Chamber News

February 24, 2021 Likes Comments

Here's hoping this helps

President Joe Biden ordered some important changes to the Paycheck Protection Program this week that aim to make the federal relief program more accessible to the smallest of our small business, sole entrepreneurs and independent contractors.

While these seem like genuinely useful adjustments, it remains to be seen how many will benefit.
The PPP process is challenging to navigate, especially if you don’t have the benefit of a bookkeeper, accountant, lawyer, banker or other advisor to help. (I listed some free resources here yesterday.)
I’ve talked to many small business operators and sole entrepreneurs since the PPP rolled out last spring who would have benefited greatly from this program but were disqualified for one of the reasons just lifted by Biden.
And if I ran across many of those business folks in Newton, Needham, Watertown and Wellesley, imagine how many are fighting to stay in business in underserved communities.
Of course, many of those businesses are no longer operating.
This week’s changes will be challenging for lenders too, who now have to adjust to new nonpayroll criteria and revise their applications.
Some of our community banks will do as they always do: Bend over backwards to help.
Meanwhile, we heard over and over last year how inflexible some of the big guys have been. Even getting your national bank on the phone was a common complaint for PPP applicants who were already customers.
Some lenders, I’m guessing, may just opt out.
Finally, while Biden laid out new rules, the SBA has to convert them to official guidance. Waiting for SBA guidance has been a harrowing experience for applicants, lenders, lawyers and accountants.
Consider, for example, theater operators are still waiting for the SBA to launch the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program, a program that was part of the December stimulus.
And the clock is ticking: PPP applications are due March 31.
Still, as I’ve written many times, the PPP saved many businesses and nonprofits last year. These new changes can be difference maker for some too. Here's hoping it helps.
Climate bill objections come down to timing
Business and advocacy groups continue to have concerns about provisions in the state’s climate bill, arguing that they could stall economic and infrastructure development, writes Isabel Contreras reports for the BBJ.
The issue is the timing of a goal to reach net-zero carbon emissions and expand the state’s energy efficiency building code within one year of its passage. The matter is now back in the hands of legislators after being vetoed by the governor.
“What this would end up doing is prohibiting new development from happening,” Tamara Small at NAIOP Massachusetts tells Contreras. “I think what we’re looking for is to have a timeline that matches up with what’s technically feasible and considering when technologies will become available.”
And Christopher Carlozzi, of the National Federation of Independent Business, worries higher energy costs could harm small businesses’ ability to compete with respective industries in other states.
But Environmental League of Massachusetts’ Casey Bowers says “the cost of inaction is going to be far greater than the cost of action at this point. We’ve seen stronger storms, the health impacts of climate change in low-income communities and environmental justice communities, and the health costs. These are all significant burdens that come with large price tags.”
Looking for a vaccine?
Here’s what not to do: Show up at a vaccine site and, as some people did in Natick, and be shocked, shocked that you couldn’t get a shot.
BC program feeds students and businesses
A student group at Boston College has been purchasing vouchers for students from local businesses in an effort to boost campus morale, according to the BC Heights.

UGBC has paid for 500 vouchers for White Mountain Creamery, 750 vouchers for Flat Breads, and 1,000 vouchers for Dunkin. The vouchers were free for students on a first-come, first-served basis.

“One of the things I think we all realize with COVID is that the small businesses and the businesses of the community are really, like, an integral part, right, and these businesses are part of sort of what makes BC BC," said Christian Guma, president of BC’s Undergraduate Government.

John Acampora, the owner of Flat Breads, said he has worked there for 29 years and has never seen this much excitement from students before.

“Given the economic environment that we operate in, when the students leave [campus] we’re out of business,” he said. “So the opportunity to serve, you know, at any level is substantial.”
Newton gets a double shot of the ‘blues’
  • Blue Salt Restaurant is opening in West Newton at former location La Tate Mexican Restaurant, Boston Restaurant Talk reports. Alongside classics like burger and steak, you’ll find Eastern-European inspired dishes, the website notes.
  • And Blue Bottle Coffee has opened at The Street at Chestnut Hill. This is the brand’s sixth Boston location, first suburban location. Blue Bottle is currently open for takeout. Dine in seating will be available at a later date. “Blue Bottle is the first to open in 2021 and our first café,” says Alana Stein, General Manager of The Street Chestnut Hill.
Empty store windows to display artworks
Local artists will be working with landlords, Wellesley officials and the Wellesley Celebrations Committee to transform a number of vacant storefronts into temporary art galleries, notes the Swellesley Report.
“The Storefront Project will activate our commercial areas and help boost morale,” organizers say. “Watch for more information on this project in the coming weeks.”
The program will be underwritten by the Community Fund for Wellesley, an endowed fund of the Foundation for MetroWest.
A second, separate program is underwriting an emergency gift card program.
The Wellesley Service League is buying gift cards for residents who must unexpectedly quarantine or isolate due to COVID and need emergency groceries or cleaning supplies.
Need to knows
  • ConnectWell, the Health Connector for Business’ wellness rebate program, gives small business owners a chance to save money on health insurance while employees are able to improve their health and wellness and get rewarded, too. Employees enrolled in a Health Connector for Business group’s health plan will have the chance to earn a $100 reward when they complete a qualifying wellness activity. Lean more March 4 at 9 a.m.


  • Sen. Cindy Creem and Geoff Foster from Common Cause and Rahsaan Hall from the ACLU will lead a discussion about the VOTES Act, a comprehensive legislation which will expand and increase voter participation and modernize our election registration system on March 2nd at 7 p.m. Registration required.
Sweet Caroline will never sound sweeter
Will we get a chance to spill an overpriced beer on ourselves at TD Garden in 2021? Sing Sweet Caroline this fall with a group of familiar strangers?
The Bruins are playing before fans for the first time this season this weekend – just not in Boston. They’ll be in New York (Islanders on Thursday; Rangers on Friday and Sunday) where as of last night, venues are allowed 10 percent capacity (with proof of a COVID test).
In Massachusetts, stadiums and arenas are part of Phase 4 of the state's reopening plan.
So when Phase 4 might be phased in?
"Stay tuned," a smiling Gov. Charlies Baker said yesterday when asked if fans would be allowed at TD Garden, Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium, according to State House News’ Colin A. Young.
The Patriots sent an email to season ticket holders yesterday saying they are "very optimistic that we will have fans in the stands and hopeful that we will be able to do so at full capacity," Ben Volin of the Globe tweeted.
The Red Sox are allowing some fans at spring training games in Fort Meyers. Fenway, meanwhile, is a mass vax site (as is Gillette).
But, Young reports, as of yesterday StubHub listed 44 tickets available for the Sox home opener against the Orioles on April 1, ranging from $161 for a standing room only ticket to $534 for a box seat on the third base line.

Hope springs eternal. Bum. Bum, Bum. See you tomorrow.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
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