The January Current
Happy New Year! Helpful Tips, Member Spotlight, Reminders, Business News & MORE!
A New Year Message from Executive Director, Pam Staneski!
Last January, I penned these words in my New Year’s message to you: “2020 will be an exciting year for the Chamber”—not knowing of course what was about to come! And here we are, a little bit wiser, a lot worn down, and yet still filled with hope.  Your Chamber stood with you throughout this challenging year; listening to you, sharing information and resources, and providing opportunities to showcase the resiliency of our business community.  Through all that 2020 wrought, the Chamber grew, adding 47 new members, moving to a new location with technology and space to reflect our growth, and continuing to support our members and community. We appreciate all that it took this year to persevere and thank all of you for standing strong with us!

2021 will be an exciting year for the Chamber!  
Helpful Tips From The SBA Connecticut District Office
Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Loan Advance
If you are a small businesses, nonprofit organization of any size, or a U.S. agricultural business with 500 or fewer employees that have suffered substantial economic injury as a result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, you can apply for the COVID-19 EIDL. This loan applies to all businesses based in any U.S. state, territory, or the District of Columbia. EIDL proceeds are used for

  • For working capital
  • Normal operating expenses (i.e. continuation of health care benefits, rent, utilities, and fixed debt payments).

For more information and/or to apply please click on the EIDL link below.

Virtual Mentoring & Training
Offices around the country may be closed due to the Coronavirus pandemic, but SCORE, Small Business Development Centers, Women’s Business Centers, Veterans Business Outreach Centers and other resource partners are providing free business mentoring and training by phone, email, and video.

SBA Export Finance Programs
A growing number of businesses are bringing production and jobs back to the U.S. from overseas. SBA export loans are being used to help finance this "reshoring." Much as the market demand for quality, "Made in America" goods and services are increasing worldwide, U.S. businesses are also becoming conscious of the value of compact, efficient supply chains and locally controlled operations.  

Nearly 96 percent of consumers live outside the U.S., and two-thirds of the world’s purchasing power is in foreign countries. If you’re a small business owner, learn how to work with the SBA for your trade needs.

For local info contact: (860) 241-5573. For more information click the Export Loan Programs link below.
Member Spotlight: Lisa Valerio, owner of Valerio Tax Edge and Valerio Financial Group   
Q: How did you get where you are today, and who/what helped you along the way?

I grew up surrounded by numbers, with financial planning and tax clients coming and going from my father’s home-based practice.  When my high school principal at Lauralton changed my senior year schedule on me to include two Economics classes, I no longer could ignore what was in my DNA for my future endeavors, as I quickly fell in love with the subject.  I went on to major in Economics and Business Administration and then completed my MBA in International business. After 6 years in corporate America in the healthcare market research space and consumer product marketing arenas, I seized the opportunity to take over my fathers’ securities & insurance practice as I started my family. 

Life has a funny way of guiding you down your path and change is inevitable, so I have learned to embrace new experiences.  Throughout my career, I have been blessed with great mentors whose belief in me, helped me to forge forward in the hard times, and who constantly challenged me to see things from a different perspective, which is a critical skill to learn.  

Q: What have you learned about leadership, entrepreneurship, and mentoring others?  

Entrepreneurship takes a lot of discipline, tenacity, patience, and determination.  It is incredibly important that you maintain faith in yourself and extract the silver lining from each grey cloud.  I always remind myself now, that when opportunities present themselves, you must seize them despite the timing being “off” as things have a way of working out when you are following your passions.  Regarding mentoring, I’ve been blessed to have a steady stream of amazing young women join my practice via my internship program, watching them blossom into strong, confident, flexible women following their passions.   Seeing my practice through their eyes has been a wonderful opportunity for self-development as a leader.  

Q: How do you maintain a work/life balance?  

While we have weekend and evening appointments available to accommodate our client’s busy lives, I have otherwise utilized fixed office hours.  In doing so, I have been able to achieve my goal to be accessible to my clients, but also established a framework in which I can feel confident that my night or weekend will not be suddenly upheaved by a client need.  Also, I intentionally have avoided making work emails accessible on my phone so when I am out of the office, I can focus my time on the family.   

