Chamber News

May 20, 2020 Likes Comments

A fix for the PPP?

Congress could vote next week on a bill that would bring more flexibility to the Paycheck Protection Program, CNN reports this morning.

The Paycheck Protection Flexibility Act proposed by two legislators (one Democrat and one Republican) in the House is separate from the massive HEROES act that also included PPP revisions but does not appear to have the Senate’s support.
 
Among the provisions, the bill would extend forgiveness beyond the 8-week covered period (a timeline that is particularly difficult for businesses in Massachusetts that remain shut down) and an elimination of restrictions limiting non-payroll expenses to 25% of loan proceeds.
 
The bill would also extend the rehiring deadline to offset the effect of enhanced Unemployment Insurance.
 
So much for the expression 'We're all in this together'
 
We all know that COVID-19 testing is critical to help minimize community spread and reopen our economy.
 
So it was welcome news last week when Gov. Charlie Baker announced new COVID-19 testing capacity and an expansion strategy. The plan calls for stepping up testing capacity to hit 45,000 daily tests by the end of July and 75,000 daily by the end of December.
 
As part of that expansion, CVS said it would immediately open 10 new drive-in testing sites, including the first in our region on Linden Street in Wellesley.
 
But the Wellesley site never opened, apparently due to objections from neighbors.
 
Stephanie Hawkinson, the town’s communications manager, told Commonwealth Magazine that CVS removed Wellesley from its plan because residents were worried about traffic, even though the by appointment-only, self-swab service was only going to schedule five tests per hour. (That Wellesley CVS has a drive through Minute Clinic, so patients would never have to leave their cars.)
 
Hawkinson said public health officials also worried that someone going to CVS for a test might be tempted to also make stop at the nearby “Roche Bros. for supplies and possibly spreading the virus.”
 
Hoping to hear from you
 
A reminder that I’m looking for feedback from businesses and nonprofits of all varieties about Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-phase plan for re-opening the Massachusetts economy.
 
How do you feel about the recommendations? How might it apply to your business’ or nonprofit’s ability to survive or succeed? What’s still confusing you? Email me or leave a voice mail at 617-244-1688.
 
Also, if you have questions or suggestions for Newton Mayor Fuller, her Planning Department or Health and Human Services Department, they’ll all be participating in a Zoom call with me tomorrow (Thursday) at 9 a.m. As an added bonus we’ll have someone from the state’s economic development team on the call too.
 
Right after that (Thursday at 11 a.m.) we’ll have a timely presentation by two top experts in the fields of space planning/interior design and engineering to discuss how we will implement new protocols into our work spaces.

Back on THE GRID
 
For more than three decades the 128 Business Council has been driving workers in Needham, Newton, Waltham and other municipalities to and from work.
 
Then in March, the council shut down its shuttle service, just as the rest of us were doing the same.
 
On June 8, they’ll be helping bring workers back, except under a whole new set of protocols.
 
Using advice from an epidemiologist and other researchers, 128 Business Council’s instantly-recognizable lime green THE GRID shuttle service is being retrofit with an array of healthy measures. This includes day and night cleaning procedures, staff training and other interesting steps outlined in detail here.
 
The 128 Business Council’s work (they're chamber members) may very well set a standard that other shuttle services may look to emulate. Some of the protocols they’ve developed may also be transferable at worksites. To learn more or if you have questions about safety or their services contact Lisbeth Tibbits-Nutt.
 
Needham reopening plan coming next week
 
Now that the governor has released the state’s Reopening Report, Needham is preparing to phase in re-open town buildings and facilities starting June 1. Not every municipal building will open immediately. Appointments will be required. Details will be released next week.
 
There’s no timeline yet in place for reopening Newton City Hall building but it’s not expected to be soon.
 
Watertown resumes issuing building permits
 
The Watertown Department of Community Development and Planning will be issuing Building Permits starting today and will continue to accept permit applications online and through the mail , depending on the type of permit. Details here.
 
Finally, PPE
 
Among the many resources created to accompany Gov. Charlie Baker’s reopening plan, is a list of vendors offering Personal Protection Equipment and other supplies. The chamber also has created a more modest list of local businesses selling PPE.
 
Yesterday I also heard from Artur Andronic, proprietor of the wonderful Moldova Restaurant in Nonantum. Andronic purchased a very large quantity of medical face masks for his staff, and has more than 1,000 extras that he'd like to sell. He says they are FDA and CE approved. Contact him here. And when you're there, get the lamb stew to go.

Don’t forget to send me your thoughts about the reopening plan.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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