Chamber News

May 19, 2020 Likes Comments

Welcome to Phase One

We’ve officially entered Phase One of Gov. Charlie Baker’s four-phase plan for re-opening the Massachusetts economy.

And I’m interested in hearing your thoughts.
 
How do you feel about the recommendations and how does it apply to your business or nonprofit and your ability to survive or succeed? Will you be opening your office or lab next week? Offering curb side retail sales? Scheduling a haircut? Or are you feeling that your business or nonprofit was overlooked or misunderstood?
 
Please take a few minutes today to email me your thoughts or leave me a message at 617-244-1688.
 
What’s open and what’s not
 
To review, Baker’s plan includes both general safety standards and guidelines, as well as paperwork and signs every employer must complete and/or post prior to reopening. You’ll find when your business can reopen here and must complete the following before reopening:
  • You will be required to complete this form, verifying that you have adopted required general protocols and safety standards. You do not need to submit this form, just keep a copy in the event of an inspection.
  • You will be required to sign this compliance attestation poster and post it where employees and visitors can see it.
  • You will be required to post copies of these employer and employee signs too, illustrating social distancing, hygiene protocols, cleaning and disinfecting rules
  • And you’ll need to review this list sector-specific protocols and best practices for specific industries.
Industries that were allowed to reopen yesterday were construction, manufacturing, hospitals and community health centers. Sectors that can open May 25 include lab space, office space (except Boston), hair salons, pet grooming and car washes.
 
Retailers are allowed to offer remote fulfillment and curbside pick-up. Retail, restaurants, lodging, additional personal services (e.g., nail salons and day spas) will be part of the second phase, perhaps three weeks from now.
 
Here’s my early take: By and large, Baker laid out a really smart, science-based, approach. I don’t really understand how you can maintain safe social distance getting a haircut, but I’m sure that decision makes many folks happy.
 
On the other hand, why are “non-essential” retailers only allowed to sell curbside? After two months of shopping in grocery stores and pharmacies, most of us have successfully adapted to new protocols. Why not apply those lessons and best practices and let other retail shops open under similar restrictions?
 
Although this isn’t Baker’s doing, here’s another concern: This timeline undercuts the Paycheck Protection Plan’s potential.
 
PPP rules say the funds must be spent in within eight weeks of receipt. That means retailers and restaurants have to bring back and pay employees now (while they’re closed) instead of later (when they’re open, which would be a lot more beneficial). That’s not true most states, where stores are already open. The PPP’s inflexibility is counterproductive.

More on the SBA’s forgiveness application
 
Speaking of the PPP, on Friday the SBA released the PPP application borrowers must use to determine the amount of the loan that may be “forgiven” by their lender. The form and instructions include:
  • Options for borrowers to calculate payroll costs using an “alternative payroll covered period” that aligns with borrowers’ regular payroll cycles
  • Flexibility to include eligible payroll and non-payroll expenses paid or incurred during the eight-week period after receiving their PPP loan
  • Step-by-step instructions on how to perform the calculations required by the CARES Act to confirm eligibility for loan forgiveness
  • Borrower-friendly implementation of statutory exemptions from loan forgiveness reduction based on rehiring by June 30
  • Addition of a new exemption from the loan forgiveness reduction for borrowers who have made a good-faith, written offer to rehire workers that was declined.
Blum Shapiro breaks down what it means here, including noting the cap owners can pay themselves in compensation.
 
Last week the U.S. House passed the HEROES Act, which among other things would allow PPP loan holders to spend their funds over 24 weeks instead of the current eight. But that change, and others, needs to be approved by the Senate which has yet to show any desire to take up the new bill.
 
Boston to meal delivery companies: Pretty please
 
While Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller does not believe the city has the authority to cap those meal delivery fees, Boston seems to think it might.
 
Last week, several Boston City Councilors and an aide to Mayor Walsh put delivery companies on notice: Curb fees during the pandemic or the city will impose fee caps as is being done in San Francisco and other cities, reports Universal Hub. Grubhub is threatening a legal fight and says a cap would hurt consumers and drivers.
 
Speaking of Fuller, a reminder that she’ll be joining us for a Zoom conversation this Thursday at 9 a.m. 
 
What the taxman sayeth about working remotely
 
Working remotely or having employees work remotely may have tax implications. The Mass. Department of Revenue (DOR) has issued guidelines covering a broad base of telecommuting-related taxes.
 
There are separate sections on:
  • Personal Income and Withholding.
  • Sales and use tax nexus
  • Corporate income tax
  • Paid family and medical leave Working remotely
Meanwhile, Fortune has an interesting article about a new bankruptcy law that could be a big help for small businesses.
 
Finally today
  • NBC10 is producing a Facebook Livestream to focus on concerns of the small business community during the COVID-19 crisis. Retailers Association of Massachusetts President Jon Hurst will be answering your questions about the reopening plan at 2 p.m. this afternoon (May 19).
  • Verizon is offering small business relief grants for small businesses facing immediate financial threats due to COVID-19. These grants are meant to help small businesses meet payroll, pay rent, and cover additional immediate operational needs. Applications are due tomorrow (May 20). Info here.
Don’t forget to send me your thoughts about the reopening plan.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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