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LETTER ON 3/17: From Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber

Impact & Advocacy , Events & Programs , Local Stories , Chamber Updates
March 17 2020
Earlier today, Congressman Smucker convened a conference call of state and local officials and local economic development and business related organizations to share updates from the federal, state and local perspective and solicit feedback from the business community on issues of critical importance. Heather Valudes, Community Impact Director, and I represented the Chamber on the call. I want to thank the Congressman for pulling this group together.

My notes from the call are as follows:

-There is active negotiation going on between the House, the Senate and the administration on last week’s House-passed bill dealing with unemployment benefits and other relief provisions. Congressman Smucker noted that much of the negotiation involves how to make businesses “whole” (admittedly a relative term right now) quickly and lessen red-tape/bureaucracy wherever possible. Smucker assured us a bill would be passed by the Senate by the end of this week; it would then require House action before getting the President’s signature;

-It was also noted that the federal government will almost surely be delaying the April 15 tax filing deadline.  Details on those changes should be coming shortly;

-The administration is working on an $850 billion relief package that remains undefined but will target help to small- and medium-sized businesses. Part of the discussion around this bill is how they will disseminate the dollars (through banking institutions, state government, federal government or other means). This concept is moving fast, with a clear sense of urgency expressed by all involved;

-At the state level there is a flurry of activity with legislation ranging from permitting to education and everything in between.  One specific action that they have already taken was taking targeting $40 million from the Commonwealth Financing Agency (CFA) Fund for small businesses as a first step to provide assistance.  More clarity on how that money will be used and who would qualify should be available shortly;

-The County & City have declared a “State of Emergency” as an important step in getting reimbursed from the feds for costs incurred that are associated with the pandemic.  This declaration does not give them any additional powers, but does assist in heightening public awareness to the seriousness of the threat;

-In response to a question, we were told that all state and federal permitting and licensing will continue as agencies shift to a remote workforce.  We were advised to have people connect with their legislator/Congressman if they were having difficulty getting service;

-Hours-of-service and some other regulations have been relaxed for the trucking industry to assure product delivery can continue. Learn more here. 

-SBA loan programs continue to be adjusted and aligned with the unique needs of the moment.  Additional funding is being added to help.  Locally, the Economic Development Company of Lancaster administers that program and will be handling all calls.  They can be reached at 717.397.4046 or via email at: adminedc@edclancaster.com.

-After the above updates were provided, the concepts and concerns that were lifted up by the business community included:

*Relaxing child labor laws;

*Eliminating the two-week wait period for UC;

*Eliminating the payroll tax immediately;

*Consider rent/loan abatements or delays;

*Noting cash-flow concerns for businesses if they are expected to pay up-front costs for dislocated workers;

*Temporary stay of foreclosures and evictions.

We all agreed of the need to err on the side of too much communication, so long as we are assuring accurate communication. To that end, the elected officials have asked us to continue to send them any and all concerns we are hearing; and we, in turn, asked them to send us any and all updates so we can put them on the Chamber’s website.  We plan to continue our calls as needed, and will continue to keep you updated. Obviously, things are moving fast.

Please keep your thoughts coming on how our governments can be most helpful to your specific situations. And please keep posted on the latest developments on our website at: www.lancasterchamber.com/coronavirus.


-Tom Baldrige, President & CEO of the Lancaster Chamber

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