One year ago today, on March 18, 2020, Aaron Marines wrote a blog article entitled How Does Coronavirus Affect Your Contracts? When that article was published, we were at the beginning of a government-mandated shutdown that was supposed to last for two weeks, just long enough to “flatten the curve” of COVID-19 cases.

Now, one year later, with shut down orders still partially in effect and the phrase “flatten the curve” a distant memory, I decided to look back at what has happened on the Lancaster Law Blog. What I saw was a variety of articles about all of the things we here at Russell, Krafft & Gruber have done to stay up-to-date on the fast-paced changes to help our clients through this difficult time.

Virtual Offices

After the initial shutdown orders took effect, we quickly pivoted to working remotely through Russell, Krafft & Gruber’s virtual office to avoid any lapses in service for our clients. I was pleasantly surprised when I spoke with a client recently who was shocked to learn that most of our conversations over the past year took place with me at my dining room table.
Continue Reading COVID-19 and the Law: One Year Later

Since March, various entities and political subdivisions have created loan and grant programs to assist businesses and individuals facing COVID-19 related losses and damages.  We have discussed in prior blogs a series of larger programs, such as the Paycheck Protection Program. However, this post focuses on funding opportunities for farmers and ranchers.

Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture’s Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program

The Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program is designed for Pennsylvania dairy farmers who have experienced financial losses due to discarded or displaced milk during the COVID-19 pandemic during the period of March 6, 2020 through September 30, 2020.  The farmers may apply for payments to reimburse the losses they received.  All dairy farmers who experienced a loss due to discarded or displaced milk are eligible to apply, even those farmers who were assessed a fee by their cooperative for all milk discarded.

Each farm will be entitled to a minimum of $1,500.  Those farmers who experienced losses higher than $1,500 will be entitled to an additional pro-rata share of the remaining funds in the COVID-19 Dairy Assistance Program.  Click here for the Dairy CARES Reimbursement Program application.  

FFFI COVID-19 Relief Fund

The Pennsylvania Fresh Food Financing Initiative (the “FFFI”) is a public-private funding program that invests in new or expanding grocery stores and other healthy food retail outlets in Pennsylvania.  FFFI provides a one-time grant to eligible applicants aimed at increasing access to healthy, affordable food.   In addition to the one-time grant, FFFI created a new fund called the FFFI COVID-19 Relief Fund, which will provide grants to food retail businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Applicants must be entities that operate and provide services in Pennsylvania and have 50% or more of their revenue from the sale of staple and perishable food to consumers or direct to retail.  The business must have operated prior to March 2020 and stayed in operation except for temporary closures due to COVID-19.  The fund will favor entities that serve customers that live in low- to moderate-income areas.  The grants may be used for a variety of expenses, including, but not limited to, infrastructure improvements, equipment purchases, inventory, innovative food access technology, and costs to expand access.

Award amounts will be up to $1 million for large or regional anchor supermarkets, up to $500,000 for full-service traditional grocery stores, and up to $100,000 for neighborhood markets and food enterprises (such as farmers’ markets and urban farms).  Interested applicants may find more information on the FFFI application here.

Coronavirus Food Assistance Program

The United States Department of Agriculture’s Farm Service Agency (the “FSA”) created the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program to provide financial assistance to producers of agricultural commodities who

  • have suffered a 5% or greater price decline or
  • had losses due to market supply chain disruptions as a result of COVID-19.

Eligible commodities include wool, livestock, dairy, specialty crops, and non-specialty crops.  The grant payments are subject to a per person and legal entity payment limitation of $250,000.  Applications for the FDA’s Coronavirus Food Assistance Program are being accepted now through August 28, 2020.

While this post is not comprehensive, the opportunities listed here should provide help to those in the agricultural industry who are struggling during COVID-19. If you would like to talk to one of our attorneys about these or any other programs, contact us anytime.

Nichole Baer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Stetson University, College of Law and practices in several areas, including BusinessCommercial Real EstateEstate Planning, and Estate Administration.

