Chamber News

May 14, 2020 Likes Comments

What's not happening Monday (and other updates)

Governor Charlie Baker’s shutdown order is set to expire in four days. But it’s pretty clear that nothing is going to look or feel very different on Monday.

Or Tuesday either.
 
Instead, the governor once again said May 18 will be the day he unveils the recommendations from his Reopening Advisory Board, not any actual reopening.
 
“What we are going to do is phase the reopening.”
 
The Reopening Advisory Board report is expected to recommend businesses that don’t have close contact with customers be the first to get back to work.
 
Meanwhile, there’s plenty employers can be doing to get ready no matter when that is. This includes preparing to follow those protocols every business will need to follow, including face coverings, social distancing protocols and signage, cleaning protocols and training for employees regarding social distancing and hygiene.
 
Those who have let workers go will want to consult these guidelines regarding recalling folks back. There’s many steps employers need to take and document. For furloughed workers, this will be a recall notice. For terminated workers, this will be an offer of employment, among other things.
 
Employees also need to know what they should do too.
 
Al fresco to the rescue?
 
As we wait for new opening guidelines and timelines, one idea that’s gaining a lot of traction is an effort to allow for more outdoor dining. Turns out there’s a myriad of regulatory hurdles, both locally and statewide that make this harder than it should be.
 
As a first step, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association and others are lobbying for legislation that will allow state municipalities the authority to sidestep to approve outdoor dining liquor permits. There would also need to be changes on the local level to speed up this process but it’s an important first step.
 
Meanwhile, here’s some new guidelines for reopening businesses published by a very well respected organization, the American Industrial Hygiene Association. This website provides targeted guidance for specific types of businesses such as restaurants, retail, gyms, offices, and hair salons.
 
Newton offers help for small businesses
 
The City of Newton is now accepting applications from small businesses seeking help covering commercial rent or mortgage, wages, loss of inventory, and other demonstrated costs, Newton Mayor Ruthanne Fuller has announced.
 
“Our local small companies have felt so deeply the financial impact of the loss of business during this health crisis,” Fuller said. The Newton COVID-19 Small Business Recovery Grant Program aims to provide “a boost toward recovery for our small businesses.”
 
The $300,000 program is funded from the city’s federal emergency allocation of Community Development Block Grant Coronavirus funds. It’s earmarked to aid in the stabilization of existing small brick and mortar businesses within Newton that have had significant business disruption due to COVID-19.
 
“This program focuses on assisting the smallest merchants in Newton,” Fuller said.
 
Grant awards will range from $10,000 for microenterprises (five employees or fewer, including the owner) and $15,000 for businesses with six to 20 employees. Franchisees of national or regional chain businesses are not eligible.
 
Applications will be accepted until May 27, 2020 and can be found at newtonma.gov/sbr. Or email sbr@newtonma.gov.
 
Yep, another PPP update
 
Much to the frustration of business owners, the Small Business Administration keeps revising the guidelines surrounding its Paycheck Protection Plan. Some revisions are understandable given how quickly the program was launched. But changes to the program’s guidelines has sparked some law suits around the country over conflicting guidance.
 
Yesterday’s SBA update (Question 46 here) addressed whether or not PPP grant holders are required to “certify” financial need in order to accept their award…. and whether or not applicants might be audited.
 
According to this Question 46 analysis by Blum Shaprio, PPP loans under $2 million won’t be audited. But Question 46 “did not formally define current economic uncertainty which makes the PPP loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations,” the law firm concluded. “It appears that their audits will be based on individual facts and circumstances for each borrower.”
 
As always, don’t take my word for it. Read the documents carefully. Consult a financial advisor. And brace yourself for possible whiplash as new guideline are published.
 
We know there’s going to be more stories like this
Morano Gelato, which had been operating inside the Shops at Chestnut Hill since 2015 (next to Frank Pepe Pizzeria Napoletana), is now closed, Boston Restaurant Talk reports.
 
Owner Morgan Morano, once hoped to franchise the shop nationwide but the pandemic put a stop to it all, with Morano posting on her website that the closure of her business is “permanent.” According to Eater, she considered the PPP loan but found that it wasn’t the right fit for her shops. Plus, the new COVID-19 safety requirements would “require additional capital from already strained businesses” for equipment, training, implementation of new protocols, and such.
 
Trying to picture what mall shopping may look like in the future? Here’s a promotional video made by Simon Malls, operator of the Shops at Chestnut Hill and many others.
 
Workbar reconfigures for safe opening
 
As Workbar gets ready to open its coworking space in Needham, the company is reconfiguring the space for safe social distancing and adding state-of-the art cleaning technologies, The Boston Business Journal reports.
 
Along with custom cleaning stations, Workbar will add touch-free thermal scanners that light up green if someone has a temperature under a certain benchmark or red if they are over a certain temperature. That way, community managers don’t need to get close to others to take temperatures.
 
Workbar will be arriving on Kendrick Street just a few months before tech media company IDG moves into its new 120,000 square foot digs right across the street on the former PTC campus. Take a video tour here.
 
A few final items
  • Applications for certain health-related permits in Needham are now available online only. These include septage/grease/medical waste haulers, indoor and outdoor pools, and demolition permit reviews. Click here.
  • Here’s a current list of sites across the state that are offer COVID-19 testing. Different rules apply at different sites.
  • Need some pointers for surviving a quarantine? The Town of Needham recently shared this story about a former resident who knows all about it. Check out her tips and resolve to follow them this weekend.
I hope you'll join me at 11 a.m., when we talk with Sen. Ed Markey.
 
Let us know how we can help
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

 

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