Chamber News

May 27, 2020 Likes Comments

Something else to worry about

As if our economy wasn’t in enough turmoil already, here’s something else we should all be worried about.

Sometime in June the U.S. Supreme Court will rule on efforts to end DACA, the immigration program that offers work permits and deportation relief to immigrant “Dreamers” who came to the United States illegally as children.

The court’s decision could greatly impact our employees, business associates and customers. (And, of course, our families, friends and neighborhoods.)

There are an estimated 5,600 Dreamers in Massachusetts and 649,000 nationwide. They’re integral to every segment of our economy, including an estimated 29,000 health-care practitioners who right now are fighting on the front lines of coronavirus pandemic.

If the court ends the program, Dreamers, whose average age is 26, could face deportation, creating more havoc (and heartbreak) in many workplaces.

Last fall, more than 140 companies and 18 major business associations, warned the Court in a brief that ending DACA would “inflict serious harm” on their businesses, workers and the U.S. economy.
 
MIRA, the Massachusetts Immigrant & Refugee Coalition explores steps the private sector and advocates can take in this policy brief.
 
Confused by Baker’s ‘four phases’?
 
Are you having a hard time finding your business or nonprofit on the list showing which business can open when under Gov. Charlie Baker’s four phase reopening plan? Or, do you have a specific question about how the available guidance applies to your work place?

The state has set up a portal just for those kinds of questions: Submit your inquiry here. Officials promise that every comment will be reviewed and compiled, but only questions will receive a response.

Deadline today for Newton’s bricks and mortar grants

Today’s the deadline to apply for the City of Newton program offering help covering commercial rent or mortgage, wages, loss of inventory and other demonstrated costs. Grant awards will range from $10,000 for microenterprises (five employees or fewer, including the owner) and $15,000 for businesses with six to 20 employees. Nonprofits and marijuana establishments are ineligible per federal regulations. Franchisees of national or regional chain businesses are also not eligible. Details here.

Organizing the hospitality industry

As our restaurant operators continue to anxiously await reopening guidelines and timelines (and diners express their own skittishness about how reopening plays out), a long-needed new statewide group of independent restaurant operators has been established.

Yesterday about one dozen chamber member restaurateurs participated in a zoom meeting with Jody Adams, Tony Maws and Bessie King to learn about the Mass Restaurants United coalition, a group of 500 independent restaurant professionals created to advocate for the hospitality industry and to plan solutions to survive, repair and rebuild now and beyond.

We talked about everything from delivery fees, rent relief and business disruption insurance to the need to educate consumers about how challenging and tenuous this industry is even in good times.

As part of that process, they’re asking restaurant owners and operators to complete this survey.
 
The chamber’s own restaurant owner group meets via Zoom on Tuesdays at 10 a.m. If you’re an owner or operator and would like to join our group email Tiffany Chen.
 
Related: the Mass Restaurant Association is organizing three free webinars this week:
  • “Let’s Open! (Opening our Restaurants Safely in the COVID-19 Era)” Today, May 27, 2 p.m. Go here.
  • “Common Sense Suggestions for a Restaurant’s Response to COVID-19 and Planning the Logistics of Reopening” Thursday, May 28, 11 a.m. Go here.
  • “Employee Relations, How to Effectively Return Your Workforce During COVID-19” Thursday, May 28, 2 p.m. Go here.
PPP: The saga continues

The U.S. Treasury’s latest PPP guidelines, released Friday, have government-speak titles: “Interim Final Rule on Loan Forgiveness” and “Interim Final Rule on SBA Loan Review Procedures and Related Borrower and Lender Responsibilities” and 45 combined pages of “guidance" but no index, or other useful ways to help small business owners navigate the legalize.

But what do they mean?

Forbes.com takes stab at translating it all here. The BBJ reports (paywall) that the new rules allow using PPP funds to pay bonuses, hazard pay or other extra compensation for employees, but not for owners.
 
And Elizabeth Adler, an attorney with the Beacon Law Group, provides some helpful navigation:

Loan forgiveness: Topics and page number references include
  • Loan Forgiveness Process (p. 7)
  • Payroll Costs Eligible for Loan Forgiveness (p. 8)
  • Nonpayroll Costs Eligible for Loan Forgiveness (p. 12)
  • Reductions to Loan Forgiveness Amount (p. 13)
  • Documentation Requirements (p. 22)
SBA Loan Review Procedures Topics and page number references include:
  • SBA Reviews of Individual PPP Loans (p. 7)
  • The Loan Forgiveness Process for Lenders (p. 10)
  • Lender Fees (p. 15)
Of course, the thing that’s driving business owners crazy is that they still don’t know if Congress will follow through on efforts to reform the rules or extend the spending period. Some businesses are already six weeks into their eight-week spending period. Geesh.

What’s Adler’s advice? “As of this writing, neither of these proposed changes has become law, and it is necessary to proceed on the basis of the eight-week spending period and 75% payroll cost requirement.”

Naturally, you may want to consult your own financial advisor, attorney or tarot card reader before doing anything.

Emergency pandemic unemployment compensation
 
Last week, the state announced that Massachusetts residents who are eligible for the federal CARES Act and qualify for having exhausted their regular unemployment compensation may receive Pandemic Emergency Unemployment Compensation (PEUC). This program provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to individuals who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits. Visit www.mass.gov/peuc for eligibility rules and to apply.
 
And finally, news about your chamber!

We’re now just $13,025 short of our goal to make sure the chamber ends this year in the black.

One third of our 2020 operating budget depends on revenue for events that have been cancelled or put on hold. Dues revenue has declined too, as some members seek to regain their financial footing.
Just last week, we were facing a $75,000 projected deficit.
 
But thanks to the remarkable generosity of 74 businesses, large and small, and individual donors, the finish line is in view.

In particular we’re thrilled to announce a $10,000 donation from Karyopham, the Wells Ave. based pharmaceutical company that happens to be in the middle of clinical trials to treat hospitalized COVID-19 patients.
 
It matches our largest gift of the campaign. (Northland Investment Corp also gave $10,000).

We’re committed to standing with the businesses and nonprofits that make our communities special. Please stand with us by donating to underwrite our advocacy and programming.


Thanks very much!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
 
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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