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Message from the president

April 5, 2021
Today kicks off vaccination eligibility for a new priority group in the state’s vaccination program. Individuals ages 55 and over and those with one medical condition are now eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine at one of the more than 200 sites across the Commonwealth. The Centers for Disease Control has updated its list of medical conditions to now include diabetes, sickle cell disease, HIV infection, dementia and other neurological conditions, among others.
Residents may pre-register for an appointment at one of the mass vaccination sites or search for an appointment using the state’s site finder tool. This priority group rounds out Phase 2 of the state’s program with Phase 3 for all others kicking off April 19.
The CDC also issued updated travel guidance for individuals who are fully vaccinated. While the new guidance discourages travel, it does suggest that fully vaccinated individuals may travel safely within the United States without the required testing prior to travel or testing or quarantining upon return. The CDC continues to recommend follow all state travel protocols as well as all safety protocols with respect to masks, sanitization, social distancing, and testing should symptoms develop.
As expected, late last week the Governor signed the legislation freezing the unemployment insurance rates at the Schedule E level for 2021 and 2022, as well as providing tax relief to small businesses receiving a Payroll Protection Program loan or an Economic Injury Disaster Loan advance. Your Chamber aggressively advocated for this legislation which will save our business community thousands of dollars and support job creation at a time when we continue to struggle to recover, and we thank the Legislature and the Administration on its passage. Please take a moment to thank your local delegation who were instrumental in this work.
As we recover from this pandemic, your Chamber continues to ramp up its policy work to support that recovery. This past week, the Springfield Regional Chamber, in conjunction with the Greater Boston Chamber and other business organizations across the state, launched the Massachusetts Business Coalition on Skills.
This Coalition is the result of more than a year’s worth of research and analysis to create and refine policy proposals which address both the employer and employee side of the skills gap. The recommendations aim to leverage the state’s entire workforce, not just graduates with 4-year degrees, by creating a statewide standard of essential skills, expanding access to career and vocational technical education (CVTE), and incentivizing employers to provide ongoing skills training to employees.
We recognize the challenges our employers face today in finding talent and how critical it is that our workforce has the skills necessary for the in-demand jobs. This new Coalition will work to close this skills gap so that every resident can acquire the skills needed to thrive in their careers and every employer can find the talent they need to be successful. As one of the Founding Members of the Coalition, we know this is a lofty goal but one that we must achieve to advance the economic health and prosperity of our region and our Commonwealth and is critical to our post-recovery work.
Hear more about this and our advocacy work for the coming months at our Outlook 2021 virtual event, hosted by Chairman Richard Neal and please get engaged in our efforts. Together, we can work towards a stronger tomorrow for our region and our Commonwealth.
In the meantime, as COVID-19 cases continue to spike, stay safe and stay well, #MaskUpMA, and follow all guidelines to avert yet another surge.
Nancy Creed
March 30, 2021
As vaccine supplies increase so, too, do the locations of vaccination sites within our region. The Eastern States Exposition in West Springfield and the Castle of Knights in Chicopee have been added to the growing list of more than 200 vaccination sites with Home City Housing in Springfield being added to that city’s neighborhood sites. While details are still being worked out, the Eastern States Exposition site will provide vaccinations to residents of West Springfield, Agawam, Southwick, Granville, and Tolland with the Chicopee site vaccinating those in Chicopee, South Hadley, Granby, and possibly Holyoke. The state has also launched a vaccination program to reach homebound residents.
The state is currently in Phase 2 of its vaccination program. Phase 2 will wrap up on April 5 when individuals age 55 or older and individuals with one certain medical conditionwill become eligible for vaccination. Phase 3 will begin on April 19 for the general population that has not yet become eligible. Residents may pre-register for an appointment at one of the mass vaccination sites or, when eligible, may find and book an appointment at pharmacies, health care providers, and other community locations using the state’s interactive site finder tool. Springfield residents wishing to visit one of the neighborhood clinics may make an appointment using the City’s website or through the Springfield Library and Elder Affairs staff for those without access to the website.
On the legislative front, this afternoon, President Biden signed the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Extension Act of 2021 which extends the deadline for applying for the forgivable loan program from March 31 to May 31.
Both the state House and Senate passed the legislation last week which would freeze the unemployment insurance rate at the Schedule E rate for 2021 and 2022, among other items. The bill landed on the Governor’s desk on Friday and is awaiting his signature. Your Chamber actively advocated on your behalf for this freeze, and we are pleased to see it finally coming to fruition.
Your Chamber also advocated on the climate legislation which the Governor signed on Friday. This landmark legislation commits Massachusetts to achieve net-zero carbon emissions by 2050.
While we celebrate all this good news, COVID-19 cases are sadly once again on the rise, with some lawmakers and public health officials calling for a rollback of the reopening process. While we are not hearing of any such plans from the Administration, today the CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky, the former head of infectious disease medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital, joined the Baker-Polito Administration to discuss this rise, the COVID-19 variants, and to caution Commonwealth residents.
