Chamber News

Needham / Newton
November 06, 2020 Likes Comments

Chamber joins call to avoid new business taxes

We all know that face coverings are widely regarded as the single biggest defense against spreading COVID-19.

We also know how bad things have become.
 
So now that Gov. Charlie Baker has, effective today, made mask wearing in public mandatory for everyone over five years old (even if you’re more than six feet away from anyone) is it time to start enforcing the order with fines?
 
Violating the mandate carries $300 fine per violation. It is up to the state Department of Public Health and local boards of health to enforce the order. They may enlist the help of local officers, state troopers and transit police.
 
But, practically speaking, this is going to mainly come down how our local leaders direct local police forces.
 
Framingham has done it. Northampton too. Should our communities do so too? Let me know what you think.
 
Chamber joins call to avoid new business taxes
 
Our chamber joined a coalition of other business groups across Massachusetts yesterday cautioning state leaders to “go-slow” before considering new or higher taxes during upcoming budget deliberations.
 
“Employers of all sizes, across the Commonwealth, are wary of the fragile economy, growing and crippling cost pressures, and the very real impacts of remote work on both employee and employer behavior,” a joint letter states.
 
“In this environment of great uncertainty, significant changes to tax policy will exacerbate these considerations and slow the recovery that we are collectively working so hard to achieve.”
 
The letter does not explicitly rule out any and all tax increases. Instead it suggests that moving forward without tax increases… better position[s] the state for economic recovery.”
 
Gov. Charlie Baker has already said he would veto any tax hikes. And the $46 billion House 2021 budget released yesterday also does not include any new tax increases or drastic cuts. Rather, it relies on federal funds and dipping in the state’s rainy day fund.
 
But House leaders have not ruled out tax increases in fiscal year 2022, planning for which will begin as soon as the budget for fiscal year 2021 is complete, reports Colin A. Young at State House News.
Raise Up Massachusetts and other progressive groups are calling on lawmakers to increase taxes levied against corporations and those earning over $1 million. But even without any new business taxes, employers are about to get slammed with an onslaught of rising labor costs, including:
  • Unemployment insurance taxes: Premiums are expected to increase $319 per employee in 2021; a 60% increase to employers.
  • Health insurance: Premiums for small businesses will increase by an average of 7.9%.
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave: This program will cost employers $1B when fully implemented, offering 12 to 26 weeks of paid family leave and 20 weeks of paid medical leave.
  • Minimum wage: The minimum wage is scheduled to increase by $0.75 to $13.50 for hourly workers and $.060 to $5.55 for tipped employees stating Jan. 1.
"Remote working could lead to greater job loss, and a slower recovery with implications for the state's future competitiveness," our business groups' letter adds. "The barriers to exit for Massachusetts employers and employees has never been lower."
 
Other signers of the letter included Mass. Taxpayers Foundation, Mass. Retailers Association, Associated Industries of Massachusetts, Mass. High Technology Council, Mass Bankers, Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce, among others.
 
Other things in the House budget
 
Among other items, the proposed House budget would chop Baker’s $101 million small business recovery plan that would provide businesses loans and grants in half, CommonWealth reported.
 
It also delays a charitable giving tax deduction that was set to become available for tax year 2021.
 
Restaurant groups also wrote a letter
 
Four major restaurant advocacy groups were busy letter writing too. They wrote to ask Gov. Charlie Baker to reconsider his new order requiring a 9:30 p.m. closing time, while stressing that restaurants have always made the “the safety of our guests and employees” a top priority. (Globe story here.)
 
The letter notes that contact tracing data has found that less than 1 percent of new COVID-19 cases were traced back to indoor dining.
 
And we have PPP news!
 
Okay, who had “Greg will write about the PPP on Friday” in their office pool?
 
It’s been nearly two weeks since I’ve typed those three capital letters in a row. So today, let me share why some tax professionals are telling some Paycheck Protection Program loan recipients to not rush to seek loan forgiveness
 
Then there’s this story in the BBJ saying that the SBA is seeking approval of a PPP loan questionnaire to businesses that received more than $2 million, causing some experts to worry it may unfairly change the rules on forgiveness.
 
“This is yet another example of SBA changing the rules in the middle of the game,” one PPP expert tells reporter Andy Medici. “While we were sort of getting used to that with the PPP, this time it is really egregious.”
 
In a different story, Medici also reports that banks are asking Congress to exclude PPP loans from their total asset sizes so they can save on regulatory expenses and oversight meant for larger banks.
 
Today’s need to knows
  • The deadline to apply for the state’s Small Business Grants program is next week (Nov. 12). Grant awards range between $25,000 – $75,000. Preference will be given to small businesses whose owners are women, minorities, veterans, members of other underrepresented groups, or focused on serving the Gateway Cities.
  • The Urban Institute is hosting an event Nov 17 at 3 p.m. exploring how policymakers and lenders can best support small businesses after expiration of the Paycheck Protection Program. Speakers will discuss the current and upcoming states of small business lending and the needs of and potential solutions for the sector. Register.
Get out there and eat!
 
Finally, the rain and snow last week may have been great for our lawns, but it was hell for our restaurants. Some owners reported it was their worst week since they were allowed to reopen.
 
The good news is the five-day forecast looks fantastic and who knows how many nice days we’ll have left.
 
Here’s our list of restaurants offering outdoor dining. And here’s those offering take out plus all the members of the Newton-Needham Dining Collaborative.
 
The nice weather has even convinced the Town of Needham keep open its very popular dining tent on the Needham Town Common through Thanksgiving!
 
Not only that, we’re also entering the final full week of our #KeepMakingMemoriesContest. (Check out Week 3’s winners here.) Full details about how to win and a list of participating restaurants is here.
 
OK, we’ll be back Tuesday with more. Take good care this weekend.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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