More small business relief has arrived! On Monday, June 8, 2020, Governor Wolf announced additional relief for small businesses in Pennsylvania.  The relief funding consists of $225 million of the $4 billion provided to the Commonwealth through the CARES Act. In addition, the Lancaster County Small Business Recovery and Sustainability Fund is also launching grants to local businesses.

State Relief

The state relief from Governor Wolf will not consist of loans; instead, the fund will consist of grants to applicants.  However, the Pennsylvania Department of Community and Economic Development (the “PA DCED”) will not administer it.  Instead, a series of non-profit lenders known as community development financial institutions (the “CDFI”), such as Community First Fund, will be handling the funds.

The Governor announced in a press conference on Monday that the goal of the program is to help small businesses that have not been helped from earlier efforts, including the Paycheck Protection Program.  There will be a common application created for the CDFIs to use, and it should be ready by the end of June.

The state will divide the relief into three programs:

Historically Disadvantaged Business Revitalization Program

This program offers $100 million for small businesses:

  • that have experienced a loss as a result of the order to close all non-life sustaining businesses
  • that have or will incur additional costs in order to adapt to new business operations due to COVID-19, and
  • where socially and economically disadvantaged individuals own at least fifty-one percent (51%) of the company and control management and daily operations.

Main Street Business Revitalization Program

The next program offers $100 million for small businesses that realized a loss as a result of the order to close all non-life sustaining businesses and have or will incur additional costs in order to adapt business operations due to COVID-19.

Loan Payment Deferment and Loss Reserve Program

The final program will provide $25 million to the CDFI, which will allow the CDFI’s to offer forbearance and payment relief to existing borrowers of the CDFI.  The intention is that these funds are for borrowers of the CDFI who are struggling due to COVID but also to provide support to the CDFI’s who are experiencing increased borrower defaults.

Grants will be capped at $50,000 per applicant.  The Governor has not yet announced the priority of awards but has stated that they will not be on a first-come, first-serve basis.  To qualify, businesses must have less than 25 employees and less than $1 million in annual sales plus have been in operation as of February 15, 2020.  All applicants must submit a recent tax return.

Recipients should use the grant funds to cover operating expenses during the shutdown and to transition a small business for re-opening.  They may also use grant funds for technical assistance, such as training and guidance for business owners.

Local Relief

In addition to the CDFI’s management of these new state programs, Lancaster County launched a new website for local businesses to apply for free personal protective equipment (“PPE”).  Businesses must have less than 100 employees to apply.

Lancaster County also received $25 million of federal aid, which the Lancaster County Small Business Recovery and Sustainability Fund (the “Fund”) will administer as grants to local businesses.

Phase I

Phase I of the Fund will provide $10 million to small Lancaster County businesses who have a demonstrated need for working capital or retrofit. To qualify, the business must have 20 or fewer employees.

The application for this phase will go live on Monday, June 15, 2020 at 7 a.m.   The grants provided will not be on a first-come, first-serve basis.

Phase II

The Fund has not yet finalized details for Phase II, but there should be an additional $10 million aimed at small businesses with 100 or less employees.

To find out more information regarding the Lancaster County Small Business Recovery and Sustainability Fund, click  .

To find out more about Phase I application, click and   for their summary sheet.

To read other news about more small business relief during COVID, click here for my blog post on recent updates to the Paycheck Protection Program.

Nichole Baer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Stetson University, College of Law and practices in several areas, including BusinessCommercial Real EstateEstate Planning, and Estate Administration.

The government is doling out more money than it ever has in response to an emergency, and it is doing it faster than ever before. From Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EDILs) to Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loans to federal, state, and local grants through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) – the largest economic stimulus package in history – trillions of dollars are currently being disbursed to individuals and businesses who are facing the severe financial hardships created by COVID-19.

The emphasis so far has been to get the money into the hands of those who need it as quickly as possible. Given the amount of money that the government has been giving out and how fast they’ve been doing it, there is a lot of confusion as to who is entitled to receive the emergency assistance and how they should use it.

