Chamber News

Needham / Newton
March 05, 2021 Likes Comments

Just in time for next week’s 60-degree weather

How are we doing? Really, how are we doing?

As we come upon the one year anniversary of the COVID shut down and look forward to things opening up in weeks to come, we’re interested in hearing your thoughts about our chamber.
 
Later this morning, we’ll be sending you a very short six question survey. I’d really appreciate it if you’d take a few minutes and respond. Thanks in advance.
 
Here’s today’s update:
 
Just in time for next week’s 60-degree weather

Rather than settling for one of these, wouldn't you prefer a meal lovingly made by local, independent restaurateur?
 
And with temps expected to touch 60 next week (and Daylight Savings Time one week from Sunday!), you can even enjoy your favorite meal with your favorite people, in a park near you.
 
Yesterday morning the very popular outdoor dining tent on the Needham Town made its triumphant return.

Newton is looking to up its public outdoor dining game too.
Newton Community Pride has committed funds to dress up shared dining spaces (like the one established last year in the Newton Centre parking lot) with tents, lights or other enhancements.

There will be set-ups in Newton Centre, Newton Highlands, West Newton, Newtonville and Nonantum. Also planned: An expanded outdoor dining area on Union Street (opposite the Newton Centre T stop) with metered spaces converted to parklets and traffic reduced to one lane.
 
Starting April 1 Newton restaurants can request permission to expand into parking spaces beyond their frontage with written support from their abutting neighbors. Applications here.
 
Wellesley is still finalizing its outdoor dining options but distributed applications to restaurants on Monday.
 
State adds UI fraud protection measures
 
The massive surge in unemployment during the pandemic brought with it a wave of fraudulent claims and lengthy delays in delivering payments.
 
Yesterday the state Department of Unemployment Assistance announced a new identity verification process aimed at securely speeding up those payments, reports Chris Lisinski at State House News.
 
ID.me, a federally certified security vendor specializing in digital identity protection, will implement a mobile-friendly ID process for unemployment benefits program starting March 5.
 
The department also plans to add a multi-factor authentication system to its online unemployment insurance system to improve security.
 
Meanwhile employers are nervously hoping the Legislature will approve a proposal by Gov. Charlie Baker that would stop Unemployment Insurance rates from soaring by nearly 60 percent on April 1.
 
Earlier this week the Massachusetts Taxpayers Foundation joined those calling for a rate freeze and the creation of a plan to repay federal UI loans.

SBA issues new PPP rules (but time is running out)
 
The SBA released a new application and loan calculation formula yesterday for Paycheck Protection Program loans for self-employed and gig workers, CNBC reports.
 
For these small businesses, it will mean larger forgivable loans.
 
The agency also released updated guidelines for lenders on calculating loan amounts for Schedule C filers and new eligibility rules for borrowers, including those who had struggled with student loan debt, had non-fraud felony convictions or were non-citizen business owners.
 
The tricky part right now is getting applications in on time. The current PPP deadline is March 31. There's even less time for that special priority access period for the owners of the nation’s smallest businesses.
 
More than 600 organizations nationwide, including our chamber, cosigned a letter to Congress this week asking to extend the application deadline for the Paycheck Protection Program through the end of the year. Read the letter here.
 
Here's some strategies to help the owners of the smallest businesses.
 
Here’s some other resources (please share if you know any small businesses, self employed or gig workers in need):
  • UMass Amherst’s Massachusetts Small Business Development Center provides free, confidential, one-to-one business assistance and free and low-cost training to prospective and existing small businesses. Schedule a virtual meeting here.
  • The Massachusetts Equitable PPP Initiative offers multilingual technical assistance and lender matching for underbanked and historically underserved businesses, including businesses owned by women and people of color, seeking a PPP loan.
  • Looking for a lender to help you apply for the PPP? Here’s a list of local chamber member banks that may be able to help. The SBA also has a searchable Lender Look Up tool listing all eligible lenders.
Need to knows
  • Do you have questions, input, or comments regarding the Reopening Massachusetts plan? Submit them here.
  • The World of Wellesley presents Dr. Maureen Walker speaking about her book “When Getting Along Is Not Enough, Reconstructing Race in Our Lives and Relationships” this Sunday (March 7) at 3 p.m. Register.
  • Did you know that chamber membership is at the corporate level? This means your company’s membership covers all of your employees. Sign your colleagues up here to receive this newsletter and other updates. Email for help.
Bike sharing expanding
 
Newton just secured a $200,000 MassDOT grant to fund four additional Bluebikes stations with 44 more shared bicycles, Mayor Ruthanne Fuller announced last night.
 
The city currently has eight bike share stations (map of the whole system is here).
 
If you’d like to suggest where the new stations should go contact Nicole Freedman. Bluebike membership details here.
 
Womxn to tell their stories
 
Three of my favorite local entrepreneurs -- Seana Gaherin of Dunn Gaherins Food & Spirits, Nancy Cushman of Bianca and Kate Smith of Thistle & Leek-- are joining 350 restaurateurs nationwide in Monday’s "Let's Talk Womxn" event as part of International Women’s Day.
 
This program combines a zoom conversation moderated by Attorney General Maura Healey with to-go meals from woman restaurateurs across Greater Boston. To learn more about the larger movement, watch this from “The Today Show.”
 
Details about Monday and a full list of participants is here.
 
Construction alert: Needham St/Highland Ave
 
The bridge over the Charles River that connects Needham Street in Newton with Highland Ave. in Needham will be undergoing night work March 8 through March 19 from 8 p.m. until 5 a.m.
 
Contractor P. Gioioso & Sons will be installing electrical duct banks across the bridge as part of the $30 million dollar Newton-Needham Corridor project.
 
The work is being done in the overnight hours to minimize traffic impacts. There will be one alternating lane of travel over the bridge during work hours. Police details will be present.
 
Ultimately, the historic bridge will have two lanes heading into Newton and one lane into Needham, with cantilevered sidewalks to make the bridge safer for cyclists and pedestrians, but the major components of that change are not happening now.
 
Is Fido getting fat?

You may have heard of the COVID-15, as in the fifteen or so pounds many of us have put during the quarantine. Back in June, Google searches for “elastic waist” pants had spiked. Imagine what’s happening to folks cooped up indoors this winter.
 
Could Fido be suffering from the similar problem? Does Lassie need to run some laps?
 
A survey by the Banfield Pet Hospital, the nation’s largest general veterinary practice, found that among 1,000 dog and cat owners, 42% of their pets had gained weight during the quarantine, up from 33% in May, reports the Wall Street Journal.
 
“Before the quarantine, it was loose on him,” one pup owner said, referring to the neon vest her four-year-old cavapoo wears for nighttime walks. “But with everyone at home, baking banana bread and feeding him table scraps, we could barely strap it on.”

That's all for now. Take good care -- and take a walk -- this weekend.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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