Chamber News

Needham / Newton
November 25, 2020 Likes Comments

Last time I'll bug you this week

I had no idea when I started writing these morning updates back in March that I’d still be doing this heading into Thanksgiving. Or that so many of you would be reading them.

So this morning, my thanks to everyone who gives me few minutes of your time daily, or occasionally, and even those who humor me by clicking open before deleting.
My thanks also to the chamber's sponsors, members and citizen members for keeping us going financially during this challenging time and to the chamber’s directors and committees for their guidance and wisdom. And I'm especially grateful to the chamber team for all they do to make this organization relevant, reliable, resilient and responsive.
I am inspired by the business women and men who are fighting daily to keep their doors open, their customers safe and their employees on the payroll. I’m in awe of our nonprofits who’ve risen to the occasion in service.
I wish you a meaningful and bountiful Thanksgiving. Gratitude to our health care workers, first responders and any one else working tomorrow and everyday to keep our communities safe and vibrant.
Here’s today’s update.
Nonprofit leader is stepping down
After a decade at the helm of one of Newton’s essential nonprofits, Jon Firger is retiring as executive director at Family ACCESS at the end of this year.
The community-based organization, located in West Newton, has been providing services for families for more than a century, operating an early learning center and offering early literacy services, counseling and consultation services and child assault prevention.
“Family ACCESS has given me the opportunity to work in the town I love, with the people I admire to help fulfill a mission that has been my career-long pursuit,” Firger wrote in an email announcement.
“I am lucky enough to say that my time here has surpassed all of my expectations. Together, we have been able to shape Family ACCESS into a strong organization that helped over 6,000 parents and children last year.”
We're actually the lucky ones. In addition to observing Jon’s leadership at Family ACCESS, I’ve had the privilege of collaborating with Jon as he served as chair of the chamber’s Nonprofit Committee, a group that he revitalized during his tenure.
Thanks for your service Jon.

IRS PPP ruling adds another 2020 hurdle
I hate to spoil your appetite one day before the big event but here's the latest on the PPP.

Earlier this year, the IRS ruled that expenses (like payroll) that businesses typically deduct from their taxes aren’t tax deductible if they used PPP dollars to pay for them.
Last week, the IRS issued new guidance prohibiting any small business that has a reasonable expectation of eventually receiving PPP loan forgiveness from deducting those expenses in 2020, even if it takes until 2021 or 2022 to be granted forgiveness, or if the business hasn't submitted a forgiveness application yet, writes Andy Medici for the BBJ.
In other words: The IRS has just made it harder for businesses that are desperately trying to survive this pandemic by eliminating a potential strategy to defer their 2020 tax liabilities for one year while waiting for the economy to rebound.
Or as one expert tells Medici: “Without the PPP, small businesses would have laid off staff, saving on expenses and saving cash. The only reason they kept staffing levels is because of the PPP, and the IRS is effectively punishing that action by pretending it wasn’t a legitimate business expense.”
Interested in a sharp stick in the other eye (related to federal COVID relief support for our businesses)? Try this.
Another pharma company moving to Watertown
Kendall Square-based Constellation Pharmaceuticals will move next year into a new 79,000 square foot headquarters at Alexandria Real Estate Equities' massive new Watertown campus at 100 Talcott Ave, Bisnow reports.
Constellation CEO Jigar Raythatha said in a statement the benefits of relocating to Watertown include close proximity to Cambridge and Boston but with the ability for expansion.
Today’s three need to knows
  • Ken Montgomery of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston and other speakers participated in a virtual conference last week on Massachusetts Economic Agenda: The Future for Digital and Cybersecurity jobs. View the event here.
  • Wondering about the Needham Street/Highland Ave project? MassDOT's video presentation and other materials are on the project website. Sign up to receive project updates and meeting notices.
Policing masks falls hardest on low wage workers
In spite of overwhelming evidence that masks and social distancing curtail the spread of COVID-19, a new study documents the pushback and confrontation experienced by workers attempting to enforce safety protocols.
The UMass Amherst study examined the experiences of 2,300 workers in early July in six states, as part of the university’s ongoing COVID-19 Workplace Project.
Findings include:
  • Roughly half (49%) of workers who asked a customer or co-worker to comply with COVID policies experienced issues with compliance.
  • The most resistance to masks and distancing occurred in retail and hospitality industries, and towards low wage workers. Sixty percent of workers earning under $15 an hour reported compliance issues. Thirty-nine percent of workers earning over $21 an hour reported similar resistance.
  • Among the six states surveyed, compliance issues were most acute in Michigan, with 56% experiencing compliance issues. They were least severe – but still substantial – in Massachusetts, with 38% experiencing compliance issues.
  • There was widespread stress among workers who were tasked with enforcing masks and social distancing. “Politics and mask policy has driven customers to be furious with employees,” said a department store worker. “We have been threatened, spit on and screamed at due to mask policy and item purchase limits.”
This week, the MBTA Transit Police began offering complimentary face masks to riders in need of them, thanks to a donation of 100,000 masks by New Balance.
The initiative, part of the T’s Ride Safer campaign, follows an incident this month when a bus passenger was accused of attacking his driver, coughing in the victim’s face and claiming he had COVID-19 after being asked to put his mask on. (MassLive)
Baker bill authorizes mail-in voting in Newton
Gov. Charlie Baker filed a bill yesterday to allow the City of Newton to use mail-in, early and expanded absentee voting next year, reports Michael P. Norton at State House News.
The governor's bill, filed at the request of Mayor Ruthanne Fuller and the Newton City Council, would permit the city to allow vote by mail for a special election to be held in January or February.
The special election would fill City Council At Large seats in Ward 1, following the untimely death of Jay Ciccone, and Ward 2, following Jake Auchincloss' election to Congress.
She started silently, the final result is anything but
Finally today (this week actually), I leave you with a video by a Newton conductor and a Newton film maker recorded under, naturally, unique circumstances.
You know the basic story: The musicians couldn’t be in the same place, so they had to improvise, starting with musical conductor Amelia LeClair recording herself on her iPhone moving her hands in the air silently.
The instrumentalist (a theorbo) and 16 vocalists added their performances one by one, separately, uploading each individual contribution to Dropbox.
And then, somehow (no idea how, truthfully) video editor Chris Pitts put the whole thing together. Wicked Local has a story here and you can watch and listen to the full performance here.

Be back next Tuesday, Dec. 1 (my birthday!)
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.



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