On an almost daily basis, various governmental entities are issuing new regulations and guidance. As an example, the Small Business Administration had to revise the PPP loan applications that many lending institutions were using several times due to ongoing revisions to the PPP distribution guidance. As quickly as we can understand the rules is as quickly as they are changing.

Now that the chaos of the early days of COVID-19 has started to die down, attention will soon switch to implementing COVID-19 compliance oversight of the rules and regulations pertaining to each type of emergency aid.

Because of this, there is the risk that well-intentioned, legitimate businesses receiving relief funds can run afoul of the rules and regulations regarding how they can use them. This possibility may open the door to investigations into how individual businesses received and used emergency aid even if they did their best to follow the law.  Even if no wrongdoing occurred, the financial and reputational expense of defending against this type of investigation could be extremely costly.

As a business owner or decision-maker, there are steps you can take to protect yourself from being investigated and to prepare if you are.

1. Keep Abreast of Laws, Rules, Regulations and Changes

Regarding COVID-19 aid, it seems that the government is acting first and asking questions later. This rapid action can make it very difficult to stay on top of what the government requires for each type of aid. Take the time to read articles, such as the ones posted on Lancaster Law Blog, to keep up to date on changes to the laws.

Also, review regulations and Frequently Asked Questions published by the government body issuing the funds. Consult with an attorney or your financial institution to get help staying up to date on the latest changes in the law. The attorneys at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP are reviewing changes to federal, state and local rules and regulations daily and are here to help you understand them.

2. Be Truthful and Accurate

Most, if not all, loan or assistance programs require an application. One of the best ways to avoid any questions about your eligibility is to be truthful from the time that you complete the application. Take the time to fully review any applications and do not answer any questions that you do not understand until you can get clarification.

In addition, maintain accurate and truthful disclosure of information throughout the entire process. Even if being honest means that you will not qualify for a particular type of assistance, it would cost a lot more than the lost aid if you are investigated and prosecuted for lying.

The best defense to allegations of dishonesty is the truth.

3. Create a Strong Audit Trail

It is vitally important that you keep track of all the money you receive and how you spend it as you go. The longer you wait to track your spending, the more likely it is that you will not capture all the information and that you will not spend the money properly.

In the unfortunate event that you are audited, you want to be prepared to show how you received the funds and how you spent every penny. Keep all the paperwork you receive and copies of any paperwork that you submit. Once you receive the funds, keep paper records of how you spent the money, who you gave it to, and when. Leave no question as to what happened to the money.

Although daunting, taking these steps will protect you from the attention of government oversight agencies and protect you if you are audited or investigated. If you have any questions on COVID-19 compliance oversight, how to apply for COVID-19 emergency assistance or how that assistance should be used, contact one of our attorneys.

Laura McGarry is an attorney at Russell, Krafft and Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Penn State Law and provides legal counsel to individuals and businesses in Lancaster and surrounding communities.

The federal government has taken significant steps over the past weeks to provide relief to individuals and businesses struggling to manage their finances during the COVID-19 crisis. The first of these, the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), went into effect on April 1.  

Most notable of the provisions in FFCRA were the requirements for employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide paid sick leave and expanded FMLA leave for employees who missed work for COVID-19-related reasons. 

Closely behind that came the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act. CARES rolled out payments to individuals, tax credits to businesses, and loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to encourage employers to retain or bring back their employees.  

While the relief provided by these Acts is significant and will help countless businesses handle the uncertainties that lay ahead, they also present potential challenges for employers as they try to navigate these various programs and determine which ones are right for their business. These two Acts also interplay and overlap on employee wages in complicated ways. Businesses should review both carefully to make informed decisions about which programs or credits to participate in and understand whether that disqualifies them from other forms of relief.

The Department of Labor and the IRS have been releasing further guidance, seemingly by the day, to clarify the relationship between the FFCRA and the CARES Act. The most helpful of these thus far are:

Notably, participation in one program can disqualify or limit your relief in another.  

