Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 07, 2021 Likes Comments

Catching up on several developments

Anyone out there in the mood to read their local chamber’s email newsletter one day after an attempted coup on our nation?

Allow me to introduce you to a fellow who wasn't particularly focused on writing this thing last night either.
Still, here's some things you might need to know. I'll keep it short.
What else is in the state’s new stimulus bill
Beacon Hill lawmakers approved an economic development bill early Wednesday. I shared some details yesterday. The Globe’s Jon Chesto provides this summary. Here’s a roundup from CommonWealth.
Here’s four items of note, while we wait for the governor to sign the bill:
  • The approved Housing Choice legislation was the result of years of advocacy by a coalition of housing advocates, environments, business groups ( including our chamber) and others. In addition to allowing a simple majority to approve zoning changes, the bill requires municipalities served by the MBTA (including Newton) to have at least one district where multifamily zoning suitable for families with children is permitted.
  • Also included is a new tool that could help a region raise money for tourism through a regional hotel tax.
  • Those predatory third party meal delivery fees paid to companies like GrubHub, DoorDash and UberEats will be capped at 15 percent of the purchase price throughout the pandemic. The cap only applies to restaurants with fewer than 25 locations. Delivery companies won’t be allowed to reduce compensation paid to the delivery service drivers.
  • Also new is a $20 million fund dedicated for restaurants. (It's separate from the state’s $668 million sector specific grant program). Grants can be used for capital projects or equipment purchases necessary to assist safety protocols, payroll and benefits costs, mortgage interest, rent, utilities and interest on other debt obligations; Priority will be given to independently owned and operated restaurants.
Commission to explore roadway pricing
Tucked inside the transportation bond bill is a call to create a commission to study equitable toll pricing and congestion pricing.
The Roadway Pricing Commission is one of the proposals the Newton-Needham Regional Chamber supported as a member of two business coalitions that began meeting in late 2019 to issue recommendations to address the state’s transportation needs.
It's really important for two reasons:
  • First, congestion pricing represents the single most viable and sustainable approach to reducing traffic congestion.
  • Second, it’s way past time to reevaluate why those of us living and working along the Mass Pike (or who come down from the North Shore via the tunnels or Tobin Bridge) are the only drivers in Massachusetts asked to pay tolls to use state roads.
Extra Uber/Lyft fee in Newton and Watertown
The transportation bill also includes another idea we endorsed: increased fees on Uber and Lyft rides: Per ride fees increase from 20 cents to 40 cents for shared rides, $1.20 for non-shared rides and an extra dollar on rides in luxury vehicles.
There’s also an added 20-cent public transit access fee for rides that begin and end in an area encompassing 14 communities (including Newton and Watertown) served by the MBTA.
Unemployment taxes not frozen
Legislation filed by Governor Baker to freeze a massive hike in unemployment insurance never made it to a vote. That means the governor, or a lawmaker, will need to refile the bill and start again.
If they don’t, employers will face a collective $1.3 billion in rate hikes over the next two years. Rates this year will rise by $319 per employee in 2021, a whopping 60 percent increase.
COVID relief opportunities you should know about
  • I listed the incorrect deadline yesterday to apply for the latest round of state grant administered by Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation. The deadline is Jan. 15. That's next Friday!
  • Barstool Sports has created a small business COVID fund. Businesses can apply here . See examples of businesses that have been funded and learn more about the program here.
  • The James Beard Foundation is offering grants to restaurants run by Black and indigenous Americans. Details here.
  • The SBA will continue to accept EDIL applications through 2021, pending the availability of funds. Loans are offered with a 3.75% interest rate for small businesses and 2.75% interest rate for nonprofit organizations, a 30-year maturity, and an automatic deferment of one year before monthly payments begin. Learn more.
Hang tough America.
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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