Chamber News

Needham / Newton
January 26, 2021 Likes Comments

Vaccine musical chairs

Every action has an equal and opposite reaction.

So when Gov. Charlie Baker announced yesterday that he was moving residents 65 or older up on the COVID vaccination priority list, it meant pushing back workers in grocery, restaurants, transit, sanitation, public works, public health workers and K-12 teachers who had been next in line.
Just how much of a delay that creates for those who thought they were next depends on how much vaccine is in the federal pipeline.

Starting Monday (Feb. 1), residents 75 and older are eligible to be vaccinated as the second phase opens; followed by those 65-plus; then those listed above and in the vocations listed here; and then individuals with one comorbidity.
Everyone else is in phase 3, scheduled to start in April, although that's subject to change.

Baker also promised to accelerate the state's distribution infrastructure in the coming weeks, adding dozens of new vaccine sites by mid-February, for a total of seven mass vaccination sites and 165 overall.

A new searchable map and online tool will make it possible for anyone needing a shot to schedule an appointment once eligible.
Massachusetts ranks in the bottom half of the 50 states when it comes to number of vaccine doses administered per capita according to federal data, and lags behind all other New England states, despite having what the state often touts as the best healthcare system in the world, notes Sarah Betancourt at CommonWealth.
Just over 360,000 of the state’s 5.8 million adults have been given at least a first-dose, leaving 5.44 million more.

About our ‘booming’ burbs

A page one story in the Globe on Sunday appropriately pointed out the devastating impact COVID-19 is having on downtown retailers who are suffering from the loss of downtown office workers.

In contrast, writes reporter Janelle Nanos, in the suburbs “commerce has not only carried on, it’s booming. Parking lots are full. Lines snake out of stores.”

If only.

Certainly many suburban locations, especially outdoor shopping centers, are faring better than urban locations.

But by most reports, parking isn’t much of a problem anywhere these days. And the reason you might see "lines snake out of stores" is likely only because they’re adhering to 25 percent capacity restrictions.
So, hypothetically, rather than "booming," sales might only be down 75 percent over prior year.

Yes the grass is modestly greener here. But brick and mortar shop owners in the burbs have furloughed workers, lost sales to the internet and are also terrified about losing their livelihoods and life-long investments to this back-breaking pandemic.

Spilka: Pike users shouldn’t be only toll payers
Senate President Karen Spilka repeated her call last weekend for “toll equity,” noting that residents and workers along the Mass Turnpike shouldn’t be the only ones paying tolls across the Commonwealth.
“If we're going to keep the tolls on the turnpike, then we need to be looking at tolls on other major roads and other areas,” Spilka said on WCVB’s “On the Record.”
“It is a matter of equity."
Earlier this month, Gov. Charlie Baker vetoed a provision inserted by Spilka that would have prevented increasing turnpike tolls to finance the massive Allston Multimodal Project.
"The toll payers should not pay for the remainder of the project of the Storrow Drive or the fixing the land so that the city or Harvard or anybody else can develop it," Spilka said. "That should be funded in a different way.”
Need to knows

  • Looking for a lender to help you apply for the PPP? Here’s a list of local chamber member banks that may be able to help. The SBA also has a searchable Lender Look Up tool listing all eligible lenders.
  • Anyone in need of health insurance will now have until March 23 to get coverage through the Massachusetts Health Connector's open enrollment period. Open enrollment was originally scheduled to end last week. The two-month extension aims to give people, particularly those harmed economically by the pandemic, extra time to secure coverage.


State taxes on the PPP: How is that helpful?
By many accounts, the two rounds of the Paycheck Protection Program has been the life saver many businesses needed to get them through this pandemic.

But without a change to that state’s tax code, as many as one out of a every three PPP recipients in Massachusetts, or about 40,000 business, may find themselves having to pay state taxes on the federal bail out, the Globe’s Jon Chesto reports.

Under the current state tax code, PPP funds would be treated as taxable income for so-called pass-through entities (small businesses whose income passes through to individual owners — and are taxed at their personal income rate instead of the corporate rate).

The PPP is not subject to federal taxes.

A bill filed by state Sen. Eric Lesser would change that. Or, Chesto notes, it could be added to another bill that matters a lot to employers: The proposal by Gov. Charlie Baker, to freeze a staggering 60 percent hike in the unemployment insurance rate.

Also in the Globe: Sean P. Murphy has a summary of federal tax implications of the PPP and other stimulus programs.

This might reduce your business taxes too

Employers should also pay attention to the revised Employer Retention Tax Credit provision included as part of the most recent federal stimulus bill.

Under the 2020 CARES act, employers with fewer than 500 employees couldn’t take the ERTC credit if they received a PPP.
But the law was changed under the bill signed last December, allowing employers with PPP loans to take advantage of the credit and increasing the amount of the credit. This could provide substantial relief for some.

The National Law Review has a summary here. Mass Restaurants Association issued this explainer yesterday.

Changing the conversation around diversity

"I felt liberated knowing I didn’t have to try to sound like a white executive."

That’s the headline in a Globe interview with Juan Fernando Lopera, VP and corporate business diversity officer at Tufts Health Plan in Watertown.
Lopera (who appears on our “50 Most Influential Business People of Color list and was a panelist at our accompanying event) talked with reporter Katie Johnston about how he leveraged his ethnicity as a business asset and how appealing to a diverse market makes good business sense…

“At Tufts, I went to Tom Croswell, who was chief operating officer at the time, and I said, look, our region is becoming increasingly diverse, yet the data shows that our customer base is not keeping up with that demographic shift. In 2015, Massachusetts was 28 percent ethnically diverse, and our customer base was about 15 percent diverse.
"Tom recognized the importance of diversity, and we worked together to build a case that put that gap into business terms: If we reflected the population, we could potentially enroll an additional 270,000 members and bring in $2.2 billion in revenue.”

Colette Phillips (our partner on our Business People of Color project) and I touch on a similar theme in an op-ed this week in Banker & Tradesman: titled “Time to Change the Conversation Around Diversity in the Suburbs.”

And please join us this afternoon at 1 p.m. when Phillips – one of our region’s absolute best super-networkers -- will lead a chamber zoominar: “ The Art of Schmoozing: How to build a diverse and inclusive professional network.” 
Be back tomorrow! Dine out. Take out. Shop locally.

President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.


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