Chamber Connections BLOG
Chamber Connections BLOG
This Week’s Cybersecurity Tip of the Week, provided by PacketLogix
IT Security Tip: Why you might want to cover up your webcam with a sticker ?
Here’s a disturbing, but very real, tactic for hackers: spying on you via your device’s camera. Some simply watch you for fun. Others attempt to catch incriminating photos and then blackmail you by threatening to release the photos or video (which they have) to all your Facebook friends, LinkedIn connections or e-mail address book (which they also have) unless you pay a ransom. If you pay, they can come back and ask for MORE because they now know you care AND that you’ll pay. If you don’t pay, they will release that picture of you doing, um, well…
As always, follow the various security strategies we’ve been sending you via these tips. As a backup, you can buy stickers that cover your camera with a slider so you can uncover it when you want to actually use it to take a picture or join a web meeting. In fact, we have them and will give you one for free. Just give us a call or email below.
Cybercrime is at an all-time high, and hackers are setting their sights on small and medium businesses who are “low hanging fruit.” Don’t be their next victim! CLICK HERE to download this free report that reveals the most common ways that hackers get in and how to protect yourself today.
Get 2 FREE hours of Computer Support with no sales pressure or strings attached! Contact us at 401-216-6425 or via email at email@example.com.
Message from the Department of Labor – Don’t Overpay Unemployment Tax
The Rhode Island Department of Labor is urging all businesses to double check their unemployment tax rate which can be found on your quarterly TX-17 form.
According to DLT, many employers have been using an incorrect or old tax rate and overpaying/underpaying their unemployment taxes. Please check your tax rate prior to paying your next quarterly TX-17. First quarter taxes for 2023 are due on or before April 30. While DLT does issue refunds for overpaid taxes, the simple step of checking the rate can save both time and money for businesses and for the state. Underpaying your taxes will lead to unwanted penalties and interest. If you have a payroll company paying your quarterly taxes, make sure they are using the correct rate for your company.
Employers may contact the Employer Tax Division at (401) 574-8700, option 1 to obtain their tax rate. You will need your company name, address, Federal ID and your state account number to obtain your tax rate.
This Week At the State House
Tuesday, April 25th
Calling all retailers and restaurants – on Tuesday at the Rise (approximately 4:30) in room 212, the Senate Commerce Committee is taking testimony on S.759, An Act Relating to Commercial Law – Gift Card Fraud. S.759 requires all entities that sell gift cards to display a notice at the location where cards are sold. The notice must caution the purchaser about prepaid card scams and instruct the purchaser on what to do if they suspect they might be a potential victim of such a scam. Employers must train employees on how to identify and respond to gift card fraud and the Attorney General is directed to distribute materials to assist with training. Failure to comply with this law carries a penalty of $500. Written testimony should be emailed to firstname.lastname@example.org
H.5897, An Act Relating to Public Utilities and Carries, is the topic of discussion in the House Corporations Committee at the Rise in room 135. This bill creates a tiered rate system for electricity and natural gas customers whose household income level is below 150% of the federal poverty level and who are eligible for LIHEAP assistance or Medicaid. For these households, the plan envisions capping electric rates to ensure that they pay no more than 3% of their income on electricity or 6% of their income if the house utilizes electricity as a sole source of heat. The program will be funded by increased rates assessed on all other customers. The Keiser Foundation 2021 report estimates 11.5% of individuals in Rhode Island were living in households under 100% of the poverty level (the latest census report estimates it at 11.4%) and 13.7% of individuals were living in households under 199% of the poverty level. Keiser did not provide a breakdown for 150% of poverty level.
Wednesday, April 26th
It will be a busy day in the Senate Labor Committee Wednesday at 4:00 sharp in room 212.
