2020 has been a year of adapting, readapting, and then adapting again in an effort to combat a global pandemic.  Those in education have been hit particularly hard.  Most educators and administrators have had to develop multiple contingency plans, often with little warning.

The Lancaster Bar Association is concerned about the impact these unprecedented times are having on educators and the increased responsibilities they have been taking on.  Our teachers and administrators are putting themselves at risk daily to ensure the children of our community continue to get the education they need.  Some, like Manheim Township counselor Alexandra Chitwood, have even lost their lives.
Continue Reading Lancaster Bar Association is Offering Classroom Heroes Free Living Wills

As we enter another month of the Covid-19 pandemic, the stories of people becoming gravely ill without a Healthcare Power of Attorney and Living Will continue to mount.  Recently, a doctor on a Covid-19 unit shared a story about a young man who required a ventilator to breathe.  He never expressed to his family what his wishes would be in this situation, leaving them to guess.

To further complicate matters, his parents did not agree on a course of action for their son.  It added strife and stress to an already unimaginably hard situation.  This particular stress could have been avoided if the young man had a Health Care Power of Attorney and Living Will. Continue Reading What is a Living Will, and Why do I Need One?

This time of the year, our thoughts turn to family and friends.  Maybe we reflect on the past year or look forward to the next.  For association boards and property managers, these happy thoughts are interrupted by questions about snow removal. When do we call snowplows? What kinds of deicers should we use? And does our association have any liability for slips and falls?
Continue Reading HOA Snow Removal: Your Questions Answered

It’s only been a few hours since the Governor and the Secretary of Health announced that the state is imposing a limitation on the sale of alcohol on Wednesday, November 25, 2020.  What does this mean and who does it apply to?

On-Site Alcohol Consumption Must End at 5:00 pm

The Order provides that all sales or service of alcohol for on-site consumption must cease no later than 5:00 p.m. on November 25th.  It goes on to provide that no customer may possess alcoholic beverages within the business after 6:00 p.m. This includes:
Continue Reading Restriction of On-Site Alcohol Sales for Wednesday, November 25

On October 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed House Bill 2438, Expanding Broadband Access with Existing Infrastructure, into law.  This new bill will make it easier for rural residents of Pennsylvania to access high-speed broadband internet by changing the rules for easements. Continue Reading Easing into Easements: PA Expands Access to Broadband Internet

On October 29, 2020, Governor Wolf signed into law House Bill 2370, which will permanently permit the use of remote notarization in Pennsylvania.  Before the passage of this bill, Pennsylvania did temporarily permit the use of remote notarization during the COVID-19 pandemic.

What is Remote Notarization?

Remote notarization is the notarizing of legal documents while the client is not physically in the presence of the notary by utilizing technology.  The client still personally appears before the notary using a Zoom-type program where the notary can see and hear the client.  Under prior law, the notary and the client had to be in the same physical location while the client signed the legal document.

The notary must still validate the client is who they say they are by

  • using personal knowledge (the notary knows the client)
  • relying on an affidavit from a credible witness, or
  • by using technology tools designed to confirm the identity of the client. If using this form of validation,, the notary must use two different types of identity proofing.  Identity proofing is a service provided by a third party. Typically the program the notary is using to conduct the remote notarization, such as SafeDocs, will have identity proofing integrated into their system.

The notary must be able to identify the record that they will be notarizing and watch the client execute the document.  The certificate attached to the notarized document must also state that the notary was completed by “means of communication technology.”

Should I Use a Remote Notary?

Using a remote notary is not without its fair share of problems.  Such problems include:

  • Lack of personal information available in public or private data sources. If you have no or limited credit history, it is unlikely that you will be able to pass an identity proofing.  This will affect younger clients and clients who have no credit cards or mortgages.
  • Lack of technology. If the client doesn’t have a device with a camera and microphone, they won’t be able to utilize a remote notary.  Also, if the device the client does have is outdated, they might not be able to run the program for the remote notary.
  • Lack of internet. The client and notary must both have highspeed internet.   This will disadvantage clients who have no or limited access to internet.
  • Storage of notary records. A remote notary is required to store the audio-visual recording for at least ten (10) years.  This may create significant liability issues for notaries.  What happens if their computer crashes or is hacked?  Additionally, if storing in the cloud, there will be a cost involved to maintain that record.
  • Acceptance by the Recorder of Deeds. The Recorder of Deeds is not required to accept documents notarized remotely for recording.  This will create confusion as there are sixty-seven (67) Recorder of Deeds Offices throughout the State.  It is likely that each Recorder will come up with their own policy and there will be a lack of consistency across the state.

