Chamber News

July 24, 2020 Likes Comments

Must we step back to move forward?

Watertown’s State Senator William Brownsberger wonders if we have our priorities wrong.

He’s been looking at infection rates -- and our plans to reopen schools and colleges -- and thinks "we may need to hit the brakes on our phased reopening of the economy in Massachusetts.”
He thinks that might even mean telling some Phase III or Phase II businesses that were recently allowed to reopen that they need to close again.
“As we manage the reopening of the economy, we need to think more clearly about the trade-offs we are making and the consequences we are willing to accept," Brownsberger writes in an oped published at Watertown News.
“Moving back from Phase III to Phase II would mean closing casinos, fitness centers, health clubs, movie theaters, and museums [in order to safely reopen our schools]” the Belmont Democrat (whose district also includes parts of Allston, Brighton, Fenway-Kenmore, and Back Bay)continues.
“It would also mean delaying the arrival of college and university students on campus. Alternatively, maybe we should revisit elements of Phase II that may be contributing more to infection than some elements of Phase III.”
The senator does not say which businesses or nonprofits he would close for a second time.
“We need to make choices about what businesses and institutions should stay open in a way that reflects community priorities and acknowledges that there are trade-offs — we can only reopen so much of the economy without risking catastrophic resurgence of the disease.”
Life sciences boom in COVID era
Greater Boston’s life sciences industry is enjoying a boom. With more than 100 local companies working on treatments and vaccines for the coronavirus, what was already the strongest sector of the local real estate market, getting stronger.
While that is a positive for our local economy, BizNow reports that robust market poses challenges for life sciences development and design.
DOR rule aims to keep taxes from out-of-state telecommuters
(As a new feature in this newsletter, we will be occasionally featuring content from the State House News Service (paywall). This story is from Colin A. Young.)
A Rhode Island resident who commutes to work at a Massachusetts company sees their income from that job taxed by the Bay State. But what if that employee is no longer commuting and is working for a Massachusetts company without ever leaving their home in Rhode Island?
In an emergency regulation put on file Tuesday, the Mass. Department of Revenue made it clear: Massachusetts still gets its cut of that income.
"All compensation received for services performed by a non-resident who, immediately prior to the Massachusetts COVID-19 state of emergency was an employee engaged in performing such services in Massachusetts, and who is performing services from a location outside Massachusetts due to a Pandemic-Related Circumstance will continue to be treated as Massachusetts source income subject to personal income tax," the regulation says.
As telecommuting was widely adopted as a safer alternative to the real thing during the pandemic, work has been separated from the workplace for many people. But with Massachusetts and other states adopting similar "sourcing rules," there won't be a corresponding separation of income taxes. DOR's emergency regulation explains that any Massachusetts resident who was working in another state immediately before the COVID-19 state of emergency and is now working from their Massachusetts home "will be eligible for a credit for income taxes paid to the state where the employee was previously providing services."
The rule took effect Tuesday and will remain in place until Dec. 31 or 90 days after the governor lifts the COVID-19 state of emergency, whichever is earliest. DOR plans a virtual public hearing on the regulation on Aug. 27.
Don’t forget about FFCRA!
This item comes from Atty Liz Adler of Beacon Law Group:
With all of the recent focus on the CARES Act (including PPP loans), don’t forget that earlier COVID-related legislation – the Families First Corona Virus Response Act (“FFCRA”) -- remains in effect.
The FFCRA provides for Emergency Paid Sick Leave and Emergency Paid Expanded Family and Medical Leave for employers of fewer than 500 employees (with some exceptions) through the end of this year. To be clear, this legislation is separate from the CARES Act.
  • General information on FFCRA can be found here.
  • Very helpful Q&A from the U.S. Department of Labor can be found here.
  • Benefits are paid out by the employer but reimbursed through refundable tax credits (and in some cases you can use certain available withheld federal funds, and/or seek an advance). Information can be found here.
Two events of note
  • We’ve all heard the stories of sales clerks and managers being placed in the uncomfortable position of having to confront a customer without a face covering or ignoring social distance protocols. Next Weds (July 29) at 2:30 Ellen Waldorf of eWaldorf Mediation is offering a Zoom conflict resolution workshop designed to provide tools to help de-escalate difficult customer interactions. Scroll down to register.
  • The Mass Restaurant Association has assembled a panel of to discuss business interruption insurance on Thursday. July 30, 2 p.m. Even though you may have been denied or discouraged from filing a claim, the panel will explain how there may in fact be coverage. Details here.
Last call to address transportation
2020 began with optimism that Beacon Hill was finally ready to address our region’s worst in the nation's traffic and inadequate public transit system. “Then came coronavirus, economic calamity, and an important, national conversation about race and police brutality,” writes Chris Dempsey, director of Transportation for Mass.
With the legislative season about to come to an end, Dempsey's CommonWealth oped offers five solid recommendations for lawmakers to consider, raising Uber/Lyft fees and empowering local voters though regional ballot initiatives, which I wrote about last week in a letter to the editor in the Globe.
Pioneer proposes extending sales tax holiday
Massachusetts should consider extending the state’s annual sales tax holiday to give retailers struggling during the pandemic a much-need cash boost, the Pioneer Institute said in a new report about how to help the retail and hospitality industries, The BBJ reports.
The group acknowledged that a longer-tax holiday could lead to a significant loss in tax revenue at a time when the state is already facing a projected shortfall of billions of dollars.
This year’s sales tax holiday is scheduled for Aug. 29-30.
Pioneer also recommended that customer review websites like Tripadvisor should consider featuring COVID-19 safety rankings, which, it turns out, is something Tripadvisor is already doing.
Take good care this weekend. Go Sox!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
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