S.821, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Workplace Psychological Safety Act will be heard. This is the new version of what was previously called the workplace “bullying” bill. The bill begins by stating that employees have a right to a physically safe work environment and to a psychologically safe workplace. The term “employee” includes full and part-time workers, independent contractors and temporary employees. Employers have a “responsibility” to monitor, prevent, discourage and address issues or allegations of psychological abuse in the workplace. “Psychological abuse” specifically includes behaviors such as: exclusion, marginalization, spreading of lies, withholding vital information, abusive gestures, frequent request for work below competence level, long-term assigning of tasks beyond the employee’s duties without compensation, physical isolation, ignoring, regular inconsistent instructions, unmanageable workloads, taking credit for work, making snide comments or ridicule publicly, exclusion from work-related social gatherings, changes that could jeopardize future career prospects, discounting a person’s work proposals or opinions, persistent criticism, excessive monitoring, threat of dismissal, and changing work conditions or duties. Within ninety days of enactment, all employers must adopt policy procedures to comply with the law and train managers and supervisors to handle complaints. Employers must have an independent third-party reporting option for employees (which includes independent contractors). When psychological abuse occurs between employees of different employers, all employers are concerned are responsible for investigating and responding to the complaint. S.821 includes a quarterly reporting process; and establishes a fund to pay for state agency response to violations of the act. Employers will pay a premium – similar to workers compensation – in which each employer pays more as complaints are filed. The bill includes fines for employers that fail to properly respond to complaints, and to individuals that engage in psychological abuse. The bill can be read in its entirety at: http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/SenateText23/S0821.pdf
A number of minimum wage bills are also on the schedule for hearing and possible consideration. S.37, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages, increases the minimum wage to $15 per hour starting January 1, 2024 and to $20 per hour starting January 1, 2025. S.138 An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages, keeps the current minimum wage increase schedule in place and then increases the wage by the CPI starting January 1, 2028 (if the CPI decreases, the wage does not decrease). S.142 is a resolution creating an eleven-member study commission to complete a comprehensive study of Rhode Island’s minimum wage and report its findings in 2025. S.826, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages, increases the minimum wage to $15.50 per hour starting January 1, 2025, $17 per hour starting January 1, 2026, $18.50 January 1, 2027, and $20 per hour January 1, 2028. S.837, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages keeps the current wage increase schedule, and then increases the minimum wage by the CPI starting January 1, 2026.
Also on the Wednesday agenda is Senate Labor is S.663, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Payment of Wages which changes an employer’s responsibilities as it relates to providing for employees with statements of earnings. Today employers must include the hours worked, deductions from gross earnings and an explanation of those deductions. S.663 adds items such as the last four digits of the social security number, deduction explanations in the employee’s preferred language, the employer’s address and name, and output information if pay is based on quantity. S.663 also requires employers to provide a type of “mini employee handbook” to employees in each employee’s primary language. The information includes items such as: wage information, benefits, holiday information, sick time, and travel and expense policies. DataUSA reports that 22.4% of Rhode Island households report speaking a primary language other than English. While the most common non-English language spoken in Rhode Island is Spanish followed by Portuguese, there are reportedly forty-one languages spoken as a primary language in the State. Some families are fluent in both their primary language and English, others are not. S.636 requires employers to adapt to the needs of each individual employee.
Finally, S.430, An Act Relating to Labor and Labor Relations – Minimum Wages, changes the definition of “employee” in the State of Rhode Island. The legislation adopts what is known as the “ABC” test to determine whether an individual is an employee or an independent contractor (IC). If passed, S.430 would require and individual to meet three standards to be classified as an IC: (1) free from the control and direction of the hiring entity; (2) person performs work that is outside the usual course of the hiring entity's business; AND (3) person is customarily engaged in an independently established trade, occupation, or business of the same nature as that involved in the work performed. The state definition would override the use of the IRS federal factors. Particularly troublesome is the second factor “outside the usual course” of business. If you have someone on staff that performs a similar function, or if your mission includes a particular function, any outside individual hired will have to be classified as an employee. This could easily include lawyers, CPAs, computer service professionals, nurses, occupational therapists, cleaners, etc.
If you wish to submit testimony on any of the bills in Senate Labor, it must be emailed to SLegislation@rilegislature.gov prior to 3:00 pm Wednesday.
