Salem Chamber Learns How BWC Is Changing

SALEM, Ohio — The Salem Area Chamber of Commerce hosted its first Business Connection Luncheon of the year Wednesday, informing businesses of coming changes to the state Workers’ Compensation system.

On July 1, the Bureau of Workers Compensation will convert to an advance coverage system from a retroactive system, said Christine Williams, a business consultant with the BWC. With the new system, employers will be charged their premiums at the beginning of the payment period instead of the end.

“No one wanted to be the person to charge businesses twice for insurance,” Williams told the audience of just under 50. “So to avoid that, there are no premiums [to pay] this year from January to August.”

The change will affect all businesses, but follows a system similar to traditional insurance policies, said Audrey Null, executive director of the Salem Chamber.

“Prospective billing is a very important change for our businesses. It gives them an opportunity to pay insurance as they go rather than the look back that it used to be,” she said. “The whole system will be completely changed and although the bureau will be giving out information on those changes in person, it’s good for them hear it beforehand.”

The BWC’s Williams said businesses can expect some repayment of premiums this year. Last year, the bureau refunded businesses across the state more than $1 billion, she said, as the department had “more money than we’d be able to legitimately keep” and returned up to 60% of employers’ Workers’ Compensation premiums.

The state is also working with Pennsylvania to ensure that coverage in Ohio will be accepted across the state border. In her region, which includes Mahoning and Columbiana counties, many businesses cross the line regularly and while coverage in Ohio will pay for any claims that occur and are filed here, claims filed in Pennsylvania aren’t guaranteed to be paid.

Of the states bordering Ohio, she said, only Indiana has guaranteed reciprocity.

“If you’re doing a lot of business in both states, I’d recommend having a policy registered in Pennsylvania with an ‘all state’ option,” she said during the question and answer session that followed. “That way it’s through an insurer and you will have coverage in the 46 other states [that don’t have state run systems like Ohio]. But we are working on reaching an agreement with Pennsylvania.”

During the luncheon the chamber welcomed two new members — Hospice of the Valley, which will be joining soon, a representative said, and the Business Resource Network.

These types of events “give new businesses an opportunity to come meet with others,” said the chamber’s Null. I’ve heard success stories from these lunches where they get connections and new business. There are usually five or six businesses at the lunch for the first time and about 60 as a whole. We give them an opportunity to introduce themselves to the other members and get them involved in our events.”

On Wednesday a representative of Allegheny Wesleyan College, Tom Sanders, told members about the small biblical school on the southern edge of the city.

“Throughout the years, we’ve had a large number of students come to the area from across the country. They live in the community, learn in the community and work in the community,” said Sanders, director of development. “A number of our students have ministered in the area, including the Columbiana County Jail and Lisbon Detention Center. They’ve also been to many of the area’s churches.”

This school year, enrollment is “in the 70s,” Sanders said, reaching a 14-year high. Donations to the school and the number of faculty have also increased this year, he said.

Over the past two years, all faculty have been involved in meetings to ensure that the school’s curriculum is up-to-date, Sanders added.

Copyright 2024 The Business Journal, Youngstown, Ohio.