Here’s how:

The FFCRA Employee Retention Credit Overlaps with its own Paid Sick Leave Provisions

The FFCRA provides for an Employee Retention Credit in the form of a refundable tax credit against payroll taxes for qualified wages paid to employees. 

Similarly, the Paid Sick Leave provisions of the FFCRA also provide for a refundable tax credit for employers who pay sick leave to employees who miss work for COVID-19-related reasons.

IRS guidance is clear, however, that employers cannot use the same wages to qualify for both credits.

The FFCRA Employee Retention Credit Overlaps with the CARES Act’s PPP Loan and Small Business Interruption Loan

An employer who receives a CARES Act PPP Loan or a Small Business Interruption Loan may not also 

  • receive the FFCRA Employee Retention Credit or 
  • use those funds to pay sick leave to an employee and also take a credit against payroll taxes.

In other words, a business that receives a PPP Loan can still take a tax credit for qualified paid sick leave wages. However, they cannot then use those wages for the sick leave credit and count that toward the loan forgiveness offered under the PPP loan. 

The FFCRA also contained a provision that allows employers to defer certain portions of their payroll taxes on wages paid between March 27, 2020 and December 31, 2020. An employer can then pay the payroll taxes they chose to defer over the following two years.  

It is not yet clear whether employers who receive the Employee Retention Credit against payroll taxes or those that receive a PPP Loan can also defer their payroll taxes. The IRS needs to supply further guidance on that question.

These are just some of the many entanglements between the relief packages stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. While many businesses are looking for relief wherever they can find it, you must educate yourself and make informed decisions about the types of relief that will work best for your business and your situation.  The attorneys at Russell, Krafft, & Gruber, LLP are here to assist you in sorting out what is best for you and your business.

Aaron Zeamer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He practices in a variety of areas, including Business Law and Liquor License matters. Aaron works frequently with commercial real estate agents, brokers, restaurant and bar owners, breweries, distilleries, and wineries to facilitate the sale and transfer of PA liquor licenses.

The Small Business Administration is doing everything it can to establish programs that relieve some of the financial burden COVID-19 has caused the business community. One of the programs it is offering is the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL).

What is the EIDL?

The EIDL is a working capital loan, and businesses can use it for 

  1. fixed debts (such as rent)
  2. payroll
  3. accounts payable, and 
  4. some bills that would have been paid had the disaster not occurred  

In total, the EIDL provides up to $2 million in loan assistance with a 3.75% rate for small businesses and a 2.75% rate for nonprofits. The maximum loan term for EIDL is 30 years; however, no payments are due for the first year.  

Also, the EIDL may not be used to pay other federal loans. 

Am I eligible for an EIDL?

The SBA bases eligibility for the EIDL on the size of the business, type of the business, and financial resources.   

Eligible borrowers include: 

  1. businesses with less than 500 employees, 
  2. sole proprietorships (including independent contractors), 
  3. ESOP with less than 500 employees, and 
  4. private nonprofits.  

Applicants who are ineligible include: 

  1. anyone engaged in an illegal activity
  2. a principal applicant (someone who owns 50% or greater ownership interest) who is 60 days delinquent or more on child support
  3. farms
  4. businesses that derive more than one-third of their gross annual revenue from legal gambling activities
  5. lobbyists, and 
  6. state/local/municipal governments

Do I need collateral?

The maximum unsecured loan amount is $25,000. Any loan over that amount will require collateral – real estate if it is available. 

However, the SBA will not decline a loan for lack of collateral. Instead, the SBA will require the borrower to pledge what collateral is available.  

The SBA can also take a lien on inventory and business equipment. In addition, the SBA will take a junior position to other lenders.  

What do I need to apply?

The application for an EIDL is through the SBA. The EIDL application relies on a series of self-certifications from the business and the business owners.  

For the twelve months before January 31, 2020, borrowers will need to know:

  • the gross revenues of their business
  • the cost of goods sold
  • lost rents (for rental property owners)
  • the cost of operating expenses (for nonprofits)
  • other reimbursements the company will receive (such as business interruption insurance), and 
  • the number of employees.  

