Chamber News

May 01, 2020 Likes Comments

A request from retailers and a parade for healthcare workers

No one wants to open their doors before it’s safe or without the proper safeguards.

But this week the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM) and two chamber member businesses made a special plea to Gov. Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board to relax one rule before Baker's May 18 closure order expires.
Turns out, Massachusetts is the only state in the country that only allows owners, not employees, to be inside a closed nonessential business. That means that even a merchant that has received PPP dollars to rehire workers can’t pay an employee to go into their locked shop and do inventory or mail order; even if working alone or practicing safe social distancing.
And if you run a gift shop, book store, candy store, or florist, among others, being fully locked-down until May 18 -- with Mothers’ Day happening on May 10 -- really stings.
So during his presentation RAM President Jon Hurst asked the board to modify that restriction so employees can work inside closed stores and fulfillment centers.
"This is not something we feel we can wait for May 18 for," Hurst told the Boston Business Journal.
Two chamber member business owners -- Richard Vaughn of Needham Music & Dance and Eric Michelson of Michelson Shoes -- also made pleas for allowing employees inside and providing curbside service now.
“With both curbside and reopening the board wanted to know how retailers would ensure the safety of employees and customers,” said Vaughn. “The answer was; exactly how the ‘essential’ businesses are doing it now.”
For more from Vaughn and other retailers, check out the video from the chamber’s Retail Roundtable yesterday.
More communities make face masks mandatory
While Needham’s mandatory face covering rules go into effect today, we can also add Watertown and Waltham to the list of nearly 20 municipalities (including Brookline) that have adopted some variation of a required face mask requirement.
Wellesley selectmen are scheduled to discuss it today.
Watertown’s just announced rules carry a $300 fine, similar to Cambridge and Somerville. In Waltham the fine is $100. Needham’s mandate does not include a fine and, unlike many communities only applies to indoor spaces.
At the moment, Newton is an outlier. Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced late Wednesday that the city is only strongly encouraging face covering.
I received several emails yesterday regarding Fuller’s decision, none of it supported her decision.
“I live in Newton, but when I do venture out again into banks, pharmacies, stores and restaurants, I will be going to Needham and not Newton,” wrote one local attorney. “It makes me sad to say that, and I don’t know why the mayor doesn’t recognize that good public health equals good business. This situation makes me think of currency – it’s only as good as people's confidence in it.”
Fuller has said she will “revisit this decision as things evolve.”
The SBA is hiring
If you can’t get one of their loans, perhaps you can get one of their jobs. The Small Business Administration is hiring temporary employees to assist with disaster relief efforts. Many positions are virtual and bilingual language skills are a plus. Jobs include call center customer service representative, document preparation/legal review/loan closing, and loan processing/credit analysis/mortgage underwriting. For more information, click here.
And the SBA is sharing tips
And here’s a tip for anyone who might be trying to call the SBA at 800-877-8339 that presenter Ili Spahiu shared with us during his presentation to the chamber yesterday.
If the hotline operator doesn’t know the answer to your question, they’re likely one of the SBA’s new temps. But if you ask to speak to a “Tier II Specialist” you will be connected to a full time SBA employee.
Looking for more advice about how to properly spend your PPP loan?
Mental health resources
This disease does a number on our bodies. And our mental health. Here are some resources that might help from chamber member Riverside Community Care:
  • The Riverside Outpatient Center in Newton is offering therapy and medication appointments via telephone or video-conferencing. Most insurance companies are now covering telehealth. 617-969-4925
  • Emergency Services are available 24/7. Anyone can call anytime to request a consultation if they or someone they know is having a behavioral health crisis, with the goal of avoiding a hospital emergency room visit. Insurance co-pays would apply. 800-529-5077
  • Early Intervention – for babies and toddlers to age 3 who are having difficulties meeting milestones such as talking, crawling, eating, or walking– is offering support using telehealth. There is no cost to families. 781-449-1884
  • The Riverside Trauma Center is available to help communities and people recover from the overwhelming stress caused by traumatic events, including serious accidents, suicides, homicides, unexpected deaths, and highly stressful events. There’s generally no cost for an initial consult. The Trauma Center also offers education to communities and organizations about suicide prevention and postvention, psychological trauma, and resilience. 781-433-0672
Finally, this morning a parade!
Who doesn’t love -- and miss -- parades? Well yesterday the Needham Fire and Police Departments, along with Dover Fire Dept and the Norfolk County Sheriffs department, threw one for the frontline medical workers at Beth Israel Deaconess.
Cruisers and trucks blasted their horns and sirens as they drove down Chestnut Street – greeting staff along the way. Check out the look on the health care workers faces here. Watch this video too or check out these photos here.
Be nice to each other this weekend.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber


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