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As We Close Out the Summer, Here’s What Massachusetts Businesses Need to Know as of September 18

As of Friday, September 18, 2020, here are the latest updates leaders in Massachusetts’s business community need to know.   

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Insights  <  As We Close Out the Summer, Here’s What Massachusetts Businesses Need to Know as of September 18

As of Friday, September 18, 2020, here are the latest updates leaders in Massachusetts’s business community need to know.   

National News

Continued efforts toward a bipartisan relief package

On Tuesday, a 50-member group of House Democrats and Republicans released a $1.52 trillion coronavirus stimulus plan, with compromises included on state and local aid and supplemental unemployment insurance in an effort to push the plan forward.  Meanwhile, House Speaker Pelosi declared the House would stay in session until a new economic relief deal is reached.

Complications stemming from PPP assistance

Over 5 million small businesses applied for and received PPP assistance, and some of those businesses are bound to be bought and sold in the not-too-distant future.  But with these transactions may come more headaches and complications, as questions still linger regarding whether PPP loans will be forgiven, and who’s responsible for the debt.  (For previously mentioned PPP resources, please visit the Available Resources for Massachusetts Businesses section, listed later in this update.)

Massachusetts News

Somber marks reached

On Sunday, Massachusetts announced it went over the threshold of 9,000 for Massachusetts residents who have lost their lives during the pandemic.  This comes as the six-month mark since the shutdown also passed by.

Massachusetts continues to have highest level of unemployment in country

In part because of being harder hit by the virus earlier, resulting in an earlier economic shutdown and slower restart, Massachusetts continues to hold the dubious distinction of the highest unemployment rate in the country.  More affluent individuals buying less and saving more is also contributing to this issue, as low-wage service workers dependent on consumer spending have been especially impacted.

Shared Streets and Spaces grant program doubled

Governor Baker recently announced the doubling of the Shared Streets and Spaces grant program, from $5 million to $10 million.  The grant program is aimed at helping cities and towns rework curbs, sidewalks, streets and parking spots to create areas for socially distanced walking, commerce, dining, and other outdoor activities.  So far, the program has distributed $7.7 million to 91 projects throughout 78 municipalities.  This funding can also be directed to help restaurants expand their outdoor eating spaces.

State’s Unemployment Trust Fund operating in the red, business contributions set to increase

As the result of the state’s Unemployment Trust Fund operating with a deficit – close to $750 million as of July 31, and anticipated to end the year more than $2.4 billion in the red – contributions from Massachusetts businesses are expected to increase nearly 60% as of 2021, with smaller rate increases through 2024.

State takes over contact tracing for BC

With the recent coronavirus outbreak on the Boston College campus, the state announced it had taken over contact tracing efforts, which will allow for better coordination with the school and surrounding communities of Boston, Brookline and Newton.

Governor announces new nursing home relief

Last week, Governor Baker announced a new $140 million package of aid, reforms, and incentives for nursing homes throughout the state.  The package includes funding to be used in the event of another COVID-19 surge.

State’s largest employer foregoes Trump payroll tax deferral

Mass General Brigham, with around 74,000 employees in Massachusetts, announced last week that it will not participate in the Trump Administration’s payroll tax deferral, stating it would cause too much of a financial strain on employees next year.

Boston Public Market reopens

The Boston Public Market on Hanover Street was expected to reopen yesterday after a six-month closure with new safety protocols in place.  The market features both indoor and outdoor shopping areas, with vendors selling produce, meat, dairy, spices, pasta and prepared foods.

Amazon announces hiring of 650 more people in Mass.

Earlier this week Amazon announced it plans to hire more than 650 people, mostly for its Stoughton location.

MBTA planning cuts, but boosting commuter rail service

In an effort to de-crowd buses, the MBTA is expanding commuter rail service to Lynn and Brockton and encouraging riders to take the commuter train instead of the bus.  This announcement comes as the MBTA is also considering reducing some services to help prepare for an anticipated budget shortfall come next summer.

Industry News

Education

As school starts in many communities throughout the state, many teachers at risk for coronavirus are uncertain whether their requests for remote instruction will be granted.

Meanwhile, some school districts have shifted from their plans of hybrid instruction to all-remote learning, after it was discovered that dozens of students attended a party without COVID safety precautions in Lincoln (Lincoln-Sudbury), among others.

And a report released earlier this week by the Massachusetts Business Alliance for Education and the Greater Boston Chamber of Commerce suggested the state should redirect more funds to low-income districts that continue to struggle with funding.

Life Sciences

Life sciences organizations throughout the state have been expanding their workforces, and other peripheral businesses are shifting their focuses to life sciences efforts as demand for this industry continues to skyrocket in the wake of the pandemic.

AstraZeneca announced Saturday that it was resuming its coronavirus vaccine trial.  The study was suspended earlier this month after one participant experienced an illness.

And in related news, nine drug makers signed a pledge vowing to follow “high ethical standards and sound scientific principles,” as the focus on creating a vaccine quickly has led some to worry that the process will be rushed and put people at risk.

Nonprofits

The Museum of Fine Arts in Boston announced it would be reopening in phases as of September 26, with special attention paid to health safety as well as inclusiveness.

Restaurants and Hospitality

Boston Mayor Marty Walsh announced this week that outdoor dining will be allowed to continue until December 1, an extension from the original ending date of October 31.  The move was made to continue to provide support to hard-hit Boston restaurants.

Restaurants throughout the state are also encouraging legislation that would cap delivery fees to no more than 15%.  Throughout the pandemic third-party delivery fees have typically been closer to 25 to 30%, and with the increase in deliveries restaurants are arguing the model is unsustainable.

Meanwhile, the Massachusetts Restaurant Association reported that about 20% of restaurants throughout the state have closed for good as a result of the pandemic.

Retail

A recent report reveals that one-fourth of businesses in Faneuil Hall and Quincy Marketplace have not reopened, which is causing concern about the future of those businesses as well as the marketplace itself.

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…

We all need some good news right now – here’s some from this week:

“We saw this amazing surge of frontline workers coming and doing exactly what Wonder Woman represents:  helping people.  We wanted to celebrate that,” said Caroline Machen, vice president of global marketing at Reebok, explaining how the company came to honor real-life superheroes in its latest shoe and apparel line, the Reebok x Wonder Woman 84 collection.  The campaign features six Boston nurses, who most certainly deserve this honor!

 

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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