Chamber News

April 10, 2020 Likes Comments

Don't lynch the landlords (and other updates)

Some property owners have been called to task lately for being inflexible with retail, restaurant and office tenants looking for rent relief.

Certainly, some owners can afford to write-off a few months’ rent to keep a business or nonprofit tenant afloat. And there are good reasons why owners should want to work with their tenants: It’s in their best interest to have their buildings leased and ready to reopen for our eventual recovery.
 
But property owners are businesses too. This is their livelihood. They have bills to pay, their own employees, maintenance costs, taxes, insurance, families to provide for, and so on. It's wrong for any of us to prejudge others' circumstances, especially these days.
 
Even for owners who can afford and want to give tenants a break, doing so is often easier said than done.
 
For example, some may hold mortgages which require permissions from their lenders before altering the terms of a lease. Getting lenders to alter or extend a lease might take weeks, perhaps months in our current environment, to get approval.
 
And that’s just one potential example of one potential complication that news articles (and this week’s Newton TAB editorial) overlook.
 
I’m not saying commercial tenants and landlords shouldn’t be having these important conversations right now. They should. And certainly, some of these conversations and considerations could be handled with more humanity.
 
I’m also not saying owners shouldn’t be willing to make short term concessions, when feasible. They should. (Although certainly this situation calls for more government resources too.)
 
I’m just suggesting that the circumstances are often more complicated than might appear.
 
Yesterday’s much-anticipated unemployment reveal
 
As the ranks of unemployed soars, the Massachusetts Department of Unemployment Assistance (UA) announced anxiously-awaited guidelines for CARES Act unemployment programs.
 
Most noteworthy, for the first time CARES provides unemployment benefits for self-employed, independent contractors and gig economy workers who aren’t usually eligible to claim unemployment.
 
The bad news? The state has just hired a developer to build a new online platform to process these claims. It won't be ready until on or around April 30.
 
The good news? Claims will be paid retroactively going back to Feb. 2, or the first week you were unable to work as a result of COVID-19, whichever is later. This benefit is payable though Christmas.
 
For more traditional claims, UA is operating now. Eligibility has been expanded and all claimants will receive an additional $600 per week, retroactive to March 29 and continuing until July 31. Disbursements begin immediately. The law also provides up to 13 weeks of unemployment insurance benefits to anyone who have exhausted their previous unemployment benefits.
 
And now an unemployment tip
 
For those applying for UA (or who have former employees filing) Rep. Denise Garlick called yesterday to pass along this tip:
 
After you’ve filed electronically, a UA employee will be calling you to verify your claim. But since UA staff are working remotely, the call may be identified as “blocked sender,” “Google call” etc. Answer that call. In some cases, UA has had to call people three to four times before making contact, which slows down the process.
 
Meanwhile, to attend one of those UA Virtual Town Halls, go here.
 
Grants and resources for artists
 
The Mass Cultural Council has launched a COVID-19 Relief Fund to support individuals whose creative practices and incomes are adversely impacted by the COVID-19 crisis. Grants of $1,000 will be available to Massachusetts individual artists and independent teaching artists/humanists/scientists who have lost income derived from their work as a direct result of COVID-19 related cancellations and closures.
 
The application deadline is April 22. Grants will be awarded by geographic region proportional to that region’s application demand. The individual grantees in each region will be randomly selected. Grants will be unrestricted. Details here.
 
Find other resources for artists and arts groups on the Newton Cultural Alliance website.
 
Who were those masks-delivering men?
 
Needham fire trucks pulled into Roche Bros. and Sudbury Farms yesterday, not to put out a fire but to deliver a batch of home made masks to store employees. The masks were made by a group of Needham residents. The town is still accepting PPE donations at Rosemary Recreation Complex. Watch the video here
 
Stay in touch. Just don’t touch.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
 
P.S. Need a gift for that person in your life who needs to know everything? Sign them up for our chamber emails here.
 
P.S.S. Can’t repeat these often enough: If you have questions about SBA loans or a loan application, contact SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov . You may also direct inquiries and questions to the SBA District Office email at: MassachusettsDO@sba.gov If you need help finding a banker here’s a list of the chamber’s member banks.

 

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