Q: What do you think is the biggest issue for women in the workplace?

As women in the finance and tax planning space are certainly in the minority, we must learn to embrace our innate abilities to connect with our clients, utilize our listening skills and employ our caring natures to nourish our client relationships. It is important to learn to embrace what may seem like out of the box methodologies to service and collaborate with our clients.  Stay strong and keep swimming upstream as uniqueness and sincerity in our purpose and approach really have their benefits.
  
What advice would you give to young women who want to succeed in the workplace?

Believe in yourself.  Follow your passion and remember that you have much to offer, regardless of gender.  I always hear in my head “the squeaky wheel gets the grease.”  This mantra that my father drilled into me was the key to my successes in climbing the corporate ladder quickly at a young age and continues to help me excel in servicing my clients.
Blog Spotlight: Helping In The Right Way  
Must Know Strategies To Address Panhandling
by Jennifer Paradis, Executive Director, Beth-El Center, Inc.
Panhandling and subsequently unsheltered homelessness can be a very visual representation of the work that remains ahead of us, but the good news is that strategies and partnerships have come a long way over many years. We know that addressing and responding to the requests or questions of someone panhandling can feel overwhelming, and that we all just want to do “the right thing”. I am hopeful that this can be accomplished by both acknowledging the person panhandling with dignity and respect and to find the most comfortable way to remain informed about and contribute to local community services fit to respond. We must remember that people experiencing unsheltered homelessness are often older and have substantially higher levels of health conditions and health care needs. Furthermore, unsheltered circumstances not only exacerbate these conditions but also create additional barriers to accessing needed health care and related services.  

With this said, we recommend the following when engaging someone who is panhandling:

  • Stay compassionate and educated 
  • You do not have to give directly to the person asking for assistance, but if you decide to give please consider resources like water, hand-warmers, hand sanitizer or even a bus pass
  • Find ways to support the community organizations engaging people experiencing unsheltered homelessness through volunteerism, donations and advocacy of our work. 
  • Call for support. We are here for you as we are here for folks in need of our resources. 


For more information and resources, contact Beth-El Center, Inc. at (203)876-0747; www.bethelmilford.org
Chamber News
Important Reminder for ALL EMPLOYERS!

Beginning January 1, 2021 employers must begin deducting 1/2 of 1% of each employee's wages and send it to the Paid Leave Authority.   
Connecticut Public Act 19-25, An Act Concerning Paid Family and Medical Leave was enacted in 2019 and requires all employees to pay into the fund. The fund, administered by the Connecticut Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Authority (CT Paid Leave Authority), was established as a quasi-government agency tasked with administering the Connecticut Paid Leave program. Employers will be responsible for withholding and submitting the payroll deductions for each employee. These deductions must be submitted to the CT Paid Leave Authority quarterly.

Covered employees working in Connecticut are eligible for benefits under PFMLA if they have earned wages of at least $2,325 in the highest-earning quarter of the first four of the five most recently completed quarters (the “base period”) and are currently employed, or have been employed within the last 12 weeks.
 
Sole proprietors or self-employed individuals may also participate, but must remain in the program for three years.
 
Employees MAY begin receiving benefits January 1, 2022.
 
Every employer with one or more employees MUST register their business with the Paid Leave Authority. 
Click HERE to register your business with the Connecticut Paid Leave Authority.
 
You are able to opt out if your company has a private plan that has the same benefits.
Click HERE to prove exemption or for the ”Opt Out” form. LINK TO EXEMPTION FORM. 
 
Here is a complete kit for employers that will answer all your questions.
Click HERE for the complete LINK TO EMPLOYER PAID FMLA INFO KIT.
A Message from the Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD)
Federal Stimulus Package Includes $325B for Small Businesses

The federal government just approved a $900 billion stimulus package to deliver economic relief to small businesses and Americans impacted by the pandemic. The package includes the following support for businesses and employees:
 
  • $325 billion for small businesses, including $284 billion in loans through the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
  • Direct payment checks of up to $600 per adult and child
  • Enhanced unemployment insurance benefits of $300 per week
  • Extension of the eviction moratorium and $25 billion for rental assistance
  • Extension of the tax credit for employers offering paid sick leave
 
The new round of PPP funding provides a great opportunity for companies that did not receive a forgivable PPP loan earlier this year. It also allows businesses with 300 or few employees that experienced more than 30% revenue loss in any quarter in 2020 to secure a second forgivable PPP loan.
 
