or expanded unemployment can get into the hands of those who need it.
“PPP was design in a period where we thought this [Covid-19] would be over sooner. There is no guaranteed deadline for this,” he said.
Bradley conceded there are limits to what banks can lend, and federal agencies are working to expand the number of lenders who can participate in the programs.
The Small Business Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL), opens for applications to small businesses and sole proprietors on April 10.
EIDL provides $10,000 of grant relief, which means it is not paid back. Low interest EIDL loans must be repaid in two years from receipt of funds.
EIDL applications are made through the U.S. Treasury website.
Sonia Smith urges anyone on the fence about applying for an EIDL loan to do it anyway.
“If you receive a loan you have until the end of the year to decide if you want to take the funds,” she said.
Smith is an economic development specialist at the U.S. Small Business Administration in Philadelphia.
EIDL is designed to pay bills during Covid-19 – like business mortgages, or purchasing necessary supplies or equipment to keep the business at pre February 15 levels.
It is not designed to cover lost sales or income, or to fund business expansions, she said.
“Make sure to keep detailed records for how any money received [under any federal relief programs] is spent,” in case proof is requested by the government after disbursements are made, Smith said.
Bradley said employers could find lending and program resources and details about applying on the SBA and U.S. Treasury websites.
Details and updated information may be found on the U.S. Chamber of Commerce website at www.uschamber.com.
Do you have a rapid response plan? Is your business on hiatus? Are your employees at risk?
With so many businesses closed due to the novel coronavirus, or Covid-19 pandemic, alongside uncertainty about when it will end and how quickly recovery will begin, there are steps business owners can take to protect their workforce, customers, and to be better prepared for whatever the future may hold.
“One of the ways you protect your business is by protecting your employees and your patrons,” said Jonathan A. Segal, attorney, partner and managing principal at Duane Morris LLP, a law firm in Philadelphia.
Segal joined the first PA Chamber webinar held March 19th to address the pandemic and offer tips surrounding legal issues, employment law and employer’s responsibilities.
He said employees who feel valued are also those who likely would remain loyal after the pandemic and restriction tide turns, helping businesses return to normal operations.
“Things are changing as we speak. As employers we need to have a rapid response team [RRT] which is critical to the key functioning of a business during this time,” Segal said.
The critical function of an RRT is to respond to reports or disclosures such as a Covid-19 diagnosis, keep a communication pipeline open, and provide employees with resources. A company human resources manager or HR key employee, as well as a health care employee should be part of the RRT, Segal said.
He said policies should be as simple and general as possible, to make employees feel comfortable in coming forward to report issues.
“If an employee reports having a diagnosis or close contact or suspected contact it is important to have that RRT in place,” Segal said.
He said avoid using language that might not be accurate or worse, cause legal problems later.
Unless the business is completely shutting down, don’t use phrases like “an abundance of caution,” he explained. “Avoid absolutes and be prepared to make exceptions to circumstances,” Segal said.
He recommended following up conversations, in person or over the phone, with email to provide a written document trail, just in case one would be needed later.
If employers are allowing work from home or remote situations, hourly worker’s pay and reporting need to be handled differently from those who are exempt or salaried employees. It’s important to follow state employment wage and hour rules, too.
He said some areas meant to protect workers and their income, such as worker’s compensation and the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 expansion are new territories. The FMLA entitles eligible employees of covered companies to take unpaid leave to care for family members. A Forbes.com article reported The Responsibility for Workers and Family Act was still in the U.S. legislature, and aims to provide relief during the current pandemic. It addresses debt collection, and small business loans, unemployment, Medicare, Medicaid and private insurance, housing and student loans among other key factors of daily life.
In the end, Segal stressed the importance of remaining in touch with employees and providing them support, especially regarding mental health. “How are people doing? How are we keeping a sense of normalcy? People want to talk about things other than Covid-19,” Segal said.
“This is not a one-size-fits-all situation. At the end of the day, we are all human beings,” he said.
UBCC is committed to providing support to our members and future members by sharing resources and establishing new initiatives with the Upper Bucks community. Each week we will share articles and information to assist our businesses navigating these unpredictable times.
Now more than ever, UBCC is here to be your voice, represent our businesses, sustain business and be a part of the robust plan for recovery.
PA Chamber of Business and Industry in Harrisburg plans to host weekly online webinars to address the volatile conditions caused by the Covid-19 and offer viewers practical, expertly curated steps to weather the current public health crisis. Upper Bucks Chamber members may participate free of charge. Registration is required. Visit https://www.pachamber.org/ for more information.
|Upper Bucks Chamber of Commerce||