Chamber News

July 01, 2020 Likes Comments

Here's what I know

The Mount Ida Campus in Newton will play an important role in the UMass Amherst’s reopening plan.

The university announced this week that nearly all courses will be taught remotely this fall. But students will have the option to live on its campuses in Amherst or Newton, under strict health restrictions.
Up to 500 students will be able to live on the Mount Ida Campus in the N-Squared Innovation District, regardless of whether they have a course on the campus or are conducting an internship, which typically would be required for residence. (As part of the university’s Fall 2020 Reopening Plan, students are not required to return to either campus.)
“The Mount Ida Campus provides an option for those students who are seeking a residential option for the fall but are not comfortable joining the more populous campus in Amherst,” Mount Ida Campus Managing Director Jeff Cournoyer said. “They will join existing Mount Ida Campus cohorts, including Veterinary Technology students, and have the opportunity to build a living-learning community in a safe and socially distanced environment.”
Hotels get a potential boost
Could Charlie Baker’s decision to loosen restrictions on travelers visiting Massachusetts and residents returning home from seven Northeast states be a precursor to allowing Phase 3 businesses to reopen next week?
Phase 3 includes gyms and health clubs, museums, movie theaters, casino floors, and at least some theaters, as well as tourist attractions like bus tours and harbor cruises.
Baker said yesterday that anyone coming to Massachusetts from Maine, Vermont, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York and New Jersey will no longer be asked to self-quarantine.
Visitors from other states and countries, including hotspots like Florida, will still be asked to quarantine.
Yesterday, Rhode Island began allowing larger gatherings and businesses like theaters to reopen, while other states were adding new restrictions.
Also yesterday, the Baker administration added $20 million into programs to help renters and homeowners keep up with housing payments while Beacon Hill lawmakers filed a bill that would extend the current eviction moratorium into next year, while also compensating at least some landlords for lost rental income.
Just when thought I was out ....they pulled me back in.
Just hours before the program was set to expire, the U.S. Senate reached a surprise deal late Tuesday to extend the Paycheck Protection Program through Aug. 8.
Restaurant openings and closings
There’s no notice on their website but according to this real estate listing the Rox Diner in Newtonville is the latest local restaurant to close its doors.
In Wellesley, Fastachi, the nuts and chocolates shop is also closing, according to the Swellesley report.
In better news the Mt. Auburn Grill in Watertown is reopening following reports that the business was for sale, Boston Restaurant Talk reports.
And the California-based Blue Bottle Coffee is opening at The Street in Chestnut Hill.
For restaurateurs now operating, or getting ready to reopen, there’s a lot of useful info here about COVID safety practices.
Flushing out COVID symptoms
Wearing face masks, practicing social distancing are important ways to help curtail COVID-19.
And for the next six months, flushing the toilet will help too.
Through the end of the year, the sewage arriving at the Deer Island Treatment Plant from Boston and three dozen municipalities will be tested three times a week for signs of the coronavirus, meant to serve as an early warning system for spikes in the disease.
The Massachusetts Water Resources Authority has approved a six-month, $200,000 contract with Biobot Analytics, a startup founded by MIT graduates and faculty, to collect wastewater test samples for signs of the virus.
Needham announces anti-racism initiative
The Town of Needham has announced the launch of the Needham Unite Against Racism Initiative, an undertaking intended to foster a dialogue about racism in Needham and produce actionable strategies to ensure Needham is a welcoming and inclusive community.
Residents are invited to share personal experiences with town officials about racism or discrimination in Needham, and their concerns and suggestions for improvement. Questions from residents and corresponding answers will be posted online.
The Select Board will host a listening session July 21 at 6:15 p.m. (via Zoom) to hear directly from residents about their experiences in Needham and better understand what challenges exist. Residents who wish to speak or submit written comments can email
Signs of appreciation
Lawns across Newton are sporting a number of lawn signs, from Black Lives Matter to congratulatory messages for recent graduates. Also, popping up are the “Signs of Gratitude” thanking frontline workers.
The signs were created by local residents and paid for by The Village Bank.
They’re free although recipients are invited to donate to one of three local nonprofits responding to COVID-19-related needs in Newton. More than $4,000 has been raised to date. Request yours here.
New resources and grants
Finally, this morning here's a few resources worth noting.
  • The COVID Relief Coalition offers pro bono legal assistance to vulnerable small businesses. The Coalition’s intake form for small businesses to receive free legal services is available here
  • Women and minority owned small businesses can find help navigating the impact of the COVID-19 though the Small Business Strong initiative. Services includes expedited, pro-bono resources ranging from access to capital to consulting, business restructuring, business growth, digital marketing and customer engagement plans.
  • Coworking spaces may apply for grants of up to $100,000 for new equipment or building improvements, including adjustments to help spaces adhere to the social distancing and health and safety standards as part of MassDevelopment’s Collaborative Workspace grant program. Details here.
Spilka open to expanded tolling
We’re fortunate that state Senate President Karen Spilka lives just to our west.
This week Spilka was speaking up for commuters along the Mass Pike (and those who use the Tobin Bridge), asking why we pay tolls each day, while drivers on other major highways drive for free.
“If tolls are such a good way to pay for roads and bridges, then it should be fairly and equitably done across the state,” the Ashland Democrat told the Codcast.
“If we’re going to keep these tolls, to me progress would be other tolls at the border. We pay tolls at the border. This should be a fair and equitable system and it is not.”
Earlier this year many business groups (including this chamber) called for additional tolling in other parts of the state as way to raise desperately needed revenue to improve our transportation system and to manage congestion.
Spilka also discussed the multiple proposals to reconfigure the Mass. Pike in Allston.
She’s not ready to endorse a specific design but the final project must include funds to improve Route 9 and the Framingham commuter rail “so it’s safe, effective and more frequent” before any project begins. [Framingham Source has more here.]
“I won’t allow a toll increase just on the Turnpike [to pay for the project],” she added.
Be back tomorrow, or sooner if something noteworthy happens.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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