The Senate Committee on Environment & Agriculture is scheduled to VOTE on S.770, An Act Relating to State Affairs and Government – Environmental Justice Act. Part of this bill addresses the ability of the public to participate in discussions over permitting facilities in environmental justice areas such as: “Electric generating facility; Resource recovery facility or incinerator; Sludge combustor facility or incinerator; Transfer station, recycling center, or other solid waste facility; Landfill that accepts ash, construction or demolition debris, or solid waste; Medical waste incinerator; Pyrolysis or gasification facility; Scrap metal facility; Auto salvage operations and/or facility; Asphalt plant; Petroleum storage facility; Ethylene oxide manufacturing and/or storage facility; Construction and/or demolition debris processing facility; or The renewal of any permit listed in this definition.” However, S.770 also requires such facilities to perform a cumulative impact analysis as part of the permit application or permit renewal process. The analysis must look at current and potential future impacts of emissions for activities included under the permit request. If a business fails to complete the analysis, the permit cannot move forward. It is still unclear if the Department of Environmental Management has the database capabilities to allow businesses to undergo this analysis since a business will not only have to have access to their own information, but information of other businesses in the area. Unless the cumulative analysis requirement is removed, companies currently in the industries listed above may not be able to continue operation, directly affecting other businesses and individuals that rely on those activities.
The following new bill has been filed:
House Bill No. 6287 Slater, Diaz, AN ACT RELATING TO BUSINESSES AND PROFESSIONS -- ELECTRICIANS (Amends the state's apprenticeship laws to make them more consistent with applicable federal regulations and makes said laws more comprehendible and consistent with each other.)
House Bill No. 6311 Phillips, Cardillo, J. Brien, Corvese, Costantino, Lima, Casey, Noret, Dawson, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Protects and continue health insurance coverage for the dependent of an employee who wishes to change their health insurance coverage to Medicare or are currently on Medicare.)
For Immediate Release: April 18, 2023
East Bay Chamber Holds 2023 Job & Career Fair
The East Bay Chamber of Commerce is pleased to announce their first annual Job & Career Fair for the Community, High School, and College Students on Thursday, May 11th, 4:30 – 6:30pm at the Highlander Charter School, 360 Market Street, Warren, R.I. This is a unique opportunity to meet and connect with over twenty local businesses offering real jobs and careers. From 4:30 – 5:00pm a recent panel of High School & College students will hold an open Q&A session. Followed by an Expo format with Local Businesses offering informational and on the spot interviews. FREE and open to the public. For more information email@example.com
Or call 401-245-0750.
JOB DESCRIPTION: Assistant Brain Injury Navigator (PT – 20-30 hours per week)
Under the supervision of the Brain Injury Navigator, the Assistant is responsible for administrative support, including, but not limited to responding to phone messages and emails, processing and preparation of information, including assessment and vetting on behalf of the Navigator, research, database management, special projects, and support group facilitation.
The Assistant Navigator must work proactively and collaboratively as part of the office team and, as a representative of the Brain Injury Association of Rhode Island, must maintain a professional manner, and assist in fostering a culture of philanthropy with all constituents of the Association.
NATURE AND SCOPE OF POSITION:
This position requires demonstrated organizational and communication skills both oral and written to effectively manage a new project in a busy office, communicating with a broad and diverse community. Bachelor’s degree in social work, counseling, human development or related field, and some experience working in the human services field, or equivalent experience, including certification as a Community Health Worker.
Significant skills in the following areas are preferred:
TARYN SYLVIA PROMOTED TO DIRECTOR OF NURSING AT GRACE BARKER HEALTH
WARREN, R.I. (April 4, 2023): Grace Barker Health, a skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, assisted living and adult day health provider located in Warren, announces that Taryn Sylvia, R.N. has been promoted from assistant director of nursing to director of nursing. The announcement was made by Benjamin Lescault, administrator of Grace Barker Health.
In her new capacity, Ms. Sylvia leads a team of 75 staff members including nurses, medical technicians, and certified nursing assistants at both The Cove nursing home and The Willows assisted living community. In addition to managing care plans for residents, she is responsible for ensuring policy compliance with the R.I. Department of Health and Centers for Medicaid Services, communicating with family members of residents, and assisting the administrator with daily operations.
In 2010, she joined the staff of Grace Barker Health while a 16-year-old high school student at Joseph Case High School (Swansea, Mass.), making beds at The Cove on the weekends. Over the years, she worked her way up to the Activities Department and then earned her CNA license. In 2017, she studied at Lincoln Technical Institute (Lincoln, R.I.) to become a licensed practical nurse and subsequently became licensed as a registered nurse from the New England Institute of Technology (2019). Currently, she is pursuing her bachelor of science degree in nursing at Salve Regina University (Newport, R.I.).