In this rapidly evolving age of technology adaptations, Russell, Krafft & Gruber LLP is here to answer your technology-related legal questions.

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.

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 http://www.recoverylancaster.com, 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.

On October 8, 2020, the Small Business Administration (“SBA”) announced that they were making applying for forgiveness for Paycheck Protection Program loans (the “PPP”) easier for some borrowers.  The PPP program itself had two rounds of funding, including $310 billion added at the end of April. Now, borrowers who borrowed $50,000 or less in PPP funds can fill out a simplified loan forgiveness application known as the SBA Form 3508S.

This simpler forgiveness option consists of only one page, with an optional second page requesting demographic information.  It does not require you to provide detailed documentation or fill out numerous brackets in order to calculate the proper forgiveness amounts.  Instead, you must merely self-certify how you used the PPP funds.

You Must Agree to 6 Statements

On the new simplified forgiveness application, you do need to certify that the following six statements are true:

  1. The dollar amount for the forgiveness requested does not exceed the principal amount of the PPP Loan and:
    • You used the loan to pay costs that are eligible for forgiveness (payroll costs to retain employees, business mortgage interest payments, business rent or lease payments, or business utility payments);
    • You used at least 60% of the PPP funds to pay payroll costs;
    • If a 24-week Covered Period applies, the PPP forgiveness does not exceed 2.5 months’ worth of 2019 compensation for any owner-employee or self-employed individual/general partner, capped at $20,833 per individual; and
    • If an 8-week Covered Period applies, the PPP forgiveness does not exceed 8 weeks of 2019 compensation for any owner-employee or self-employed individual or self-employed individual/general partner, capped at $15,385.
  1. You understand that if you knowingly used the funds for unauthorized purposes, the federal government may seek recovery of the loan amounts and/or seek civil or criminal fraud charges.
  2. You have accurately verified the payments for the eligible payroll and nonpayroll costs for which you are requesting forgiveness and have accurately calculated the forgiveness amount requested.
  3. You have submitted to your lender the required documentation verifying payroll costs, the existence of obligations and service prior to February 15, 2020, and eligible business mortgage interest payments, business rent or lease payments, and business utility payments.
  4. The information you have provided in the application and the information provided in all supporting documents and forms is true and correct in all material respects. You understand that knowingly making a false statement to obtain forgiveness of an SBA guaranteed loan is punishable under the law.
  5. The tax documents you have submitted to your lender are consistent with those you have submitted or will submit to the IRS. You also understand, acknowledge, and agree that the lender can share the tax information with the SBA’s authorized representatives.

Other Important Details

In conjunction with this simplified forgiveness application, the U.S. Treasury Department and the SBA issued a new interim final rule that says that borrowers who took out $50,000 or less in PPP funds will have no reductions in their forgiveness based on either

  1.  reductions in full-time equivalent (“FTE”) employees or
  2.  reductions in employee salary or wages.

I want to caution borrowers that while the SBA is now permitting self-certification for loans at or under $50,000, you should keep all documents providing your availability for forgiveness for at least four years.  You should also only provide honest answers when answering the self-certifications.

Also, using this simplified application does not prohibit the SBA from auditing applications.  It also does not prohibit the SBA from prosecuting anyone who is not truthful in their application or supporting documents.

The SBA started accepting forgiveness applications on October 2, 2020, and lenders will soon be receiving the first forgiveness payments.  Check with your lender to see if they are accepting forgiveness applications.

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.

You may have heard this already, but 2020 is not everyone’s favorite year. From global pandemics to thorny political and social issues, this has been a year many look forward to seeing in the rearview mirror. But when life gives you lemons, sometimes you just have to make Citra hopped mead (okay, okay… lemons to citrus to Citra hops is not my best pun, but you get the idea).

My friends down at Meduseld Meadery are not letting the pandemic stop them from innovating. They are opening a new microbrewery and gastropub, taking advantage of existing infrastructure in Manheim Borough. That inspired those of us here at #RKGTechLaw to write about some of the local technological innovation we’ve been keeping our eyes on in 2020:

Did we miss one of your favorite courageous Lancaster businesses? Email me at bsh@rkglaw.com or use the social media tag #RKGTechLaw to share it! And as always, if you are looking for legal representation, you know where to find us. We’ve been doing Zoom consultations since before the pandemic and have no plans to stop, not even when 2020 finally does…

Brandon Harter is a litigator and technology guru at Russell, Krafft & Gruber, LLP, in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. He received his law degree from William & Mary Law School and advises clients on issues of Civil Litigation & Dispute ResolutionMunicipal Law, and chairs the firm’s Tech Law Group.

