Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 22, 2021 Likes Comments

Two things Charlie Baker just did for businesses

When history looks back at how many businesses were lost and how many found a way to survive this pandemic, one significant part of the story will be how many businesses were saved at the eleventh hour by a state grant or the PPP.

Yesterday, the Baker administration doled out $37.4 million in desperately-needed grants to 638 additional small businesses through its program administered by Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation.
 
The new awardees included nearly 200 restaurants. Almost half of all grant recipients in the latest round are businesses owned by women. To date, the state has awarded more than $232 million in direct financial support to 4,757 small businesses.
 
As one restaurant owner said to me after hearing she's getting a $75,000 grant: "I'll be able to sleep at night again knowing I can to get through the next few months."

There's more to come. Secretary of Housing and Economic Development, Mike Kennealy said yesterday that MGCC is continuing to review the sector specific applications that were submitted up through Monday’s deadline.
 
Governor lifts curfew

Business owners can go back to choosing their own closing times starting Monday.
 
Citing improvements to COVID-19 metrics since the start of 2021 (which somewhat mirror national trends), Baker lifted the 9:30 p.m. curfew for most businesses, starting this coming Monday (Jan. 25).
 
The lifted restrictions include restaurants, health clubs, arcades, indoor and outdoor events, movie theaters, liquor stores and cannabis shops. ( Full list here.)
 
"The big hope right now is that [this] creates more comfort for people to come in and see that we're stepping in the right direction and know that things are getting better and hopefully feel safe to come through the front door right now," O'Hara's Food & Spirits' Patrick O'Hara  told Newton Patch.
 
The state's stay-at-home advisory will also be lifted effective Monday.
 
However, the 25 percent capacity limit on most businesses has been extended until at least Monday Feb. 8.

"Three weeks into 2021, our public health data is trending in a better direction for some categories like hospitalizations and the percent of positive COVID cases for the first time in a long time," Baker said. "...we believe it's OK and it's time to start a gradual easing of some of the restrictions we put in place in the fall."
 
Is it time for a mask upgrade?
 
Faced with new, more contagious, strains of COVID-19 and a winter surge in cases, some European countries are tightening mask regulations, The Washington Post reports.

It is now mandatory to wear either N95s, the Chinese or European equivalent KN95 or FFP2s, or a surgical mask while using public transportation or grocery shopping in Germany.

France is discouraging wearing inefficient cloth and homemade masks, saying they may not offer sufficient protection, while also warning that wearing more sophisticated models incorrectly may actually increase risk.

“Since we don’t have any new weapons against them, the only thing we can do is improve the ones we already have,” said one French authority.

Two challengers seek seats in Needham

The typically sleepy Select Board election in Needham has turned interesting.
 
Two young, diverse, challengers are stepping forward to challenge a pair of incumbents who’ve been in their roles for a combined three decades.
 
Marcus Nelson, a director of membership sales and service at YMCA Greater Boston and Lakshmi Balachandra, associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College, have both filed the required nomination papers to run for Needham’s select board, Wicked Local Needham reports.
 
They will compete on April 13 against longtime board members Moe Handel and John Bulian. The two highest vote getters among the four candidates will win seats on a board where turnover is rare.

Today’s need to knows
  • If you or someone you know is struggling with addiction, you are not alone. Find a list of resources available in our area here.
Judge orders SBA to reimburse news outlets
 
A federal judge is ordering the SBA to pay a group of news outlets $122,000 in legal fees to cover costs of getting the federal agency to release information about the first round of the PPP to the public.
 
The information, which was eventually released late last year, showed wide disparities in how the federal dollars were administered, the BBJ reports.
 
The analysis showed that businesses and nonprofits in white neighborhoods got money faster than Black and Hispanic neighborhoods, despite language in the legislation that created the program that mandated priority access for underserved borrowers.
 
Vaccine eligibility list expanded

Additional categories of health care workers, including those who work with patients in their homes, are now eligible to receive COVID-19 vaccines, reports Katie Lannan at State House News.
 
Health care workers involved in pandemic response, first responders, the staff and residents of long-term care facilities and congregate care sites like shelters, prisons and group homes were already eligible to receive the shots.
 
And now, personal care attendants, home health and hospice workers, nurses and others who perform home visits, dentists, medical and nursing students, physical therapists, hospital interpreters, behavioral health clinicians, blood donation workers, podiatrists, substance use disorder treatment program staff, asthma and allergy specialists, school nurses and acupuncturists, among others, are eligible too. The full is list here.
Phase Two of the three vaccine-distribution phases is expected to start next month. It includes individuals with multiple conditions that put them at high risk of COVID-19 complications, people age 65 and older, workers in sectors including early and K-12 education, transit, grocery, utilities, public health and the court system, among others.
 
Baker said he expects the Biden administration to have a "much better appreciation about what the [vaccine] pipeline looks like" over the next 10 days to two weeks. Over that same time period, Baker said, people should expect to see "a lot more site infrastructure in Massachusetts."
 
The Globe has updated charts showing: How many vaccine doses has Massachusetts received, and who has been vaccinated?

A thank you. And a good bye.

Finally today, thanks and congratulations to Transportation Secretary Stephanie Pollack, a Newton resident, who has just been selected by the Biden administration to become deputy administrator at the Federal Highway Administration. CommonWealth story here .

I’m not always a fan of the governor’s transportation policies. But I was a fan of Pollack’s refreshing, fast-talking, no-B.S., approach to explaining policies and challenges, and for taking on one of the hardest, thankless roles in state government.

I’m also sad to report the passing of a Newton resident I admired but never had the privilege of meeting: Barbara J. Erickson, was the President and CEO of the Trustees of Reservations, the oldest land trust in the country.

Visiting a different Trustee location every weekend has kept me sane during the pandemic. I’m in awe of the work, and the way Erickson, who was only 48, grew the nonprofit during her tenure. Boston Globe story here.

Enjoy some doom-free scrolling this weekend. And then go order some takeout. (Consult our list for more than 200 great ideas because, for some reason, the Globe's Project Takeout map still only lists a smattering of suburban take out options.)
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.
Dine out. Take out. Shop locally. Mask up. And tip generously.

 

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