A member of the Rhode Island Healthcare Association and the New England Alliance for Better Long-Term Care, Ms. Sylvia is a resident of Bristol, R.I.
# # #
Established in 1966 in historic Warren, Rhode Island, Grace Barker Health is a family- and locally-owned healthcare provider of skilled nursing, short-term rehabilitation, assisted living and adult day services for residents and families throughout the communities of Warren, Bristol, Barrington, Riverside, East Providence, Rumford, Portsmouth and Tiverton as well as nearby Swansea, Seekonk, Somerset and Rehoboth. The business is a member of the East Bay Chamber of Commerce and the Rhode Island Assisted Living Association. The Cove at Grace Barker offers skilled nursing and short-term rehabilitation and The Willows at Grace Barker offers assisted living and adult day health services. Grace Barker Health is located on Barker Avenue in Warren, RI 02885; phone: 401-245-9100; web: www.GraceBarkerHealth.com.
Legislature Prepares to Enter Break Week
This week will mark the end of phase two of the legislative session. Most bills filed prior to the February deadline have received a hearing in the House. The Senate has moved more slowly in its introduction of bills, for appropriate reasons, leaving many hearings to come. The General Assembly will be on break from April 10th through April 14th. When the legislature returns, we can expect numerous Senate hearings, posting of amendments to bills, passage of bills, and a focus on the development of the FY2024 budget.
Senate Leadership Announces Support for Tangible Tax Relief
At the Chamber’s Eggs and Issues breakfast last week, Senate President Dominick Ruggerio and Senator Melissa Murray announced the introduction of legislation to eliminate the tangible tax for approximately 85% of businesses in Rhode Island. This nuisance tax is well known to companies, as it is not only a double tax on equipment and furniture, but the annual filing form requires time as owners report the value of items purchases, the number of years each piece of equipment/furniture has been in use, and then calculates the depreciation to arrive at a final value for each item in use.
The legislation would provide a $100,000 exemption to all tangible tax accounts. Those with more than $100,000 worth of tangible assets would have to pay the tax on the assets above $100,000, but would still receive an equal amount of tax relief. Since the tangible tax is a municipal-level tax rather than a state one, the state would reimburse each city, town and fire district annually for their lost revenue, just as it does for revenue they lost from the phased-out vehicle excise tax. The exemption is estimated to save businesses about $36.6 million.
The legislation would take effect in fiscal year 2025, with reimbursement based on the prior year’s FY 2024 tax roll. The bill would also require municipalities and fire districts to cap their tangible property tax rate at the level applied in fiscal year 2023. The tax cap would not apply in the case of municipalities and fire districts that utilize a uniform tax rate for all classes of property.
The Chamber has been working with RIPEC on this issue. RIPEC completed a study on the tangible tax to assist legislators in understanding the financial impact associated with various levels of tangible tax exemption options. The Chamber thanks RIPEC for its hard work on this issue. The bill has yet to be assigned a number.
This Week At the State House
Tuesday, April 4th
The House Committee on Innovation, Internet & Technology is meeting at the Rise (approximately 4:30pm) in Room 135. Two bills of interest will be heard by the committee members.
H.5684, An Act Relating to Criminal Offenses – Identity Theft Protection Act of 2015, amends notification requirements when a company experiences a security breach. Under current law, business that use or store personal information – including account numbers and credit card numbers, among other items – must notify consumers of a breach within 45 days of the breach event. This timeframe was meant to provide businesses with the time needed to close off any unauthorized access and stop bad actors from doing more harm before the breach becomes public. H.5684 shortens the notification deadline to 15 calendar days; and the State Police must be notified within 24 hours of the detection of the breach. The legislation also awkwardly refers to employees of a local bargaining unit, and the requirement to notify the union leadership of the breach if employees are unionized. This language makes sense, if the business affected is a state or local government, but does not make sense if the breach takes place in a private company with affected customers. Any business that fails to comply with the notification rules is subject to a civil penalty of $100 per record for a reckless violation, and $200 per record for a knowing and willful violation. The language in the bill calls for an effective date upon passage.
