Tuesday January 19, 2021
Each year, the North Country Chamber identifies key strategic federal priorities for our region, and seeks the support and partnership of our federal representatives. This usually includes a visit to Washington with several invited team members related to priority projects and issues -- outlining an annual "HOT LIST" which has become a practical guide expected by our officials each year.

We still plan to do a group visit to Washington later this year when possible, but have begun with an initial HOT LIST of strategic interests which will be in play from the early weeks of the new Administration and Congress. That agenda, which has now been provided to and reviewed with Senators Schumer and Gillibrand, Congresswoman Stefanik and other federal partners, includes the following:

  • COVID-19 RELIEF AND ECONOMIC RECOVERY: Needed federal support for county and local governments; further support for the MTA and transit systems, critical to our transportation equipment producers; and further aid to our passenger airports to sustain them until air travel can recover.

  • INFRASTRUCTURE & TRANSPORTATION: A new multi-year commitment of federal funding for surface transportation, including robust support for transportation equipment, especially rail and buses. And a new major commitment by the federal government to address remaining broadband access gaps in areas like the Adirondacks as well as major cell service gaps.

  • U.S.-CANADA/QUEBEC-NEW YORK: High level planning by the U.S. and Canada related to eventual normalization of personal border crossings, as well as serious consideration of interim steps when possible. Also, the exemption of Canada from any potential new U.S. content mandates that might be a part of a new 2021 Infrastructure Bill.

Our current discussions with our representatives around these matters are active and positive and will continue. And we then look forward to providing a Hot List Part Two later in the year.
Build by the Fourth of July: An Infrastructure Initiative from the U.S. Chamber
The NORTH COUNTRY CHAMBER OF COMMERCE is pleased to be a founding part of "Build by the Fourth of July" -- a new national coalition organized by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. The aim is to see the passage of a major new federal Infrastructure Bill by Congress by summer. Long talked about, with bi-partisan consensus, 2021 seems the year for such an overdue national infrastructure commitment to come together.

We will be working within the coalition as well as directly with our Senators and Members of Congress for an Infrastructure Bill that, among other components, includes new support for trains and buses that we are ready to produce here in the North Country; for further broadband development in the Adirondacks to help close remaining gaps; and for our roads, airports, ports and other economy-supporting facilities.
Now is the Time to Take Advantage of the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC)
While many employers are familiar with or have taken advantage of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) to help offset employee costs during the pandemic, less are familiar with the Employee Retention Tax Credit (ERTC).
The ERTC, first created under the CARES ACT in March 2020, is a powerful tool to help businesses and nonprofits keep their employees on payroll by providing a refundable tax credit for qualified wages (including certain health plan expenses).
So, if this is such a great program, why have you never heard of it? Well, many employers chose not to use it in 2020 because, until now, businesses could only receive and use either the PPP or the ERTC but not both. However, in December, Congress made several favorable changes to the ERTC program including:

  • Extending the program through June 30, 2021 – allowing employers to claim the credit for wages paid in Q1 and Q2 2021
  • Expanding eligibility in 2021
  • Employers with 500 or fewer employees can now claim the tax credit for all eligible employees (up from 100 or fewer employees)
  • Only requiring a 20% reduction in quarter-over-quarter gross receipts for 2021 (down from 50% in 2020)
  • Allowing employers who have received, or will receive, a first-time or second-time PPP loan to also claim the ERTC, as long as they do not cover the same payroll costs.
  • Increasing the size of the tax credit paid in 2021 (up from 50% of qualified wages to 70%)
  • Allowing businesses to retroactively claim the tax credit for 2020

So how does it work? Who is eligible? And how can you apply?
Click the link below to learn more from our friends at The Hoffman-Eells Group.
State Labor Takes Action on Experience Ratings for Unemployment
The North Country Chamber of Commerce and other employer representatives have been seeking urgent steps by the state to protect employers from steep increases in unemployment insurance charges based on experience ratings that would include layoffs related to COVID-19 related shutdowns and reductions. We therefore welcome the order issued by State Labor Commissioner Roberta Reardon on Friday evening, taking the requested action to provide protection.

