Chamber News

May 15, 2020 Likes Comments

Fuller asks AG to help restaurants (and other updates)

Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller wants Attorney General Maura Healey to help control those pricey third-party delivery fees that are cutting restaurant profits to the bone.

“Newton, like other communities, are in danger of losing the diverse range of local restaurants to the COVID-19 crisis,” Fuller wrote in a letter to Healey. “I urge you to protect them from the practice of increased delivery fees, and ensure that delivery fees are transparent to the consumer.”
Fuller turned to the AG after being advised by Newton’s city solicitor that municipalities don’t have the authority to regulate fees charged by companies like GrubHub, UberEats and Door Dash, which eat up 30 percent or more a total sale.
San Francisco, Seattle and Washington D.C. have capped the commissions at 15 percent until the pandemic is over. New York and Chicago are considering it, Commonwealth Magazine reports.
Newton’s City Council unanimously passed a resolution last month asking Fuller to explore capping the fees at 10 per cent. Cambridge’s City Council did the same thing but the ordinance is pending a legal opinion.
Read Fuller’s reply to the council here.
Recommended ‘reopening’ reading
Can't sleep while waiting for Gov. Charlie Baker’s Reopening Advisory Board report? There’s no shortage of material to keep you busy this weekend.
Among the organizations doing critical planning and thinking is the Metropolitan Area Planning Council. Here’s a link to the presentation MAPC gave yesterday to the reopening board. Also worth reviewing from MAPC are these recommendations for steps municipalities could take to help small business reopen and recover.
This policy brief from the Greater Boston Chamber outlines details employers are looking for from the Baker Administration’s reopening plans. This, from the U.S. Chamber, explores what’s happening in other states.
There’s also this WBUR story exploring why some companies say it may not “be worth it” to reopen yet, even if they’re allowed to do so. The BBJ asks: Should employers take temperatures?
The Globe’s summary of “What we know — and don’t — about the Mass. reopening plan” is here. And do check out the Globe’s Shirley Leung and Larry Edelman article: “Saving lives or saving the economy? Reopening doesn’t have to be an all-or-nothing proposition.”
Oh and CDC issued new guidelines yesterday too.
  • Go here for more information about the state’s four-stage reopening approach.
  • Go here for more information about the state’s Mandatory Workplace Safety Standards with will apply to all workplaces
Wells Ave entry on hold
For several years property owners in Newton's Wells Ave office park and the mayor’s office have been discussing improving both the flow and the curb appeal at that frequently-congested stretch of Nahantan St between the Charles River and Winchester Street. A traffic study was completed last year. Plans were in place to begin the design work this coming fiscal year.

But this week Mayor Fuller said the project --- along with most other capital improvements across Newton -- needs to be put on hold as the city copes with COVID-19’s economic impact. Her decision is understandable under the circumstances but here’s hoping it can be returned to the capital budget one year from now.
PPP ‘Safe Harbor’ extended to Monday
The Small Business Administration has, yes again, revised its guidelines for its Paycheck Protection Program.
Here's the recap: In Wednesday’s SBA update, a new "Question 46," addressed whether or not PPP grant holders are required to “certify” financial need in order to accept their award…. and whether or not applicants might be audited. (Find Blum Shapiro’s interpretation here.)
Yesterday, the agency added "Question 47," which extended the deadline for deciding whether or not to accept that loan (see Question 46) from May 14 to May 18. (Why the feds couldn't announce both at the same time is beyond me.)
“SBA is extending the repayment date for this safe harbor to May 18, 2020, to give borrowers an opportunity to review and consider FAQ #46. Borrowers do not need to apply for this extension. This extension will be promptly implemented through a revision to the SBA’s interim final rule providing the safe harbor.
As always, DO NOT take my word for it. Read the documents carefully. Consult a financial advisor. And be on the lookout for the inevitable Questions 48, 49, 50....
$300K in grants available to Newton bricks and mortar small businesses
The City of Newton is now accepting applications from small businesses seeking help covering commercial rent or mortgage, wages, loss of inventory and other demonstrated costs. Grant awards will range from $10,000 for microenterprises (five employees or fewer, including the owner) and $15,000 for businesses with six to 20 employees. Nonprofits and marijuana establishments are ineligible per federal regulations. Franchisees of national or regional chain businesses are also not eligible. The deadline is May 27, 2020 and details are here.
A good guy gets his gold watch
One of our region’s genuinely good guys is saying good bye to his job in Needham.
Bill Fine, general manager of WCVB-TV Channel 5, announced his retirement yesterday following a 43 year career.
Fine’s broadcasting career began as a sports anchor in the 1970s and included 15 years at the helm of Channel 5. He’s only the fourth president and general manager in the history of the ABC affiliate and certainly one of Needham’s most recognizable business leaders.
In addition to his on-air editorials -- and the countless journalism awards earned under his watch -- Fine drew acclaim for steering WCVB’s commitment to community service. Most recently, that included raising more than $13 million for relief for New England families hit hardest by the COVID-19 crisis.
"Half of my life has been spent at WCVB, resulting in countless fond memories and friendships that will never fade,” Fine said.
“By the way, I am not going to be one of those people who says they are not retiring,” he added. “I am, from the business I loved from the first time I took a journalism class at Boston University. The ‘R’ words for me will be Rest, Relaxation, Reconnecting and Recreation. “
Fine’s last day and successor were not announced. All the best, Bill.
A few final items
  • CVS Health is planning to open 10 new coronavirus drive through test sites across in Massachusetts, including at 188 Linden Street in Wellesley.
  • Before COVID-19, high density urban design was all the rage. While the virus has given density opponents fresh ammunition, John Rufo of Form + Place wonders in a new blog post if this creates an opportunity for a "middle ground" which happens to look very much like what's being planned in Newton.
  • Speaking of building, in Watertown, they’re discovering that the bids on the construction projects at two of Watertown’s elementary schools came in millions of dollars below budget, but the requirements to work in the COVID-19 world will mean added costs, Watertown News reports.
Take good care of each other this weekend.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
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