Chamber News

April 21, 2020 Likes Comments

Go fast? Or go far?

There’s a wonderful African proverb that my friend (and chamber member) Colette Phillips includes in her email signature:

 
"If you want to go fast go alone, if you want to go far go together."
 
That's this chamber's core mission. Our 900-plus member businesses and nonprofits recognize that when we collaborate, everyone -- our companies, our employees, our customers and our region -- benefits.
 
So where does that leave us these days?
 
We’re all experiencing new challenges and an uncertain future. But we’re also witnessing an outpouring of support, generosity and partnership.
 
To respond, adapt and recover, we’ll go a lot further if we collaborate, share ideas and experiences.
 
As part of that shared quest, today we’re launching a new mentorship program.
 
We’re looking for mentors who are willing to provide professional advice and knowledge, while cultivating leadership skills and expanding their professional network.
 
And we’re looking for mentees who want to connect with an experienced professional to gain expertise on a specific opportunity or challenge facing their business.
 
Ideally, everyone will go far as they gain new insights and perspectives.
 
If you believe you have something to offer, or if there’s some way you need help (or both), this program is for you. Details, requirements and applications are here.
 
Council President seeks cap on food delivery fees
 
Yesterday morning, I suggested that something needed to be done to control the unreasonably high commissions restaurants were paying GrubHub, Uber Eats and DoorDash and other delivery services. At a time when every dollar makes a difference, commissions of 30 percent significantly challenge a restaurant’s profit margin.
 
I noted that San Francisco recently imposed a cap of 15 percent on delivery fees until the pandemic is over. Similar ordinances have been filed across the country including in New York, Chicago and Providence. Boston and Cambridge are also looking at capping commissions.
 
That afternoon, Newton City Council President Susan Albright wrote to say she will file expedited resolution asking Mayor Fuller to cap meal delivery fees to 10 percent (the same percent Cambridge is considering).
 
“If immediate action is not taken, the City of Newton is in danger of losing the diverse range of its local restaurants to the COVID-19 crisis,” the resolution states.
 
Albright hopes to have the council’s Programs & Services Committee discuss the cap on Wednesday. But Fuller’s law department has said Newton doesn’t have the authority to impose a cap. We'll keep you posted.
 
Needham to all essential workers: wear masks
 
Meanwhile in Needham, the Board of Health is strongly encouraging the use of masks/face coverings for public facing workers at essential businesses, including food establishments.
 
The town is “not making an ordinance right now, however, if we find that these face coverings are not being worn, that may be something we would have to investigate in the future, with having to look into fines, etc.,” a department official writes.
 
Needham health inspectors are currently making random visits to essential businesses and bringing copies of these posters with them.
 
Help from the AG
 
Attorney General Maura Healey’s office has committed $500,000 to assisting municipalities and regional planning agencies providing financial relief to local small businesses most impacted by closures, policies, or general loss of revenue due to COVID-19.
 
Grants up to $50,000 can be used to administer or supplement programs targeting local small businesses that have been impacted by COVID-19. The funds can be spent on fixed debt, payroll, accounts payable, lost sales, lost opportunities and other working capital expenses that could have been recognized had the COVID-19 pandemic not occurred. Industries include but are not limited to: food service and production; restaurants; bed and breakfasts; house cleaners; laundromat or dry-cleaners; car repair/garage; barber shops/beauty salons; health care and social assistance; and small retail shops. None of the money may be used to defray administrative or operational costs. Details are here.
 
The AG has also created a web site with information for front line workers. The site includes extensive COVID-19 resources.
 
Unemployment benefits for the self-employed
 
Self-employed individuals, including gig workers, freelancers and independent 1099 contractors were finally able to file for unemployment in Massachusetts yesterday. Independent workers are not typically eligible for unemployment benefits but can do so now as part of the federal CARES acts. Full details, requirements and a link to the online application can be found at www.mass.gov/pua.
 
Employers should be careful to make sure 1099 and gig economy workers aren’t charged to their unemployment account because to could impact on the employer’s individual experience rating. AIM has published this checklist designed to help employers to determine what if any action they must take to ensure claims are not inappropriately charged to their account.
 
As part of the federal CARES act, all claimants (including both full and part time) are eligible for an additional $600 per week, effective March 29 through the end of July. There was also a 13-week extension for anyone who exhausted their previous unemployment benefits, beginning March 29, 2020 and running until the end of 2020.
 
Three parting items
 
A group of doctors and nurses dubbed the “Happiness Committee” is asking the public to donate cell phone chargers for COVID-19 patients to stay connected with loved ones, WGBH reports.
 
A Wellesley business owner applied for a PPP loan from her hospital bed (but she didn’t get it) from BBJ (paywall).
 
Finally: What’s better than a TV miniseries filmed in Newton? A mini-series filmed in Newton and Needham, of course! “Defending Jacob,” based on the novel by Newton author William Landay, takes place in Newton and was filmed in Cold Springs Park, the Highlands and other parts of the city. But alert viewers of this trailer will recognize a Needham Center landmark too. It’s debuts on Apple TV on Friday.

Stay in touch. Just don’t touch.
Greg Reibman
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688

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