The loan processor may also request that a business fill out additional forms and may request 

  • federal income tax returns 
  • a current profit and loss statement, and 
  • a personal financial statement 

What else should I know about the EIDL program?

There are no costs to apply for an EIDL, but there are costs associated with the documents required to secure the loan, such as recording costs. There is also no obligation to take the loan if the SBA offers it.  

If, after the SBA approves the loan, the borrower needs more money, they can submit additional supporting documents and request an increase to the loan.

If the borrower requires fewer funds, they can request a reduction. 

If the SBA denies the loan request outright, the borrower will be given up to six months to provide new information and submit a written request for reconsideration.   

EIDL Advances: the SBA Economic Injury Grant

The EIDL also offers an emergency advance of up to $10,000 known as an economic injury grant. During the application process for an EIDL loan, the SBA will ask businesses if they want to apply for the advance. If yes, it will ask them to provide their direct deposit information.  

The advance is available within days following a successful submission of the SBA application, and most notably, the SBA does not require businesses to repay it.

While you’re waiting, get an SBA Express Bridge Loan

If a small business already has relationships with an SBA Express Lender, it may apply for a bridge loan of up to $25,000. The bridge loan will have a fast turn around and can be used as either a term loan or a bridge loan while waiting for an SBA EIDL to fund.  

You are not excluded from one COVID-19 relief loan simply because you have taken out another.

Borrowers may obtain one or all of the other CARES Act loans (Paycheck Protection Program, EDIL, or economic injury grant) in addition to receiving the 6-month payment subsidy on a presently held SBA 504 loan. However, a Borrower cannot duplicate the use of the funds between the programs (no double-dipping).  

If you’re unsure if you qualify for an EIDL, one of our attorneys can help you.

Nichole Baer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania.  She received her law degree from Stetson University, College of Law and practices in several areas including BusinessCommercial Real EstateEstate Planning, and Estate Administration.

After months of uncertainty about whether additional relief for restaurants and hotels would come from state and federal government sources, some good news has started to flow to the hotel and restaurant industry. The latest comes in the form of a $145 Million allocation of funds to provide grants to those restaurants and hotels that have been significantly impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

On Friday, as part of a larger $900+ Million relief package aimed at helping businesses, local governments, and others, the Governor signed Senate Bill 109. This Bill allocates $145 Million previously transferred from the PA Workers’ Compensation Fund and designates it for the exclusive purpose of providing grants to hotels and restaurants.
Continue Reading $145 Million in Relief for Restaurants and Hotels

It must be a Christmas miracle.  After deadlocking this summer and delaying over the weekend, the United States Senate and the House of Representatives have agreed to additional aid to those impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.  The President has also signed this new bill, known as the “Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021” (the “Act”).

The Act is approximately 5,000 pages long, so a detailed analysis will take some time.  Therefore, this post is not intended to be comprehensive, and many items are still being hammered out. Here’s what we know so far:

The Bare Bones

The Act consists of $900 billion in aid and was a compromise between the two parties.  As such, it is not perfect. There are some aspects of the Act that both sides of the aisle are criticizing.
Continue Reading Finally, More Money! – The Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021

Phase 3 of the Lancaster Small Business Recovery & Sustainability Fund opens on Monday, November 9, 2020, at 8:00 a.m. and will remain open until Friday, November 13, 2020, at 5:00 p.m.  Recovery Lancaster is a grant program that does not award grants on a first-come, first-serve basis. The Phase 3 funding cycle consists of $10,000,000 that the federal CARES Act distributed to Lancaster County. Moreover, Recovery Lancaster will distribute $3,500,000 of this amount to businesses with twenty (20) or fewer employees.

Who qualifies?

To apply, the applicant must be a business, a 501(c)(3), or an agricultural entity that operates in Lancaster County and employs 500 or fewer employees.  The determination of employees is based on a “headcount” and not on FTE equivalents.  Part-time employees are each considered one employee for this calculation.

