Chamber News

Needham / Newton
December 17, 2020 Likes Comments

Read now. Shovel later.

Will they? Or won't they?

Last night Politico reported that Congress appears to finally be closing in on another round of coronavirus relief while the Hill said negotiations over a $900 billion coronavirus relief bill are running into eleventh-hour snags, threatening to push into a rare weekend session.
The emergency aid package – which, among other things, literally could determine whether or not your favorite small business survives this winter – includes PPP funding and, perhaps, direct checks to individuals of $600 to $700, a weekly unemployment boost of $300, rent relief and lots more.
The two most contentious items — funding for state and local governments and a liability shield for businesses — are reportedly not included.
And exactly why are critical decisions that can leave people homeless, destroy lives and livelihoods left to the last minutes?
“The reason this takes so long is because we procrastinate,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.).
Feel better now?
Testing sites overwhelmed
CIC-Health’s drive through COVID testing site at the Riverside MBTA station has been overwhelmed with demand.
As of last night, the earliest available appointment is on Jan. 5, which of course, is of little use to anyone except perhaps people who are planning on getting COVID on or around Jan 3.
When the $85 by-appointment-only site opened Dec. 7 it was administering 130 tests daily. Capacity has since expanded to 240 daily PCR tests with results within 24-36 hours. CIC says it expects to increase to 480 daily tests at Riverside but it's not clear when.
Meanwhile, Project Beacon’s recently opened, state-funded, free test site in Framingham is conducting 1,000 PCR tests daily. But as of last night they had zero available appointments. (Other sites in the state’s free program are here.)
An interactive map showing COVID test locations statewide is here.
All masks are not created equal
There are more than 100,000 varieties of face masks currently for sale. They come in all sorts of fabrics, fits and designs.
But while experts say any face covering is better than none, there’s big differences in how well they block infectious particles.
And yet, there's no buying guidance for consumers.
That may change next month. The CDC is is working to develop minimum filter efficiency standards and labels showing which products are most effective, the New York Times reports .
Today’s three need to knows
  • The minimum wage in Massachusetts will increase to $13.50 per hour starting Jan. 1. The minimum base wage for tipped employees will increase to $5.55 per hour. The rate of premium pay (applicable to many retail employees) for working on Sundays, Memorial Day, Juneteenth, Independence Day, and Labor Day, will be reduced to 1.2 times an employee’s regular rate of pay. Premium pay for working on New Year’s Day, Columbus Day, and Veterans Day, however, remains at 1.5 times the employee’s regular rate.
  • Southern Smoke offers a grant program for restaurant workers in need. Applications need to be submitted with a statement of need.
  • A reminder that if you have an employee who tests positive for COVID-19, you are required to report this to and cooperate with your local board of health. It is also important that employees participate in the COVID-19 Community Tracing program. The Department of Public Health has created information and guidance for persons in quarantine or isolation.
Nonprofit theater and café planned
A newly formed nonprofit is planning on renovating the basement of a former Newton Highlands bank into a black box theater and "pay-what-you-can" community café, with proceeds to help address food disparity in the city.
The café is set to open its doors next September at 1175 Walnut St. in Newton Highlands in the basement unit below Orchard Cleaners.
Because part of the space used to be an old bank vault, it will be called, aptly, The Vault, Jenna Fisher at Newton Patch reports.
NewCommunity Inc. is spearheaded by Newton pastor Rev. Devlin Scott, who was recently named to the chamber’s 50 Most Influential Business People of Color list.
But before opening their facility in the fall of 2021, NewCommunity Inc. is launching “FOR Newton,” a campaign designed to promote positive engagement during divisive times.
"This is not necessarily about 'civic' engagement, but about 'civil' engagement," Scott told Patch. "It doesn't take a lot of energy or investment to point out what you're against. Division, polarization and partisanship are the rule of the day. We want to unite around what we're for and who we're FOR. We are all FOR Newton."
PPPs & Qs
The SBA began approving PPP forgiveness applications and remitting forgiveness payments to PPP lenders for PPP borrowers in October.
Go here to view the simpler loan forgiveness application. Go here to view the instructions for completing the simpler loan forgiveness application. Go here to view the Interim Final Rule on the simpler forgiveness process for loans of $50,000 or less.
And watch the video here for a webinar about the PPP Forgiveness process from the Taunton Area Chamber and MA Small Business Development Center Southeast Regional Office.
Good news, bad news, bad news & good news
A new French bakery and pastry shop has opened in Newton Highlands at the corner or Lincoln and Walnut Streets. Lakon Paris Patisserie is located across the street from Indulge! candy shop and a few doors down from the new café Cacao, which features chocolate confections and roasted nuts, among other goodies, making Newton Highlands “ the city’s dessert epicenter,” writes Julie Cohen at the Newton Tab.
The news isn’t as good in Needham Center. The town’s beloved Jimmy's Tailoring & Alteration on Great Plain Ave. closed earlier this year. Chamber favorite, The Closet Exchange consolidated three store fronts it had on one side of Great Plain onto the other side. Interior design shop Mostly Gray has a for lease sign in its window. And Lisa’s Botique, a fine end woman’s shop on Highland Ave., closed in October.
Also gone is the iconic Framingham Sheraton Hotel. That castle-like building visible from the Mass Pike went on the auction block Tuesday and sold for $15 million -- less than half of the assessed tax value, reports the MetroWest Daily News.
And here’s seven words I never expected to be writing in 2020: "Watertown has a brand new record store!" Wanna Hear It Records at 7 Main Street specializes in punk, hardcore, indie, emo, metal and more. Spin the black circle Thursday through Sunday, or by appointment on other days. Gabba gabba hey.
Now get out there and shovel.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.


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