Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 15, 2021 Likes Comments

Here's some things to feel good about

Gov. Charlie Baker’s signing of the $626 million economic stimulus bill last night is a big deal.

The legislation includes millions for small businesses, establishes a dedicated restaurant relief fund, caps those third-party meal delivery fees, funds transit-oriented housing, job training, tourism, technology, advance manufacturing and much more.
And it includes Housing Choice, which Baker rightly calls, “the first significant zoning reform in decades" and Sen. Eric Lesser, called the “biggest change to housing policy in a generation.”
Baker has been pushing to make it easier to approve local zoning changes for years. With support from a coalition of housing, environment and business groups, including this chamber, it's finally law.
Despite opposition from many municipalities, it also mandates multifamily zoning in MBTA communities (including Newton, Needham and Wellesley).
"This legislation will drive economic growth and improve housing stability, neighborhood stabilization and transit-oriented development," Baker said in a statement. "Combined with our $668 million small business relief grant program that is supporting local businesses impacted by COVID-19, this legislation will support future growth and expand opportunity for people across Massachusetts, and we appreciate the work of our legislative colleagues throughout this process.”
Like I said. A big deal.
Also last night: Baker vetoed the climate and emissions over his concerns that one feature in the bill could stymie housing construction and that the Legislature did nothing in the bill to help cities and town adapt to the effects of climate change, State House News reported.
Many folks are understandably furious at Baker for this. They should also direct some of that fury at the House and Senate for sitting on the bill until the last minute, which made negotiating a compromise impossible.
Lawmakers say they will file it again.
This is big too
The months-long wait for the federal government to toss small businesses and nonprofits a life preserver is ending.
Small community banks and credit unions (with $1 billion or less in assets) can process PPP applications starting this morning.
All lenders can process applications starting Tuesday. Updated forms, guidance, and resources are here.
The PPP program is open to both first time applicants and those applying for a second loan. Businesses seeking a second loan can have a maximum of 300 employees, down from 500, and the maximum loan amount this time is $2 million, a decrease from $10 million.
Second time applicants also have to prove that revenue declined at least 25% in any quarter in 2020 compared with the previous year.
And true to the SBA’s proclivity to keep changing PPP procedures, there’s new rules about how much you can pay your employees and still get full forgiveness. The BBJ’s Andy Medici explains that here.
The Massachusetts Equitable PPP Access Initiative offers free help applying for a PPP loan in English, Spanish, Haitian Creole, Chinese, Arabic and Portuguese.
But wait, one more big deal
Nearly 1,600 small businesses were awarded $78.5 million in recovery grants from the state yesterday.
The relief funding is part of the program run by Mass Growth Capital, which to date has awarded $195 million to 4,100 companies.
The program still has roughly $473 million left for distribution and the deadline for another round of grants through the program closes tonight (Friday) at midnight so don't just sit there reading this on your phone if you haven't applied yet!

The current round prioritizes restaurants, personal care businesses, retail, health care and other businesses as listed here. Eligible businesses can receive up to $75,000, or three-months of expenses.
Get free help applying for your sector-specific relief grant here .
Franchisees frustrated to be excluded from recovery program
While that state grant program may be a life saver for some businesses, one category of employer has been left by the sidelines: Franchisees.
Franchisees pay taxes, rent and employ residents of Massachusetts, regardless of their affiliation with a larger chain and want to be allowed to compete for the grants. And now, a group of 41 lawmakers are urging the governor to amend the eligibility criteria, according to State House News reporter Matt Murphy.
"Franchisees face the same economic hardship and loss of revenue as any nonfranchised small business. Overwhelmingly, franchises are held by independent owner-operators who live and work in their local communities," the lawmakers wrote in a letter to Baker.
The Baker administration says it had limited funds and decided to support sectors "that have no connection to a corporate network that could be an advocate for individual franchisees.”
But Ron Levin, an Elements Massage franchise owner said, "We and our staff need just as much relief as any other small business that has been hard hit … Our franchisors are effectively suppliers to us. They are certainly not in any way the owners of our businesses.”
MLK Day need to knows
Each of our communities have special virtual events planned in observance of Martin Luther King Jr. Day on Monday. Register at the links below. (Bonus points if you, like me, plan to "attend" more than one!)
Needham leaders extend free meters
Needham’s Select Board has extended free two-hour parking in Needham Centre and Needham Heights through June. However, officials vow to strictly enforce the limit, including in the Chapel Street lot.
The town has also launched a public awareness campaign on COVID safety protocols, banners, stickers on the theme of working together to “get through to the other side.”
And in an effort to lift sagging spirits, the lights on the landmark Blue Tree on the Town Common will continue twinkling through end of February.
"The Blue Tree makes people happy," Select Chair Moe Handel told Patch. "It's a little thing we can do to offer the community something to smile about during the winter months ahead."
Newton and Wellesley are also not currently charging at meters.
Order takeout…and that’s an order!
Okay, it’s not an order.
Rather, “it’s your civic duty.”
That’s the way Devra First puts it in her column, which is kicking off “Project Takeout” a new Boston Globe marketing campaign calling on all of us to support local, independent restaurants.
The Globe is promising to amp up its takeout coverage and has just published an online dining map. (Note to our friends at the Globe: Please don’t forget our west suburban communities! We’ve already created a list for you.)
OK, take good care this weekend. Our office is closed Monday, see you Tuesday,
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.


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