The PPP will continue to be managed by the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA), and loans will once again be secured through an SBA-approved bank, credit union or fintech. Here is a list of participating lenders. 
 
I recommend you begin working with an approved lender now as there could be high demand for this program. For those companies applying for a second PPP loan, working with the same financial institution could speed up the application process for your business.
 
More information should be available on the SBA website soon, but in the meantime the Connecticut Small Business Development Center (SBDC) will host multiple webinars to help you understand what information you may need to apply for a PPP loan. Click here to register for one of the webinars. The PPP has been a huge boost to Connecticut businesses that continue to struggle under the economic realities brought on by this pandemic. To date, Connecticut companies and nonprofits have secured almost 65,000 PPP loans worth approximately $6.7 billion.
 
I strongly encourage businesses and nonprofits to remain aggressive and take advantage of this worthwhile program without delay. 




Sincerely,
David Lehman, Commissioner
(860) 500-2310
Learn More About What Is In The New Federal Package
4 New Year’s Resolutions for Your Small Business
This year has been a little more difficult to figure out new year’s resolutions. Part of that is because we’re all still reeling from the “lessons” we learned in 2020. Even the best prepared businesses lacked preparation for a global pandemic. Still, the new year is a great time to reexamine what you’ve been doing and how it can get better. Here are a few ideas:
Automation
Get ready to retake your day. There are so many ways you can use automation to simplify tasks. From drip marketing campaigns to nurture leads into sales to daily briefings your AI can play to help you start your day (or “if, then” sequences) with the necessary information, you can spend less time on the administrative tasks and more time generating revenue.
Analysis
You know all that hard work you’ve been putting in to engage your audience on those social channels? If you’re not monitoring and analyzing the data behind your efforts, you’re not getting any value out of it. Take a little time to understand your most popular posts and the time of day that garners the most reactions. Look to see which sites are performing and which aren’t. 

While you’re at it, check Google Analytics to see how your site is performing. If you send out a newsletter, get to know the tools your sender offers. Some allow you to see where people are spending the most time on your newsletter content. All of them will show you open rate and clicks. Take a look at the correlation between subject line and open rate.
Security
In the past six months alone my debit card has been reissued 3 times because of fraud. We haven’t been able to track down where that compromise has occurred, but this is a common problem. Don’t make the mistake of thinking that because you have a 2-person operation, no one is interested in your data. If there’s the potential for money and fraud, how many employees you have won’t matter to them. They’re looking for easy ways to get data. If you’re unprotected, you’re an easy mark.
Passion
“All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.” Sound familiar? 

But there is some truth to that. And since people buy from those they know, like, and trust, making 2021 the year you discover or reignite your passion is a solid idea to creating a more loyal customer base. Sharing what makes you tick and gets you excited can help people connect with you. It also can help safeguard you against burnout. 

Take some time to explore your passions, even if you have to schedule it on your calendar.

The new year is a great time to start those things you’ve been putting off because it’s a natural reset/fresh start moment. However, you can work toward these goals at any time. And when you do, you’ll feel a whole lot better about your path to recovery or success.
Member Happenings & Events
Economic Summit + Outlook 2021
Join us on Friday, January 22 from 8:15 AM - 11:45 AM, for an important discussion about Connecticut’s economy.

You will hear from a panel of those driving innovation in Connecticut, including:

  • StamfordNext Executive Director, Wes Bemus,
  • District New Haven Chief Operating Officer JoHannah Hamilton
  • Upward Hartford Founder and CEO Shana Schlossberg

Accompanying them will be state representatives, senators and members of a bipartisan group of state lawmakers who signed and support CBIA's Rebuilding Connecticut Policy Pledge.
If you're a local small business you DON'T want to miss this!

To learn more about this 11-point policy designed to help employers - particularly struggling small businesses - and sign up for this event, click here.
Milford Regional Chamber of Commerce | (203) 878-0681 | www.milfordct.com