Chamber News

October 27, 2020 Likes Comments

Four non-COVID things that will also make 2021 hard

How are your nerves?

The most consequential election of our time is also the most stressful, right?
Coronavirus cases continue a disturbing climb; nationally and across the state. Stocks plunge.
Our health care workers are experiencing palpable anxiety. Other front line workers are harassed and endure obnoxious behavior.
Neighboring municipalities have been required to roll back to Step 1 of Phase 3.
And a leading health expert says wastewater data from Massachusetts suggests it’s time to “pull back on indoor gatherings including dining.”
We knew this was coming. But that doesn’t make this week any easier, does it?
2021 forecast: Lower sales, higher costs
There’s so many aspects of this pandemic that need our attention. But our role here is to advocate for our businesses and nonprofits. And while many businesses and nonprofits face significant revenue losses (and no stimulus deal), they’re also about to get slammed with an onslaught of rising labor costs.
  • Unemployment insurance taxes: The UI Trust Fund is projected to have a $5 billion deficit by end of 2022. Premiums are expected to increase $319 per employee in 2021…a 60% increase to employers. Even before COVID-19, Massachusetts had the highest UI tax rates in the nation.
  • Health insurance: Premiums for small businesses will increase by an average of 7.9%, despite the low use during the shutdown. That represents an annual increase of $648 for individual coverage ($8,808 annual cost) and $1,788 for family coverage ($24,084 annual cost).
  • Paid Family and Medical Leave: This program will cost employers $1 billion when fully implemented, offering 12 to 26 weeks of paid family leave and 20 weeks of paid medical leave. In addition to the cost of the program, employers have to assume the additional cost of filling positions while their employees are out on leave.
  • Minimum wage: The minimum wage is scheduled to increase by $0.75 to $13.50 for hourly workers (an added $1,560 per full-time minimum wage worker next year) and $.060 to $5.55 for tipped employees effective January 1, 2021.
“Come January, countless small business owners will review their receipts and expenses and decide if they can stay open,” writes Jon Hurst, president of the Retailers Association of Mass.
“They will be making that heart wrenching decision at a time of great uncertainty. Can they take the risk that they can bring consumers back into their stores and restaurants and drive up sales to cover their expenses, or are the costs of operating just too much?”
Low wage workers gain extra jobless benefits
Upwards of 17,000 unemployed Massachusetts residents are now eligible for thousands of dollars in additional unemployment benefits under legislation approved yesterday to provide relief to residents who didn't initially qualify for the federal Lost Wages Assistance program, reports Matt Murphy at State House News.
The federal program ran in Massachusetts for six weeks from the end of July through the first week in September, but in order to qualify for the additional $300 in weekly unemployment benefits a claimant had to be receiving at least $100 in weekly state benefits.
The bill increases the minimum benefit for any unemployment insurance beneficiary to $100 for the week ending Aug. 1 through the week ending Sept. 5. (Globe story)
And a word about unemployment fraud
We’re increasingly hearing concerns, and reading police reports, about instances of unemployment fraud.
If you believe someone has applied for unemployment benefits using your personal information, use the state’s secure fraud reporting form or call (877) 626-6800. More information here.
Historic homes take a big hit
The pandemic has been tough on museums and, toughest perhaps on the historic homes which make up around 55 percent of New England museums, reports Shira Schoenberg at CommonWealth.
“The historic home community is struggling a lot more than the museums to be able to get open,” said Michael Busack, who manages the Fruitlands Museum in Harvard and the Old Manse in Concord, both owned by the Trustees of Reservations.
“The difficulty with a historic home is its tight spaces and historic material, so sanitizing, air flow, those types of things are really big concerns.”
In addition to devastating revenue losses (for example, income is down $1 million at the Paul Revere House), shuttered properties can lead to mold blooms, problems with pests and moths. Read the rest here.
Marathon decision
The Boston Athletic Association expects to announce in the next few weeks whether to hold the 2021 Boston Marathon on its traditional date in April or postpone it again until later in the year, Greg Ryan reports.
Today’s helpful bullet points
  • The Gift of Warmth fund is available to help Needham residents with overdue utility bills and/or individuals or families at risk of having a utility shut off. The Needham Community Council recently donated of $10,000 to expand the number of residents who can be served by this program. For assistance call the Public Health Division at 781-455-7940 To donate, go here..
  • Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation is administering the $50.8 million Small Business Grants program. 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, who have been unable to open and those most adversely impacted by the pandemic. Deadline is Nov. 12.
Tomorrow: Commonwealth conversation
A reminder to join us tomorrow (Weds.) at 4 p.m. for a conversation with Needham’s Beacon Hill delegation: State Rep. Denise Garlick and Senators Michael Rush and Rebecca Rausch. We’ll discuss the impact COVID-19 is having on businesses and residents and the ways the state is or should be responding to the crisis. And we’ll discuss other timely topics and take your questions and suggestions.
Be back Wednesday.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. And tip generously.


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