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COVID-19 Update for May 22: Here’s What Massachusetts Businesses Need to Know

As the news surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, our team at blumshapiro is staying focused on answering the local business community’s most pressing questions. As of Friday, May 22, 2020, here are the latest updates leaders in Massachusetts’s business community need to know.   

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Insights  <  COVID-19 Update for May 22: Here’s What Massachusetts Businesses Need to Know

As the news surrounding the global COVID-19 pandemic continues to evolve, our team at blumshapiro is staying focused on answering the local business community’s most pressing questions. As of Friday, May 22, 2020, here are the latest updates leaders in Massachusetts’s business community need to know.   

The Latest News

Massachusetts begins process of reopening the economy

On Monday, Governor Baker provided details and plans to go along with the Four Phases Reopening Plan he introduced the week before. Industries impacted by Phase 1, or the “Start” Phase, include manufacturing and construction (restarting), hospitals and community health centers (providing high-priority preventative care, pediatric care, and treatment for high-risk patients and conditions), and places of worship (opening with guidelines). Additionally, by Monday, May 25, lab and office space throughout the state (except in the city of Boston) can open, although all that can continue to work from home are encouraged to do so, and businesses should limit their physical presence to 25% maximum occupancy. Also allowed to open on May 25: hair salons and barbers, pet grooming, exterior car washes, and recreational marijuana shops. Retail can execute remote fulfillment and curbside pickup, and several outdoor recreational spaces can open with guidelines. The stay-at-home advisory becomes a “safer-at-home” advisory, and residents are still required to cover their face when unable to maintain a social distance of six feet in public. Gatherings are also still limited to less than 10 people, all travelers to Massachusetts are still encouraged to quarantine for 14 days, and lodging will continue to be restricted to essential workers. Depending on public health metrics, the earliest the state will move onto Phase 2, or “Cautious,” is June 8.

National News

PPP loan forgiveness guidance finally released

Last Friday the Small Business Administration (SBA) finally provided information regarding how to apply for the loan forgiveness aspect of the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). However, loan forgiveness may be further complicated given that original lenders are allowed to sell the loans to third parties, adding another entity in the mix when attempting to get part or all of the PPP loan forgiven. (For previously mentioned PPP resources, please visit the Available Resources for Massachusetts Businesses section, listed later in this update.)

HEROES Act Update

Phase Four of federal relief – the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions (HEROES) Act – which calls for nearly $3 trillion in spending, was passed by the U.S. House of Representatives last Friday, but is unlikely to pass the Republican-controlled Senate. Instead, look for certain provisions to reappear in future legislation potentially later this summer.

Main Street Lending Program expected to be operational before June

The Federal Reserve’s Main Street Lending Program, which is designed to provide $600 billion in support to small and medium-sized businesses and their employees across the United States, is expected to launch by the end of May, according to Jerome Powell, chair of the Federal Reserve.

Massachusetts News

Reopening of Boston

Even as Governor Baker begins reopening the commonwealth, Boston Mayor Marty Walsh said earlier this week he has no plans to lift the city’s curfews and thinks that allowing offices to open at 25% capacity might still be too much.

House Speaker lists revised priorities

In a call with the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce yesterday, House Speaker Robert DeLeo listed his revised legislative priorities, which include funding for transportation, stabilizing the state’s finances, and prioritizing restaurant recovery.

Update on business interruption legislation

On Thursday, the House held a public hearing with written testimony only on S2655 – an act concerning business interruption service.

Industry News

Education

As uncertainty continues to permeate the foreseeable future, several area college presidents are considering multiple options when preparing for the fall semester.

Meanwhile, Boston College announced earlier this week they are planning to welcome students on campus this fall.

Human Resources

As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on the world, employers are realizing they need to address the mental health issues experienced by their employees as a result of the crisis as well.

Life Sciences

Cambridge biotech Moderna Inc. continues to provide hope for a COVID-19 vaccine when it announced positive results in an early-stage study on Monday, although did receive some criticism for a lack of details overall.

Restaurants and Hospitality

The creation of a special panel was announced on Wednesday, meant to help restaurants, hotels and other tourist sites navigate the reopening process.

Even so, with the Massachusetts reopening plan allowing restaurants to begin reopening in Phase 2, which at the earliest would begin June 8, some restaurants in greater Boston have instead announced they are closing for good.

And North End restaurateurs in particular recently expressed their frustration with being in Phase Two, while still recognizing safety is the number one priority.

Transportation

Now that people will start going back to work, traffic and transportation issues will start to come back to the forefront. Monica Tibbits-Nutt, vice-chair of the MBTA’s oversight panel, is suggesting we use this time to reexamine these issues for the better.

Available Resources for Massachusetts Businesses 

Previously mentioned PPP resources:

Additional and previously mentioned resources:

How You Can Help

The community-minded response of Massachusetts’ business community has been nothing short of extraordinary.  There are plenty of ways to contribute to the statewide effort to navigate this crisis.  Here are few:

Future Updates and Additional Resources

We will be providing regular updates over the next several weeks as new developments are made available.  If you have any questions whatsoever, please do not hesitate to reach out.  We are here to help you with your tax and business advisory needs.

In the meantime, you can refer to the following state agencies and associations for the latest information:

And a Last Good Word…

On Wednesday this week, Boston Public Schools children got more than just a meal. Edvestors, an education nonprofit, along with Open Door Arts and other arts organizations teamed up to provide each child (in grades K through 5) with an art kit filled with crayons, watercolors and project guides. The goal is to encourage artistic expression during this time of remote learning, and provide kids with the supplies they need to complete assigned projects. In all, more than 4,000 families were expected to receive the art kits!

On Tuesday, Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito visited Symmons Industries in Braintree, a commercial and residential plumbing product manufacturer that has been producing personal protective equipment to support the COVID-19 response and is now resuming normal operations through the implementation of workplace safety standards and protocols.

 

COVID-19 Business Resources

 

Disclaimer:  The contents of this resource are for general informational purposes only. While every effort has been made to ensure its accuracy, the information is provided “as is” and no representations are made that the content is error-free. We have no obligation to update any content, comments or other information for retroactive or prospective interpretations or guidance provided by regulators, financial institutions or others. The information is not intended to constitute legal advice or replace the advice of a qualified professional. There are areas of the CARES Act where additional clarification from the Treasury Department and the SBA is needed. Your judgment and interpretation of the act may be needed. Users should consult with their legal counsel and representatives of the lending institution regarding the proper completion of their application and supporting documentation.

Any written tax content, comments, or advice contained in this article is limited to the matters specifically set forth herein. Such content, comments, or advice may be based on tax statutes, regulations, and administrative and judicial interpretations thereof and we have no obligation to update any content, comments or advice for retroactive or prospective changes to such authorities. This communication is not intended to address the potential application of penalties and interest, for which the taxpayer is responsible, that may be imposed for non-compliance with tax law. 

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