Chamber News

April 14, 2020 Likes Comments

What a few of our small business owners are saying

I heard from many business owners yesterday in response to my thoughts about the challenges facing our local merchants.

The short version: Folks are frustrated and fearful.
 
“My store is not just a store,” one merchant wrote. “It’s a shop where my customers come in to share their joy
their achievements of their children, parents, happy sad and everything else in-between.”
 
But she added: “To stay put and watch the days go by while all of that merchandise just sits there is quite frankly depressing…. I honestly do not know if anyone will survive.”
 
Meanwhile, Arpit Patel, owner of Baramor Resturant in Newton Centre has published an op-ed in the TAB explaining the dire straits faced by our independent restaurants, the high cost of food delivery and SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program.
 
Patel says these programs offer a “temporary lifeline and falls short in helping [restaurants] survive the crisis and ultimately reopen [their] doors.” Even restaurants that have increased takeout are experiencing 71 percent revenue drops.
 
He adds that as hard as it is to obtain a PPP loans, they don’t serve the restaurateur, or the employee, as well as they should.
 
“One of my priorities is the well-being of my now-furloughed employees. …[But] with $600 extra a week from unemployment insurance, workers can potentially earn more money through unemployment than they would if businesses rehired them. How can I ask my employees to come back onto payroll [while we’re still closed] if this is the case? They too have financial needs.”
 
Yet another restaurateur wrote to share something that is “bugging” all food establishments: Those third-party delivery services like GrubHub that take nearly 40 percent commission out of each sale.
 
“Most also charge the customers for ordering on their platform, aside from charging the restaurant. I find it disgusting and unfair to be taking so much,” he wrote.
 
This owner noted that San Francisco recently passed a cap on how much such companies can charge. Other states may be doing the same thing.
 
That cap feels like something we should be advocating for here in Massachusetts too. If there are any restaurant owners, or others, who’d like to help the chamber explore this, let me know.
 
Do you have an SBA loan question?
 
Yes, the SBA loan programs can be frustrating. But that doesn’t mean many businesses and nonprofits shouldn’t be pursuing them. If you’re reading this before 10 a.m. Tuesday, you still have time to hop onto today’s webinar with the Small Business Administration, exploring its loan programs and answering your questions. Register here.
 
You can also learn more on the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program landing page or this fact sheet. And the SBA’s Massachusetts office has created a list of participating Paycheck Protection Program lenders.
 
Wait, there’s more. Business owners and nonprofits can also try connecting with an SBA resource partner to understand which program is a fit. These resources partners include Small Business Development Centers, SCORE mentors, Centers for Women and Enterprise and others. Find a resource partner near you by using the SBA’s Find Local Assistance tool.
 
Finally, last week the federal Division of Banks issued guidance that is intended to help lenders implement the PPP program. Find that here.
 
… And what about unemployment questions?
 
The state Department of Unemployment Assistance is rolling our three new public benefit programs that will extend unemployment benefits for certain claimants; temporarily increase weekly benefits for all claimants; and allow additional categories of people to claim unemployment benefits. Get up to speed here. The department also hosts daily Virtual Town Hall sessions in both English and Spanish. Register for a virtual town hall here.
 
…or need legal help?
 
A coalition of law firms, nonprofits and government agencies have set up a website to provide information and provide pro bono legal help to non-profits and small businesses to get these benefits. The COVID Relief Coalition website is here.
 
Feds funds may aid Newton businesses, nonprofits
 
The City of Newton will receive $1.7 million in emergency funding assistance from CARES Act, Mayor Fuller announced yesterday.
 
The grant includes a portion of funds that can be used to help small businesses and nonprofit service providers that are working overtime to support those affected by COVID-19 Fuller said.
 
She said the city’s Planning Department is “working diligently on a strategy for quickly and effectively distributing these funds, consulting with representatives from our Health and Human Services Department and our on-the-ground human service and Emergency Solutions Grant sub recipients to identify the community’s pressing needs as they relate to the impacts of the pandemic. Additional guidance from HUD on the use and administration of these funds is forthcoming.”
 
We’ll let you know once those details have been finalized.
 
A note for Needham businesses
 
Needham’s Health & Human Services Department is asking businesses and landlords with store fronts to print and display posters (here and here) in their closed store windows or other visible locations. The department will also drop-off hard copies of this signage to you, whichever is easier. Contact Tara Gurge
 
Gurge also asked us to share this page from the FDA has developed that has fact sheets and best practices for retail food stores, restaurants and food pick-up/delivery services.
 
Are you selling gift cards?
 
Last month, the chamber launched the Takeout Challenge, a campaign designed to encourage supporting our local restaurants by ordering take out or delivery.
 
This week the chamber’s Young Professionals Group will be kicking off a campaign to support our local retailers that are still doing business through gift cards or e-commerce; just as the federal stimulus checks begin arriving and ahead of Mother’s Day, Father’s Day and all those virtual graduations. To be included fill out this form. If you have questions or suggestions, contact Tiffany Chen.
 
One last thing
 
Yesterday, I mentioned that Bird’s Hill Compounding Pharmacy has small bottles of hand sanitizer for sale to the public and larger quantities for health care professional facilities or for local businesses. We hear business was brisk as a result.
 
We’ve since heard from another chamber member, Ray Dinno at Keys Drugs in Auburndale, that he has thermometers, gloves, hand sanitizer and face masks in stock. Keys Drugs offers curbside pickup, delivery as well as well as walk in service. Tell them, the chamber says hello.
 
Stay in touch. Just don’t touch.
 
Greg Reibman
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688

 

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