The headcount does include the owner of a business if the owner works in the business, but it does not include independent contractors.

Applicants must show that they have sustained a revenue loss of 40% or greater when comparing revenue from April-September 2019 to revenue received April-September 2020.

What are the restrictions or disqualifications?

Applicants may receive funding assistance even if the business has received other grants and loans from other sources, such as PPP, PIDA, Lancaster City Emergency Fund, Phase I or Phase 2 of the Small Business Recovery and Sustainability Fund, or other such grant programs.

Passive income businesses, such as residential and commercial landlords, are ineligible to apply.  Entities receiving (or who will be receiving) direct allocation of funds from the county, such as libraries, Fire Stations, and EMS, are also ineligible.

Moreover, a business may be ineligible if an owner has been charged, arrested, or incarcerated for a felony.  If an applicant may be disqualified for these reasons, you should check the program for specific restrictions.

How can I apply?

The application will be located at, and applicants are strongly encouraged by the Fund to fill out the application online.

To apply, the applicants must provide documentation, including but not limited to:

  • EIN or SSN (if reporting as a sole proprietor)
  • NAISC Code
  • Entity name
  • Summary of Goods and/or Services produced
  • Summary of Proposed Use of Working Capital
  • April-September 2019 Revenue Statement
  • April- September 2020 Revenue Statement
  • 2019 Gross Revenue
  • 2019 Net Profit (or Loss)
  • 2019 Total Operating Expenses
  • 2019 Depreciation Included in Operating Expenses
  • Year the business was established
  • The highest number of employees reported from April 1, 2019 – April 1, 2020
  • Copies of the business’s 2019 federal tax return
  • Information regarding how COVID-19 has impacted the business operations and/or working capital

 Is there anything else I should know?

Recipients can use the funds to cover necessary working capital costs.  Those costs include payroll, rent, mortgage, supplies, and operating expenses (including safety retrofits) but do not include owner compensation.

Grant funds cannot be used

  • to pay compensation to shareholders, partners, or sole proprietors
  • to pay back loans to pay owner compensation, or
  • to pay back loans to related parties such as shareholders, partners, or family members.

The maximum cap on the amount awarded to a business will be based on its number of employees.  The maximum caps are:

Company Size Max Award for 1st Awardee Max Award for 2nd Time Awardee
1-20 Employees $20,000 $10,000
21-50 Employees $50,000 $25,000
50-100 Employees $80,000 $40,000
101-250 Employees $125,000 n/a
251-500 Employees $175,000 n/a

Recovery Lancaster will release some information, including the legal name and d/b/a name of the applicant, the municipality the applicant is located, the funding amount requested, and the score result given by the funding committee.

However, Recovery Lancaster will not publicly release revenue amounts, operating expenses, the purpose of the funding, or whether funding was obtained.

Laws and regulations remain a moving target for COVID-19-related relief.  As such, the laws and regulations discussed today may change soon.  Please consult with a legal professional regarding the Lancaster Small Business Recovery & Sustainability Fund if you have any legal concerns.

Nichole Baer is an attorney at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Stetson University, College of Law and practices in several areas, including BusinessCommercial Real EstateEstate Planning, and Estate Administration.

The COVID-19 pandemic has turned every profession upside down, including the law. People are in crisis, and they don’t know what they qualify for or what forms to file. After all, trying to keep up with the government’s many changes is a daunting endeavor.

So what is it like right now being a lawyer in a pandemic?

I had the pleasure of sitting down with kid entrepreneur Bud Leggett, founder of Bud’s Outfitters, to answer that question. Bud is the son of Mandy Leggett, president of the Southern Lancaster County Chamber of Commerce.

He wanted to know:

  • Is being a lawyer different in the red phase versus the green phase?
  • How do you go to court virtually?
  • Why do you like being a lawyer in Lancaster?
  • And more!

Find out the answers in Bud’s Interview below:


Holly Filius is a partner at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. She received her law degree from Widener University School of Law and practices in a variety of areas, including Adoption and Family Law.