Chamber News

May 22, 2020 Likes Comments

We're verklempt

This isn’t surprising. But I'll say it anyway.

We work in a very special community.
 
Yesterday, instead of my usual morning email, we reported that - due to a loss of event revenue and a dip in member dues - the chamber was facing the grim prospect ending the year $75,000 in the red.
 
But our local businesses and nonprofits (large and small), private citizens and even one of our state reps, responded in force.
 
By the end of the day, we had raised $48,920 in donations, nearly two-thirds of our goal.
 
We also gained 11 new members.
 
And 12 individuals signed-up to become “Citizen Members,” a new $95-a-year membership category for individuals who are not directly affiliated with a local business or nonprofit but want to support the chamber’s advocacy and programming.
 
As our membership director Lise Elcock kept saying all afternoon, “We’re verklempt.”
 
Each and every contribution and every new member makes a difference. For now, I want to express our gratitude to Northland Investment Corp. for contributing $10,000 and to Boylston Properties, Intrum Corp, Needham Bank, Direct Federal and SharkNinja for stepping up with $5,000 each.
 
We’ll share more shout-outs next week as we look to raise the final $26,080. Can we include you?
 
But enough about us. There are so many other things I want to share this morning, so read on.
 
A June 8 opening for restaurants?
 
One dozen business leaders and public officials are meeting today to make recommendations to Gov. Charlie Baker about how to safely open the state’s restaurants, hotels and cultural sites.
 
In addition to establishing safety protocols, the group has discussed a temporary rollback of regulations, including expanded outdoor seating.
 
Bob Luz, president of Massachusetts Restaurant Association, who sits on the committee, told the Boston Business Journal he's confident Baker will allow restaurants to open their doors on June 8.
 
“We’re very confident that we’re going to be able to welcome guests back into our restaurants on June 8 — and welcome them into expanded seating outside, maybe, to complement that — and to do it with safety,” Luz said.
 
But outdoor dining comes with many challenges, including creating enough space for tables and chairs; purchasing outdoor furniture (at a time when restaurants nationwide are all doing the exact same thing); meeting ADA requirements; and getting permission to serve alcohol outdoors.
A bill has been filed on Beacon Hill (with support from Newton State Sen. Cindy Creem) that would allow a municipality to issue an outdoor liquor license without having to wait for state approval, something restaurant owners say would greatly speed up a long and cumbersome process.
 
A quicker solution would be for Baker to issue an emergency order that would bypass state approval. Here’s hoping that advisory committee will convince the governor to do just that.
 
Until then, enjoy a takeout picnic in Needham
 
Phase One of Baker’s re-opening plan does not allow restaurants to serve customers indoors or outdoors. So Needham has come up with a creative alternative.

The town has established three outdoor dining spaces for restaurant-goers to enjoy takeout food and even alcohol. Picnic tables, spaced apart to allow for social distancing, were set up yesterday on the Town Common, Needham Heights Common and Eaton Square (the plaza between Needham Bank and Needham Center commuter rail tracks).
 
Patrons may take their food and beverages, including alcohol purchased as part of a meal, to any of the outdoor tables. (Alcohol may not be consumed outside of the designated areas.) But take note; it’s strictly BYOHS (that’s bring your own hand sanitizer), wipes, corkscrews/bottle openers etc.
 
Needham officials asked me to pass along that they’re looking for other ways to support businesses as the economy reopens. Send your thoughts and ideas to selectboard@needhamma.gov.
 
There's PPP news (there’s always PPP news)
 
The Small Business Administration says there’s still $100 billion in Paycheck Protection Plan funds available for small businesses. These funds are for small businesses, sole proprietors, independent contractors, self-employed persons, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization, 501(c)(19) veterans’ organization and tribal businesses.
 
Also:
  • The U.S. Chamber (no affiliation to our chamber) has published a new PPP Guide to Forgiveness.
  • Boston Business Journal says your PPP loan could be sold (paywall).
  • Blum Shapiro hosted a webinar this week on PPP forgiveness that you can watch here.
  • UMass/Amherst-affiliated MSBDC business advisors can help you navigate the SBA programs or provide other free small business advice. Details.
  • And Senator Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said this week that he believes there is enough support in Congress to extend the PPP’s required eight-week spending period. (Forbes has more.)
Curbside pickup marijuana sales start Monday
 
Marijuana retailers can resume recreational sales on Monday, but only through curbside or drive through, Commonwealth reports. That includes Newton’s only recreational pot shop Garden Remedies (a chamber member) which reports losing 80 percent of its sales during the shutdown.
 
Marijuana merchants do not qualify for the PPP or other federal relief programs so the shut down has hit them hard.
 
Workforce of the future
 
The chamber is a partner with the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education, an advocacy group has been an important voice for business on education policy on Beacon Hill (check out their recent BBJ oped here).
 
MBAE is now looking input from the businesses to shape its priorities going forward. They want to know how you prioritize education as part of workforce development. As part of that process, they’re asking you to spend five minutes completing this survey which is designed to help them help businesses plan for their workforce needs.
 
Finally, three reminders
  • Applications are now available for the City of Newton’s COVID-19 Emergency Housing Relief Program, which can provide up to three months of housing assistance to qualifying residents facing financial hardship due to the pandemic. The program will cover up to 70 percent of a household’s monthly rent or deed-restricted monthly mortgage payment. Applications are due June 3. Details here. Also, Newton’s COVID-19 Relief Fund can also provide financial support for those in need. Grants are available to both residents and to Newton workers. Apply here.

 

  • Any business that qualifies as “essential” has until Monday to comply and self-certify with the new safety standards. Thus includes the COVID-19 control plan template; posting of required employer and employee posters; and the Compliance attestation poster that customer facing businesses are required to print, sign, and display. These same requirements apply to offices and other business that are about to open.
  • Eversource is offering a special, extended payment arrangements for any past-due amount, with $0 down payment, and 12 months to pay. Visit Eversource.com or call 844-275-3301 for guidance specific to your business. The utility is also offering increased incentives on energy saving upgrades that you may want to consider installing while your place of business is closed. Details here.
That’s all for now. Enjoy the long weekend. And, if you can, please help us stand with you.
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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