Chamber News

June 16, 2020 Likes Comments

Next reopening decision could come this week

It was her most important speech since she was elected mayor in 2017.

I thought it was her best too.
In an address to the city last night, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller acknowledged the toll of COVID-19: 118 deaths, a recession, job losses, struggling families and struggling businesses.
And, without mincing words, she also acknowledged a “that systemic racism and unconscious bias surrounds us in Newton.
"Even during this coronavirus crisis and economic collapse, anti-racist work can’t wait because prejudice has not paused.”
Among other steps, Fuller called for a “holistic reassessment of the role of policing in Newton,” and the formation of an independent Newton Police Reform Task Force. Responding to requests from the City Council and others she will transfer $200,000 from the police budget to the task force to hire a facilitator or a consultant.
She promised to reexamine recruiting, hiring and training practices and diversity, equity and inclusion in all city departments and schools. She spoke of the need to “address behaviors across the City of Newton so we eliminate inequities and injustices.”
Fuller also called to make Newton more accessible and welcoming through housing, zoning and land regulations; urging young activists “to learn more about this initiative... Like the budget, zoning in Newton is a reflection of our values."
Next reopening decision could come this week
Gov. Charlie Baker said yesterday that he will “probably have an announcement” about the start of Phase 2, Part 2, of his reopening plan by “the end of the week.”
Phase 2, Part 2 includes limited-capacity indoor dining, as well as personal care services such as massage therapy, nail salons and tattoo parlors. Gyms can’t re-open until Phase 3 but personal training would be allowed in the second part of Phase 2.
The start of each phase is dependent on health data, which has been trending favorably in the Commonwealth.
The big unknown is the possibility of a COVID-19 resurgence following hundreds of well-attended Black Lives Matter protests statewide since the murder of George Floyd. Boston sponsored two days of pop-up COVID testing and Mayor Marty Walsh urged all protesters to get tested. Between 1,200 and 1,500 people were tested but those the results have not yet come back, reports Commonwealth Magazine.
Yesterday, Baker announced the opening of 52 pop up free COVID-19 testing sites tomorrow and Thursday (June 17 and 18) also directed at anyone who has participated in any large gatherings, including the protests.
None of the pop up sites are in Newton, Needham, Watertown or Wellesley. There is one location in Waltham.
This is big: SBA reopens program
This could be important to many businesses, nonprofits and independent contractors: The Small Business Administration announced last night that it is reopening its Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) grant and loan program.
EIDL offers long-term, low interest loans that can be used to cover payroll and inventory, pay debt or fund other expenses. Additionally, the EIDL Advance will provide up to $10,000 ($1,000 per employee) of emergency economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary difficulties, and these emergency grants do not have to be repaid.
These loans may be used to pay debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills that can’t be paid because of the disaster’s impact and that are not already covered by a Paycheck Protection Program loan. The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The rate for nonprofits is 2.75 percent. Payment terms can be up to a maximum of 30 years. First payment is deferred for one year.
In addition, small businesses and nonprofits may request, an EIDL Advance of up to $10,000. This advance will not have to be repaid. Small businesses may receive an advance even if they are not approved for a loan. Independent contractors, freelancers, and gig workers are also eligible to receive a $1,000 grant that does not have to be repaid.
The chamber is hosting an SBA webinar on Thursday that will primarily focus on Paycheck Protection Plan’s forgiveness features and the just approved changes to the PPP . I would expect that presenter lli Spahiu, Assistant District Director for Lender Relations Massachusetts District SBA office will also be able to discuss EIDL.
Indy restaurants ask Baker for more help
Massachusetts Restaurants United, a coalition of over 700 independent restaurateurs sent a letter to Gov. Baker and other state leaders yesterday, requesting urgent support for the hospitality industry in five areas:
  1. Create a rent relief tax credit for landlords of small, local businesses.
  2. Suspend state payroll and meal taxes for independently-owned restaurants
  3. Extend the moratorium on evictions through December 31, 2020:
  4. Reform business interruption insurance
  5. Add restaurant owners of color to advisory groups.
“We know that without additional assistance many local restaurants will be forced to close for good,” the group wrote. “At a moment when the country and our state are rightly and at long last confronting a dark legacy of racial injustice, we know that the disparate impact of the pandemic has put Black-owned and immigrant-owned restaurants at the greatest risk of permanent closure.”

Employee & employer rights & responsibilities

Complying with the Massachusetts Reopening Safety Standards and wage-and-hour laws can be a challenge for employers. This Thursday at 11 a.m. Amanda I. Morejon and Lisa Price, assistant attorney generals from the AG's Fair Labor Division will participate in a webinar for employers regarding the role of the Attorney General Office in addressing employee rights and employer responsibilities. Presented by Associated Industries of Massachusetts. Register here.
At last! Needham St./Highland Ave ground breaking
Calls to redesign the Needham Street Highland Ave corridor stretch back decades. But next Wednesday, Mass DOT will formally – and finally – break ground on the Needham –Newton Corridor Improvement Project.
The $30 million project would stretch roughly two miles, from Webster Street in Needham to Route 9 in Newton. It would widen sidewalks, improve intersections, add bikes lanes and crossing signals and rehabilitate the bridge over the Charles River. The entire project expected to take five years to complete.
Be back tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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