H.6236, An Act Relating to Commercial Law – Rhode Island Data Transparency and Privacy Protection Act, is an eighteen page bill that seeks to restrict the sale of an individual’s personal information to third parties. This often happens on the internet and is why you see pop-up ads for products and services related to internet searches and other on-line activities. But there are many reasons businesses collect and sell data to assist customers. H.6236 applies to owners of websites or online services with more than ten employees. Personal data includes a name and a credit card number, or a license number, debit card number, geolocation data, etc. An owner of such a site must clearly disclose all of the categories of information it collects, as well as all third parties to whom the owner discloses the information. Customers must be given an opportunity to opt out of the collection of the data, and they must be permitted to review any data collected and to correct it if they wish. The bill exempts company loyalty programs, rewards programs and club programs such as discount clubs. H.6236 exempts financial institutions and HIPAA organizations, but then pulls them back in on the last page of the bill. The bill exempts a number of specialized entities like educational facilities, human research programs, contractors working with the government, etc. Violations of the proposal fall under the penalties of the deceptive trade practices act and includes a fine of $100 to $500 for each inappropriate disclosure of data. There is no private right of action permitted. This bill is very comprehensive. If you have an interest in this issue, the bill can be viewed at: http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H6236.pdf
Written testimony can be submitted to the committee at: HouseInnovationInternetandTechnology@rilegislature.gov
Wednesday, April 5th
The House Corporations Committee is meeting at 4:00pm in Room 101. H.5664, An Act Relating to Corporations, Associations and Partnerships – The Rhode Island Limited Liability Act, provides members of an LLC with the ability to avoid dissolution if one or more members wish to buy out those members who want to dissolve the corporation. A member could file with the court, and notify the other members of the desire to stop the dissolution. If necessary, the court can help to decide the value of the company, and those members who wish to remain in the LLC can pay the proportionate share to transfer the LLC. The bill can be viewed at: http://webserver.rilegislature.gov/BillText/BillText23/HouseText23/H5664.pdf If you wish to submit written testimony, submit it to: HouseCorporations@rilegislature.gov
The following new bills have been filed:
House Bill No. 6232 Azzinaro, Corvese, Cardillo, Noret, J. Lombardi, Diaz, Hull, Fellela, Bennett, Kennedy, AN ACT RELATING TO INSURANCE -- ACCIDENT AND SICKNESS INSURANCE POLICIES (Annually increases the rate of physicians’ reimbursement for each in-network health care service that are reimbursed below the average reimbursement rates set by Connecticut and Massachusetts.)
Senate Bill No. 855 Gu, AN ACT RELATING TO HEALTH AND SAFETY -- STATE BUILDING CODE (Requires the state building code standards committee to revise the state energy conservation code to meet 2024 International Energy Conservation Code electric readiness provisions.)
Senate Bill No. 858 Gu, Pearson, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- 2021 ACT ON CLIMATE (Requires an owner of a stationary refrigeration system in Rhode Island to register their system with the department of environmental management.)
Senate Bill No. 884 Mack, Kallman, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO TOWNS AND CITIES -- GENERAL POWERS (Assess a vacancy tax of one percent (1%) of the total assessed value of all real property based on the real property's assessed value for vacant units.)
Senate Bill No. 888 LaMountain, Lauria, McKenney, Tikoian, Burke, Valverde, AN ACT RELATING TO LABOR AND LABOR RELATIONS -- RHODE ISLAND NONCOMPETITION AGREEMENT ACT (Prohibits noncompetition agreements except for noncompetition agreements between a seller and buyer of a business.)
Senate Bill No. 909 Mack, Euer, AN ACT RELATING TO STATE AFFAIRS AND GOVERNMENT -- GREEN JUSTICE ZONES AND ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE (Establishes the first Green Justice Zone and environmental justice, a model that may be replicated in future years to ensure that all communities throughout the state have clean air and clean water.)
Senate Bill No. 911 Mack, Kallman, Murray, Valverde, Bell, Ujifusa, Acosta, Euer, Lawson, AN ACT RELATING TO PROPERTY -- RESIDENTIAL LANDLORD AND TENANT (Creates a tenant bill of rights to the right to counsel, the right to habitability, the right to organize free, the right to be free from discrimination, the right to first refusal if the landlord decides to sell the property, and right to renew lease.)