Chamber News

September 08, 2020 Likes Comments

More sticker shock for employers

A reminder that we extended the deadline to submit your nominations for our 50 Most Influential Business People of Color in Greater Boston’s western suburbs to tomorrow, Weds. Sept. 9.

To qualify, nominees must work and/or sit on a board for a business or nonprofit that is physically located in Newton, Needham, Watertown, Waltham, Wellesley, Natick or Framingham.
Unemployment insurance could spike 60 percent
I was hoping to come back from a spectacular holiday weekend with something upbeat. Unfortunately, there's more worrisome news for employers fighting to stay afloat and keep workers on the payroll.
With the unemployment insurance trust fund suddenly facing a multibillion-dollar deficit, the contributions required from Massachusetts businesses are set to increase nearly 60 percent when the calendar turns to 2021 and then continue growing at a smaller rate through 2024.
Those higher taxes -- estimated at an average of $319 more per qualifying employee next year -- will be due starting in April, raising concerns that the sharp uptick will put a drag on the economic recovery from the ongoing COVID-prompted recession and make it more difficult for employers to bring back jobs they cut.
Christopher Carlozzi, of the National Federation of Independent Business Massachusetts, views the projected increases as "a looming crisis."
"You want these businesses creating jobs. Now you're making it prohibitively more expensive to create a new job by increasing the tax on employers simply to employ people."
The Legislature has on occasion stepped in to prevent a significant increase from hitting employers.
But it's unclear if it will freeze any increase this year.
"We would love to freeze rather than allowing it to go up during a recovery because so many businesses are in trouble,” said Sen. Patricia Jehlen, co-chair of the Labor and Workforce Development Committee. “Like everything else, we're just totally dependent on the federal government.”
With the highest unemployment in the nation, the state paid more than $4 billion in jobless benefits between January and July, compared to $812 million over the same period in 2019.
At the end of July, the unemployment account was $748 million in the red. The Baker administration projects the shortfall will grow to nearly $2.5 billion by the end of 2020.
Each of the next four years will also run negative, officials estimate, pushing the five-year total to a roughly $20 billion net deficit.
To help prevent the fund from becoming insolvent, the average cost per employee is estimated to increase from $539 in 2020 at rate schedule E to $858 in 2021 at rate schedule G. Officials expect to remain at the highest rate schedule through 2024, topping out at an average cost per employee of $925 in the final year of projections.
The higher assessments are scheduled to kick in at the same time that workers gain access to paid family and medical leave under a 2018 law. Payroll taxes of 0.75 percent to fund those forthcoming benefits started Oct. 1.
Also worth reading
Shirley Leung and Larry Edelman published an equally sobering piece in the Sunday Globe that explored how the wealth gap continues to expand, but also warning that, without another government intervention, our consumer-driven economy "could fall into a downward spiral when low-income households stop spending and high-income households continue to save at high rates because the pandemic is keeping them home.”
Paul Krugman also takes a look at what he calls our Gross Domestic Misery.
The consumer spending slow down is on Santa Claus’ mind too, as retailers prepare for the holidays. (New York Times) And the Hill explores the major stumbling blocks keeping DC Democrats and Republicans from a resolution.
N-Squared company moves manufacturing back to U.S.
I’m a big fan of the Needham-based company Building36, a technology company that has been engineering some neat smart home solutions for HVAC, plumbing and electrical contractors.
The company’s name comes from the computer science building on the MIT campus where its co-founders met. But their headquarters is right behind Big Belly Solar and right across the street from SharkNinja, creating a mini-cluster of internet of things innovators (and chamber members!) on A Street in the N-Squared District.
This summer, Building36's home water protection solution won a major smart home product of the year award from the Security Industry Association. The company also recently moved productions of its intelligent thermostats back to the US from China. The products are now manufactured in Minnesota.
A Needham treasure closing
In 1983, Joe Quinnan returned to his home town of Needham with a degree in horticulture from Cal Poly and opened Hillcrest Gardens. The small family run nursery has been one the nicest reasons to visit Needham Center ever since.
But that will all end this month.
“As time moves on, the spirit is still willing, but the body becomes less compliant. It’s a good time to retire. Hillcrest Gardens will close permanently at the end of September,” Quinnan writes on website.
“Thank you to our friends and customers for the tremendous love and support you have given to all of us at the nursery. I am truly blessed to have spent my life doing the work I love in the town I love. This is an amazing community filled with the very best people. “
Rental assistance in Watertown.
The Watertown Housing Partnership has set up an Emergency Rental Assistance Program for Watertown renters who have lost income and are having trouble paying rent as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Watertown News has details.
Attn: Restaurant owners and restaurant lovers
If you’re a local independent restaurateur, don’t forget to sign up to be listed as member of Newton-Needham Dining Collaborative, a chamber-organized committee of local owners and managers that are working together to create an-ongoing, sustainable way to promote all of our restaurants, connect with other merchants and keep our local economy strong.
Go here to add your restaurant’s name and join the collaborative (it’s free!). We'll follow up with a few quick, simple and free ways you can encourage dining locally.
Don't have a restaurant but want to help? If you’re super active in social media circles and want to lend a hand helping our restaurants, contact us to see how you can help make our #SaveNewtonRestaurants and #SaveNeedhamRestaurants campaigns viral.
A look back at a summer we’ll never forget
Finally, before you launch into your work week, take a moment to check out the winners of a photo contest sponsored by Historic Newton, Newton Community Pride, Newton Cultural Development, the Newton Art Association and Newton Camera Club. It features 21 images capturing everyday life during the pandemic.

We’ll back tomorrow!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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