Chamber News

July 20, 2020 Likes Comments

Something governments don't usually do: Offer to lower fees

From the start of this pandemic, Needham’s officials have been proactively looking for ways to help restaurants.

Back in May, weeks before the state allowed restaurants to offer outdoor dining, the town set up tents and picnic tables at two parks and one other public location where folks could enjoy takeout meals, beer and wine.
The program -- the first in the state, to the best of my knowledge -- has grown to more sites and continues to a big hit for residents and provides a nice boost for local restaurateurs.
(And it had municipal officials in other communities wondering how Needham decided it was kosher to allow the consumption of to-go beer and wine at public parks.)
Then, by the time restaurants were finally allowed to set up their own outdoor spaces on June 8, town officials had already scouted locations for outdoor setups and were poised to speed up the permit process.
Just a few weeks after that, at the select board’s last meeting, they even discussed whether or not the town could reimburse restaurants for the tables and chairs they bought to move outside.
And now, tomorrow night, the select board will consider doing something you almost never hear governments volunteering to do: Lower fees.
Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick is recommending that the board slash the liquor license fees for restaurants for calendar year 2021 in “recognition of the significant disruption in the food service industry,” Tuesday's agenda item reads.
You can see the full breakdown on page 50 here but essentially the fees would be cut in half, resulting in many thousands of dollars that the town is willing to forfeit to help out.
These license fees are small compared to the financial pressures (and stress) facing our restaurants. But it's always encouraging when business owners know your municipal leadership has your back.
Wondering what you can do to help our local restaurants? Here's the list I put together a few weeks back.
Blanket forgiveness for the PPP?
Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin suggested Friday that the SBA should consider forgiving all taxpayer-backed small loans under the Paycheck Protection Program without going through of the process of asking businesses to verify how they spent the funds, the Washington Post reports.
Mnuchin seemed to suggest the approval process should be waived for loans below a certain threshold but didn’t say how much that would be. PPP loans for $50,000 and less make up nearly 70 percent of all loans under the program.
While the current program is still accepting new applications, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer is pushing for a second PPP round of funding for some small businesses that received round one funds.
All that said, if you’ve received a PPP loan or are still thinking of applying, join ALL CPAs Director Andrew Dieffenbach, for a quick PPP update and Q&A session, tomorrow (Tuesday) via Zoom at 11 a.m.
Initiatives of note
  • Wells Fargo is donating approximately $400 million in Paycheck Protection Program processing fees through a new program to support small businesses. Through a new Open for Business Fund, Wells Fargo will provide support for nonprofit organizations who serve small businesses, particularly businesses owned by underrepresented individuals — a group disproportionately affected by the pandemic — to provide needed capital, offer technical support, and develop long-term resiliency programs. Details.
  • The Mass Office of Business Development will hold a webinar July 30 at 10 a.m. to discuss the Massachusetts Vacant Storefronts Program (MVSP). This program can be used to help municipalities in their efforts to revitalize their downtowns and commercial areas. Municipalities must be the program’s applicant. Details.
  • MA Small Business Development Center offers free and confidential one-to-one business advice to prospective and existing small businesses focusing on, business growth and strategies, financing and loan assistance as well as strategic, marketing and operational analysis. In addition, low-cost educational training programs are offered across the state targeted to the needs of small business.
This is better
Here’s a nice twist. Instead of reporting about yet another local restaurant closing, City Works Eatery & Pour House -- originally scheduled to open March 13 at at 91 Arsenal Yards Blvd. in Watertown – will hold its grand opening this Wednesday. (Via Watertown News.)
‘The Wild West of behavior’
Finally, if you missed it over the weekend, make time to read this column by Mary Ann D’Urso, a troubling first-hand telling of what it was like to be a front-line retail worker at the beginning of the pandemic and what’s it’s like now.
“Several weeks ago, we grocery workers were lauded as heroes, essential front-line workers, people deserving hazard pay for our work in the COVID-19 coliseum,” D’Urso writes. “But the winds are shifting. We are being stripped of our knighthood, our valor.”
Be back tomorrow.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
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