It’s been another busy few days for the industry. Today’s hospitality update delves into what House Bill 2513 would and wouldn’t do, booking events with Governor Wolf’s restrictions still in limbo, and whether there’s personal liability attached to restaurant self-certification.

House Bill 2513

If you recall from my previous post, House Bill 2513 is the Bill that essentially reverses many of the Governor’s restrictions since July 15 (when he reduced restaurants to 25% capacity).  Just to be clear on what this Bill does and doesn’t do:

IT DOES:

  • Allow for a MINIMUM of 50% indoor seating, which can be increased if allowed by the CDC and Department of Health guidelines.
  • Allow for 50% capacity for event venues (banquet halls, private clubs or other establishments that regularly hold events).
  • Eliminate the self-certification requirement to operate at 50% capacity (More reason to hold off on completing this until October 5th).
  • Eliminate the requirement to serve a meal along with alcohol.
  • Allow for bar seating (provided social distancing or physical dividers are used).
  • Provide for some additional flexibility to immediately license outdoor areas.  Currently, the PLCB requires any outdoor area to be contiguous to the currently licensed premises for it to qualify for the PLCB’s emergency extension of premises. This Bill would allow for an outdoor area to be licensed if it is within 250 feet of the main licensed building.

IT DOES NOT:

  • Remove the current requirement to cease all alcohol sales at 11 p.m. and clear all alcohol from tables by 12 a.m.
  • Remove the restriction on having groups larger than 25 people indoors and 250 people outdoors.  There is another bill pending in the legislature that would address this restriction. See below for more information on this issue.

Looking ahead, the Governor has threatened to veto the Bill. However, it passed with significant bipartisan support, which could mean the House and Senate would have enough votes to override the Governor’s veto. (They would need a two-thirds majority in each the House and Senate)

From what I have heard from those within the capital, many of the legislators who supported the Bill appear willing to continue their support, even to override a veto.  Many legislators seem to recognize the very dire circumstances for those in the hospitality sector and acknowledge that this Bill, while not a magic solution, is at least a step in the right direction to help the industry.

Booking Events While the Constitutionality of the Governor’s Restrictions is In Limbo

Revisiting the decision by Judge William Stickman IV, you may have heard or read the reports that the Judge refused to stay or suspend the effectiveness of his decision until the Governor’s office resolves its appeal.  I still believe the 3rd Circuit Court of Appeals may grant a stay. However, in the interim, it does appear that the PLCB/LCE recognizes that it will not be able to enforce the limits on the size of gatherings until something changes with the Courts.

Realistically, I think it would be hard to start booking events because the current status could change at any time if the 3rd Circuit grants a stay.  Given that most events are booked well in advance, it is hard to rely on the current state of the law today and assume they it will remain that way tomorrow (let alone weeks or months from now).  So if you decide to act on this and book large events, be aware that it could change at any time.

Personal Liability and Restaurant Self-Certification

Finally, even though I am recommending that you hold off on the self-certification process for right now, the website is up and running. The certification is available for review here. The process asks you to review this document and then complete the certification process, affirming that you will implement each of those requirements.  It also asks you to input your maximum fire code occupancy. Before submitting, you must check a box indicating that the information you entered is accurate and warns you that false statements are punishable under the law.

I have heard a lot of people claim that they are “personally liable” for the certification, and that is not technically correct.  The certification is asking you to affirm that the information you entered is correct. Theoretically, if you intentionally lied on this certification, you could be subject to punishment for making a false statement under oath.

With that said, it DOES NOT mean that any future violation or problem related to the operation of your establishment would result in some kind of personal liability.

Bottom Line

I am rooting for the eventual passage of House Bill 2513 to eliminate the self-certification process altogether. But, if that doesn’t get over the finish line, I would not refuse to complete the self-certification process simply because of the warning about false statements and potential punishment.

Obviously, you do not want to make false statements on the form. However, I am not significantly concerned that this is some trap the Government is setting to throw someone in jail for having too many people in their place of 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.