The order from the DOL is available here which was published last night.

In addition, the State Senate is expected to take similar legislative action this week through passage of S.1157 which we have supported.

We welcome this action by DOL, and the expected legislative action which will further help to guarantee the needed protection from what would otherwise have been a massive new cost on all employers, including small business, at the worst possible time.
New State Vaccination Site Opens in Plattsburgh
Governor Cuomo announced the state-run, vaccination sites at SUNY Stony Brook, Aqueduct Racetrack, SUNY Potsdam and Plattsburgh International Airport are now open and vaccinating eligible New Yorkers against the COVID-19 virus.

Vaccinations are by appointment only. To determine eligibility and schedule an appointment to receive their first dose, New Yorkers can utilize the state's 'Am I Eligible' app or call the New York State Vaccination Hotline at 1-833-NYS-4VAX (1-833-697-4829). Appointments to receive the second dose at these sites are scheduled in-person after receiving the first dose. New Yorkers should not attempt to book their second appointment online.
"Our number one priority is getting New Yorker's vaccinated and we have continued to expand our network of sites to accomplish that goal," Governor Cuomo said. "We are not only doing our part to get the vaccine distributed as quickly and efficiently as possible, but we have made it a top priority to ensure distribution is happening fairly and equitably. Our progress is hindered only by the federal government's failure to provide adequate supply of the vaccine."
The location of the new vaccination site in Plattsburgh is:

Plattsburgh International Airport - Connecticut Building
213 Connecticut Road
Plattsburgh, NY

  • this is NOT the terminal building, it is located off of Arizona Ave
Since federal supply severely limits the ability to distribute the vaccine, New Yorkers are encouraged to remain patient and are advised not to show up at vaccination sites without an appointment. New York's vast distribution network and large population of eligible individuals far exceed the vaccine supply coming from the federal government, which is arriving at a rate of approximately 250,000 doses per week. As such, eligible New Yorkers should be prepared to receive an appointment date as far as 14 weeks or further in the future.
Foundation Accepting 'Generous Acts' Applications
Adirondack Foundation today announced that the 2021 Generous Acts grant applications are open and available online until 5 p.m., Feb. 1, 2021.

“The pandemic is putting social and economic disparities into much sharper relief. At the same time, the crisis is revealing new opportunities for collaboration toward long-term change,” said Foundation President and CEO Cali Brooks. “Generous Acts is here to respond to urgent needs, as well as invest in systems-level solutions to help our communities prosper. It has the flexibility to do both, which is more important than ever.”

Application guidelines
Generous Acts grant applications can be submitted through the Foundation’s online grants manager. The Foundation welcomes applications in these priority areas:

  • Basic Needs
  • Educational Pathways
  • Community & Economic Vitality
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant
The SBA webinar recording about Shuttered Venue Operators Grant is available on SBA’s YouTube channel at https://youtu.be/PdfQGb6z-gg.
To help the North Country reopen safely and meet the state and local mandates, The North Country Chamber of Commerce has created a comprehensive list of resources to navigate state and local requirements. Check out the home page for details. There is also a series of webinars available for businesses to help educate and provide answers to common questions.
Sponsored by:
  • NYS Vaccination Updates: Official Site for making an appointment to get the COVID-19 Vaccine.
  • Forward NY: Official State Website for opening procedures and guidelines.
  • NYS Travel Advisory: Stay up to date on the latest NYS Travel Advisory Updates.
  • Looking for Supplies: If your business is looking for hard to find protective products, we have created a list of businesses offering hand sanitizer, gloves, wipes, masks and other items.
  • SCORE: Small business owners are resilient and can power through this challenging time, with SCORE by their side.
Have Questions? We're here to help!

North Country Chamber of Commerce