Chamber News

May 05, 2020 Likes Comments

Cinco de Mayo edition

Day 56 of our shut down is also Giving Tuesday Now, a day designed to focus our attention on the substantive needs of the nonprofits who do so much to support, preserve and enhance our lives and our communities.

Please give generously.
Just in time for Mother's Day
In Friday’s email, I wrote about a request by the Retailers Association of Massachusetts (RAM) and two chamber member businesses to revise a rule that presently only allows a business owner (and not employees) to be inside a closed nonessential business.
Yesterday, the Baker Administration released changes to the COVID-19 Essential Services guidance, loosening restrictions on previously closed “non-essential” stores and facilities, just in time for Mother's Day.
Under the updated COVID-19 Essential Services FAQs, a limited number of employees are allowed back into closed stores and warehouses to fulfill and ship remote orders taken over the phone and online. The new rules take effect immediately, RAM reported last night.
Depending on the square footage of the facility, a maximum of 3,5, or 7 employees are allowed in at any time. Other critical regulations are spelled out in the updated FAQs
Also, RAM notes, auto dealerships are now allowed to open for sales, in a limited manner.
And if you're looking for a local merchant where you can buy something for mom, check our directory.
City Council stands up for our restaurants
The Newton City Council voted last night to ask Mayor Fuller to explore capping the fees charged by meal delivery companies such as GrubHub, UberEats and DoorDash to 10 percent for the duration of the pandemic.
These third-party delivery companies charge up to 30 percent commission on orders. These fees often wipe out a restaurant’s entire margin, or worse. San Francisco recently imposed a cap of 15 percent on delivery fees. Similar ordinances have been proposed in New York, Washington DC, L.A., Providence, Boston and Cambridge.
It’s uncertain what happens next. The council’s unanimous vote is nonbinding and the city’s law department has said the mayor may not have the authority to cap the fees. It’s not clear why Cambridge and Boston think they can do it, but we can’t. I’ll keep you posted.
Meanwhile, the fate and future of the restaurant industry will be the focus of a chamber Zoominar this Friday at 10 a.m. Join me as a terrific group of local restaurateurs discuss the challenges they face, their thoughts about survival and the what reopening might look like. Scroll down to register.
And the restaurant industry will be on the menu for a NBC10 Boston webinar on Facebook Live today at 2 p.m.: Jeff Gates, Chairman of the MA Restaurant Association and Partner in the Aquitaine Group will be answering questions.
PPE for you and me
Starting tomorrow (Weds), it will be mandatory to wear a face mask or cloth face covering in public places across Massachusetts where social distancing is not possible. This applies to both indoor and outdoor spaces.
While home-made face coverings are encouraged, many area businesses are now selling masks and other PPE. So we’ve added a directory of local merchants selling PPE to the Shop Local page on our website. (Oh and here's a tip: Keyes Drug reports that it has now has a supply of those finger pulse oximeters that so many folks have been looking for.)
As always, call ahead to confirm supply.
Reminder about the state’s moratorium and eviction laws
Last month Governor Baker signed a bill establishing a moratorium on non-essential evictions and residential foreclosures. The law provides temporary protections for both residential tenants and small businesses that are unable to pay rent. The law also prohibits residential foreclosures during the COVID-19 crisis.
Small business and residential tenants can’t just stop paying. You must send a separate notice for each missed rent payment. Sample forms and additional guidance can be found here.
Here’s a summary of the bill provided by the state:
  • While this bill does not relieve a residential or commercial tenant of their responsibility to pay their rent or mortgage, it does offer protection for those who are unable to make these payments as result of the economic hardships caused by the COVID-19 crisis.
  • Under this legislation, a landlord cannot file a complaint in court to evict an eligible small business for a non-essential purpose (i.e. a purpose that does not pose a health or safety risk). Eligible small businesses are businesses which operate only in Massachusetts, have 150 or fewer employees, and are not publicly traded. This moratorium will last for either four months following the bill’s signing on April 20, 2020, or until 45 days after the emergency declaration expires (whichever is sooner, and unless extended by the Governor).
  • The new law does not eliminate or reduce an obligation to pay rent. Businesses that are able to pay rent should continue to do so, and should work collaboratively with their landlords when they are unable to pay rent due.
  • Under this legislation, landlords may not apply late fees or negatively report to credit bureaus if the tenant sends a timely notice that the non-payment of rent was the result of a financial hardship caused by COVID-19. Evictions may still proceed when a tenant’s lease violation creates a health or safety risk for others.
  • Eligible small businesses can use the Form of Notice – COVID-19 Hardship – Small Business Tenant and the Documentation of Financial Hardship – Small Business Tenant forms to provide the required notice to their landlord of their inability to pay rent. Access these forms and Emergency Regulations here.
IRS: Forgiven PPP costs are not deductible
Here’s something important for anyone who has received a PPP loan: The IRS has released guidelines saying that otherwise deductible business expenses are not deductible if you use forgivable PPP dollars to pay for them.
The Associated Industry of Massachusetts’ guide to using your PPP loan is here. The slides to last week’s SBA presentation to the chamber are here.
Finally, Rockport walks the walk
The West Newton-based (chamber member) footwear company the Rockport Group is donating 5,000 pairs of walking shoes -- worth a half million dollars -- to first responders in Greater Boston. They’ll be working with the Massachusetts Ambulance Association to deliver the shoes and also donating 5% of all sales on to the National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians Foundation.
Your chamber is here when you need us.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber


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