Chamber News

September 17, 2020 Likes Comments

Here's another kick in the teeth.

Health care spending statewide during the pandemic has decreased. But next year's health insurance premiums are expected to spike by an average 8 percent next year, CommonWealth’s Shira Schoenberg reports.

Several factors are influencing insurance companies’ projections of future costs, including the fact that health care expenditures are picking up. Uncertainty about another COVID surge and higher mental health costs are other factors.
 
Blue Cross Blue Shield and Harvard Pilgrim are refunding money to consumers this year as required. Other carriers may eventually be forced to refund money too, under state and federal laws.
 
Just last week, Gov. Charlie Baker noted that the wearing of masks and social distancing are helping keep down the number of sore throats, colds and other non-COVID communicable ailments.
 
But premiums? They're going up.
 
We're getting school aid at the expense of low-income communities
 
Our chamber serves some of the state’s most affluent communities.
 
But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t think about the ramifications raised in a report showing that education aid has been going to wealthier school districts at the expense of low-income communities. (CommonWealth story)
 
The report, by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Boston Chamber, found that in the FY 2021 budget proposal, $778 million (or 14 percent of total Chapter 70 state aid) is not distributed to school districts based on need.
 
Approximately $498 million of these dollars go to the wealthiest 20 percent of the state's school districts that -- based on wealth and income could -- afford to fully fund their schools with less or no state aid, the report concludes.
 
Newton, Needham, Wellesley, Brookline and Watertown are all in that top 20.
 
But our workforce depends on students from across the state, not just our municipalities. Inequities impact our economic recovery and our ability to keep and attract qualified employers here.
 
Your small business may qualify for free energy saving equipment
 
For a limited time Eversource is offering to pay up to 100 percent of costs for installation and energy saving equipment to eligible Needham, Newton and Watertown small businesses.
 
Previous participants have benefited from new lighting, controls, motors, refrigeration and HVAC units. The equipment can save you thousands of dollars on your energy bills each year. After your free assessment, and the paperwork is complete, the project typically begins within 30 days. Call now for your assessment: 617-371-4512 or or e-mail: irene.petruzzelli@aecom.com.
 
Your Watertown business may qualify for this
 
The Town of Watertown is now accepting applications for microenterprise business grants, using federally-funded Community Development Block Grant funds.
 
Grants of up to $10,000 for microenterprise businesses (a commercial enterprise that has five or fewer employees) can be used for emergency needs in light of the pandemic. Application is here. Deadline is one week from today, Sept. 25. FAQs here. Questions? email Gideon Schreiber.
 
T station gets remodeled restaurant
 
Yesterday I mentioned three Newton restaurants opening, each with a new twist. Add to that list: Jamie's on Union, located at the site of the The Station Diner in Newton Centre. Same owner, but its been remodeled, re-concepted, renamed and, yes, reopened.
 
State extends tax payment deadlines
 
Small businesses hit hard by the government's economic shutdown, particularly restaurants and lodgings, will now have until May 2021 to pay some state taxes from March 2020 through April 2021, the state announced.
 
Sales, meals and room occupancy taxes for qualifying businesses for March 2020 through April 2021 will not be due to the state until May 2021, and those that wait will not face any penalties or interest. Without the change, those taxes would have been due this month.
 
Any businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meal taxes or less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending Feb. 29 will qualify for relief.
 
Businesses with meals tax and room occupancy tax obligations that do not otherwise qualify for this relief, late-file and late-pay penalties will be waived during this period.
 
The Department of Revenue is expected to post the new rules here.
 
Proposal would provide relief for Phase 4 businesses
 
Salem Sen. Joan Lovely filed a bill (SD 3047) that would provide property tax relief to Phase 4 businesses, State House News reports .
 
Those businesses, including bars, wedding venues and theaters, are not expected to be allowed to reopen until there is a vaccine or significant breakthrough in COVID-19 treatment, the governor has said.
 
Any business designated as part of Phase 4 would be allowed to "apply for a real estate tax abatement during any quarter of the fiscal year" under the bill. The state would be on the hook to make up the difference in what a city or town receives as a result of an abatement. The authorization would expire 90 days after the governor's state of emergency order lapses or is lifted.
 
Housing and Economic Development Secretary Mike Kennealy -- who co-chairs the state's reopening advisory board with Lt. Gov. Karyn Polito -- has said Phase 4 "is predicated on a medical breakthrough."
 
But Polito has said the administration "would be willing to look at" an exception to allow some fans to attend New England Patriots games at Gillette Stadium this fall.
 
Starting today, the administration will allow arcades, which had been part of Phase 4, to reopen.
 
Movies, just no popcorn
 
Under the reopening guidelines, movie theaters are allowed to reopen but aren’t allowed to serve food. That has left many independent theater operators, frustrated.
 
“That’s the part that’s really a kick in the teeth, you can sit in a small restaurant six-feet apart for two hours, take your masks off and it’s fine,” Jamie Mattchen, GM of the Capitol Theatre in Arlington, tells MassLive. “But you can’t sit in a giant theater, take your mask off and eat popcorn.
 
"To me, it doesn’t make sense.”
 
BBJ to state: Make ‘Find My Local MA’ campaign 'truly local'
 
The Boston Business Journal published both this article and a spot-on editorial yesterday, exploring the short-comings of the state’s $2 million shop local marketing campaign. (There was a Globe story too!)
 
The editorial calls for the state to modify the tourism-focused site so it lives up to the “Find My Local MA” name by helping residents find their local Massachusetts businesses.
 
More importantly, BBJ editors point to a larger problem: The absence of anybody, or office, on the state level that’s exclusively dedicated to fighting for our small businesses.
 
“…the lack of planning and execution of an otherwise well-intentioned, $2 million ad campaign underscores what small-business leaders long have known: No state-run agency is dedicated to promoting small businesses, and the elected officials whose constituents own and work at these businesses say they support local business but do little when actual help is needed.”
 
Amen to that!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
 
P.S. A reminder that the chamber’s office on Needham Street is closed. Our new mailing address is PO Box 590132, Newton Centre, MA 02459. We’ll primarily be working virtually for the rest of 2020. But we’ve opened a satellite office at Staples Connect at 163 Highland Ave, Needham. by appointment only.

 

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