Chamber News

Needham / Newton
February 17, 2021 Likes Comments

Big news from us today

We have some exciting news this morning.

The Newton-Needham Regional Chamber has been selected to administer a state program that aims to provide financial support for struggling restaurants and healthy meals to those facing food insecurity in Newton, Wellesley and Brookline.

The $175,000 initiative will deliver more than 10,000 restaurant meals to food pantries, senior programs and other persons in need who have been impacted by COVID-19.

It is funded by a budget earmark proposed by state Sen. Cynthia Creem who wanted to help both restaurants and residents in her district.

Every dollar in the $175,000 food assistance program will be spent at local independent restaurants, with $75,000 allocated to Newton; $60,000 in Brookline; and $40,000 in Wellesley. The program will run through June.

This program could not come at a better time for both our struggling restaurants and the deeply concerning number of individuals and families in our communities who are struggling with access to food, including residents who may be feeling anxious to leave their homes or are under quarantine.
We are extremely grateful to Sen. Creem and the Commonwealth for establishing this program and advocating on behalf of the businesses and residents in her district.

Our chamber will work directly with restaurants and volunteers in Newton and Wellesley. Our friends at the Brookline Chamber will manage Brookline’s program.
Both chambers are now accepting applications from restaurants that would like to participate in the Food Assistance Program.
Growing unemployment claims could drown small businesses
A deficit in the fund that pays out unemployment benefits has ballooned amid a crush of pandemic-related claims, and employers could be saddled with the cost of replenishing it, writes Christian W. Wade at the Gloucester Daily Times.
The Unemployment Trust Fund totaled $1.1 billion a year ago but had a deficit of nearly $2.4 billion as of Dec. 31. The deficit is projected to grow to $5 billion by the end of 2021.
"Unless Congress and the state Legislature does something about it, and soon, that deficit is going to have to be made up by small businesses owners who are already struggling to survive," Greg Sullivan, a senior analyst with Pioneer Institute, tells Wade. "It's going to be like throwing an anchor to a drowning man."
Gov. Charlie Baker has filed legislation to freeze planned increases in the contributions that employers make to the fund.
State offering rebates on EV trucks
Massachusetts is expanding the eligibility for an electric vehicle rebate program to include medium- and heavy-duty vehicles, hoping to capture some immediate environmental benefits while taking a step towards a future in which all vehicles sold in the state are zero-emissions vehicles, reports Colin A. Young at State House News.
Vehicles roughly weighing 8,500 pounds and up -- think large pickup trucks and vans, delivery trucks, box trucks, and long-haul delivery trucks -- are now be eligible for a state financial incentive through the Massachusetts Offers Rebates for Electric Vehicles (MOR-EV) program.
Need to knows
  • The mass vaccination site at the Natick Mall site, run by LabCorp, opens Monday (Feb. 22) and will begin by offering 500 doses a day, eventually increasing in the following weeks to 3,000 doses daily. Eligible residents can begin booking appointments Thursday (Feb. 18) here.
  • Watertown Business Parking Passes will be available next week. The purchase of the quarterly parking permits for the Watertown Square Municipal Lot for March-May 2021 will be available Feb. 24, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the lower hearing room at the Town Administration Building. Please complete Business-Parking-Permit-Form in advance if possible.
Clark leads call for Baker to revise vax system
Congresswoman Katherine Clark, the fourth-ranking House Democrat, and several of her Massachusetts colleagues are calling Gov. Charlie Baker to create a centralized COVID-19 vaccine appointment system for eligible state residents.
“Nearly two months after the arrival of the first Pfizer vaccine doses, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, with its prestigious health care infrastructure and wealth of technological innovation, remains at the bottom of every states’ national vaccine distribution ranking,” read a letter to Baker signed by 10 of 11 members of the state’s all-Democratic delegation (Rep. Richard Neal of Springfield was the non-signer).
The criticism by Clark was similar to comments from Beacon Hill lawmakers and others, the Globe reports.
Some lawmakers and special interest groups are lobbying for Baker to rearrange the vaccine priority list, while others have criticized Baker’s program which allows a companion of those 75 or older to get vaccinated on the same visit.
New House Speaker Ron Mariano wants teachers to be moved to the “head of the line." Funeral directors are asking they be moved up, as are grocery workers.
Meanwhile 65-plus baby boomers are worried that Baker will listen to those or other groups and alter the plan which currently allows their cohort to go next.
As I noted yesterday, Newton-Wellesley Hospital’s vaccine clinic at Tripadvisor is officially on pause after the Baker administration cut off hospitals from the state’s COVID-19 vaccine distribution network. The Needham-based company had been the first office employer in the state to make its headquarters available, rent free, for vaccinations. The Globe’s Jon Chesto has more.
All this comes as CDC data indicates that Massachusetts' vaccine rate is improving (but people of color are still getting vaccinated at lower rates than whites).
The state now ranks tenth in the U.S. for vaccinations per capita.
Speaking of Congresswoman Clark
Finally, a reminder the Clark will be our guest speaker tomorrow at 9 a.m. at the chamber’s annual Women in Government Series. (Men, by the way, are encouraged to hear what she has to say too.) See you there!

That’s it for today. Be back tomorrow.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.


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