Chamber News

May 08, 2020 Likes Comments

Here’s something many employers have been waiting for

When it comes to economic and cultural vitality, restaurants punch way above their weight.

 
They define and energize our village centers. They influence decisions about where we locate our businesses or live. Restaurants don’t just feed us. They nourish us.
 
And that’s why it's really important that our restaurant industry rebounds.
 
This morning at 10 a.m. I’ll be asking six local restaurateurs – Artur Andronic (Moldova Restaurant), Seana Gaherin (Dunn-Gaherin's Food & Spirits), Hedy Jarras, (Sweet Tomatoes), Karen Masterson, (Johnny's Luncheonette) Jay Spencer (French Press Bakery) and Paul Turano (COOK Restaurants) -- their thoughts about survival and the future of the hospitality business.
 
Meanwhile, it's Day 59 and we have reopening news. Golf and guns are back. Recreational marijuana might be next. Actually Rhode Island is next.
 
Still, all signs indicate that -- even once your office is allowed to reopen -- you may not be going back. In fact Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack believes increasing work from home (four percent of our workforce in the "old" days ), won’t just help manage this virus. We need more people working from home long term to mitigate the return of all that traffic that was harming productivity, destroying our planet and driving us all crazy.
 
Here’s something many employers have been waiting for
 
More than 960,000 people have filed for unemployment in Massachusetts. And employers have questions about what that means when they start calling workers back.
 
The Department of Unemployment Insurance has updated guidelines regarding offering employees work and returning to work. Here’s some examples of the questions it covers:
  • If employees have been offered hours at their workplaces but refuse to return to work due to COVID-19, can they be denied unemployment benefits?
  • I received SBA funding (like the Paycheck Protection Program) to pay employees their wages, how does that impact their unemployment benefits claim?
  • I’m the general manager of a restaurant. When we reopen I plan to offer all my waitstaff their jobs back. Some of them tell me that with the $600 per week under the CARES Act they now get more in benefits than they earned when they worked here. If they refuse to come back when I offer them their jobs, will they keep collecting benefits?
  • Can I report when an employee refuses to come back to work or refuses an offer of work?
Look here for the answers (and more questions!)
 
Check out how this Newton company pivoted
 
Our inner suburban communities are home to hundreds of small and mid-sized companies doing amazing things somewhat anonymously.
 
One such example is Giner Labs, an R&D technology company that has done fascinating work with hydrogen generators, biomedical devices, sensors for measuring blood alcohol levels, and more.
 
Located in that office park over on Rumford Ave in West Newton, tens of thousands of Giner fuel cells and electrolyzers are in use worldwide today. They’re also always exploring new projects: Currently that includes developing a THC breathalyzer and creating product that could revolutionize the treatment of diabetes.
 
But like many of us, Giner shut-down operations and sent most of its 70 Newton employees home on March 16.
 
Only not everyone. A small team was allowed to continue to work on essential programs for the defense department and NASA.
 
Others, including Dave Markham, a mechanical engineer, put his expertise in specialized equipment such as 3D printers and laser cutting tools to volunteer to help the Mass General Brigham Center for Covid Innovation to craft desperately needed electro-mechanical parts for ventilators.
 
Dave also sourced materials to make face shields, using Giner’s laser cutter.
 
Over the course of three weekends (while wearing appropriate PPE and social distancing) Dave and his colleagues -- Katie Butler, Ben Zackin, Tatiana Anthony and Wenjing Kang -- turned out fifteen ventilator parts and hundreds of face shields.
 
If you know, or work for, a local business that has pivoted to help, I’d like to know about it.
 
Watertown may modify face mask rule
 
Watertown’s board of health is considering amending its face coverings rules to match Gov. Charlie Baker’s order. Watertown’s emergency order requires face coverings at all times in public places, indoors and out. Baker’s rules requires wearing of face coverings in public where social distancing is not possible.
 
The town is also about to launch official social media accounts on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram to share information and resources, particularly related to the COVID-19. You can also sign up for emergency alerts by texting WATERTOWNMA to 888-777.
 
Finally, this morning….
  • Newton’s annual Theodore D. Mann Newton Mayor’s Community Breakfast is one of the city’s best community events. Like pretty much everything these days, it’s going virtual, via Zoom, on May 27 at 8:30 a.m. There’s no registration fee.
  • Next Friday (May 15) is last day to register to vote in Needham’s May 26 Town Election. Town Hall is closed but you can register online.
  • The dedication and sacrifices by so many in our workforce during this pandemic are inspiring. At Pathway to Possible, a Newton-based nonprofit (and chamber member) that provides housing, support and advocacy for those with cognitive and developmental disabilities, the staff has moved into the group homes to quarantine along with the clients. They are currently going on their third week away from their own families and friends, the Globe reports
Let us know how we can help and be nice to each other this weekend.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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