This rise serves as a reminder that we must continue to stay vigilant a bit longer. We must continue to #MaskUpMA, properly sanitize, continue to adhere to the workplace sector-specific protocols, follow the CDC guidelines for travel under the Massachusetts Travel Advisory, and maintain small gatherings when at home under the Gatherings Order.
We have made so much progress but we still have a ways to go and we all play a part in getting through this together.
Nancy Creed
March 24, 2021
More good news continues to come this week – and lots of it - including grant programs for shuttered venues, restaurant relief, loan deferrals, tax delays, nonprofit support, and more certainty on unemployment insurance rate relief.
Shuttered Venue Operators Grant Program
Beginning April 8, the Small Business Administration (SBA) will open applications for the Shuttered Venue Operators Grant (SVOG) program to support these struggling businesses. This grant program is part of the federal American Rescue Plan and is designed to provide financial support to live venue operators or promoters; theatrical producers; live performing arts organization operators; certain museum operators, zoos and aquariums who meet specific criteria; motion picture theater operators, and talent representatives.
Eligible applicants may qualify for grants equal to 45% of their gross earned revenue, with the maximum amount available for a single grant award of $10 million. Applicants must have been in operation as of February 29, 2020. The grants may be used for costs including payroll, rent, utilities, administrative costs such as fees and licensing, lease and mortgage payments, insurance, and certain production costs. Applicants are still eligible even if they have applied for and received a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan.The PPP application process remains open and applicants interested in applying for a PPP loan as well as the Shuttered Venue Grant program should apply for the PPP prior to the grant. Any funding received through the SVOG program will be reduced by the amount of the PPP loan.
SVOG applicants must be registered in the federal System for Award Management portal prior to applying for a grant. A video tutorial on this portal registration is available for viewing.
The SBA will hold an informational session to discuss the SVOG application process, eligibility guidelines and required documentation on March 30 from 2:30 to 4:00 p.m. Pre-registration is required.
Interested businesses may also sign up for notification when the link to the SVOG grant application becomes available.
PPP Loan and Economic Injury Disaster Loan Changes
The SBA recently made changes to the PPP loan program to allow businesses that file an IRS Form 1040, Schedule C to calculate their maximum loan amount using gross income instead of net profit, which may enable some borrowers to access higher loan amounts. New First Draw PPP and Second Draw PPP forms have been revised for these applicants. While the deadline for applying for a First or Second Draw loan is March 31, your Chamber was one of many organizations across the country advocating for an extension, and we are hearing there is momentum on Capitol Hill and a vote may be passed this week which would keep the program open for applications until at least the end of May.
The SBA also announced that deferment periods for the COVID-19 Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) program have been extended until 2022. The first payment for disaster loans made in 2020 will now be due 24 months from the date of the loan and those disaster loans made in 2021 will have a first payment due 18 months from the date of the loan.
Restaurant Relief
The federal American Rescue Plan also created a new grant program to be administered by the SBA. The Restaurant Revitalization Fund is designed to provide financial assistance to restaurants as well as food stands, trucks and carts; caterers; bars, brewpubs, taprooms, tasting rooms, and more. Funding through the grant program may be used on costs similar to those covered under the PPP loan program and must be used by year-end. More details about this new program are forthcoming.
New Grant Programs
Two new grant programs are now available through Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC).
The Small Business Resiliency Technical Assistance Grants will support nonprofit organizations who offer programming to help existing small business recover from COVID-19 and thrive post COVID-19 in underserved communities. The deadline for applications is April 5.
The CDFI and CDC Matching Capital Program is available to eligible nonprofit community-based lenders to provide matching capital to spur job creation across the Commonwealth, support entrepreneurship and small business recovery, sustainability, resilience and growth by lowering the barriers to capital access faced by small businesses. The deadline for applications is April 19.
State Legislation
On the state legislative front, legislation which will freeze the unemployment insurance rates at Schedule E rates for 2021 and 2022 has finally passed both the Massachusetts House and Senate. Your chamber has been very vocal in its support of this freeze and we are pleased to see progress being made. We expect this bill to land on the Governor’s desk tomorrow and it is expected to be signed.
Lastly, while the federal government extended the tax filing deadline from April 15 to May 17, Massachusetts legislation has yet to be passed to conform the state’s tax filing deadline, despite aggressive advocacy by your chamber and its partners across the Commonwealth. However, under federal regulations during a state of emergency, the Massachusetts Department of Revenue (DOR) has the authority to enact tax changes and, late last week, extended the filing deadline. We are still awaiting guidance from the DOR as to the deadline of paying estimated taxes.
Taken as a collective, this information, grant funding and legislation will not only support our continued recovery, but also provides greater certainty and clarity which ultimately supports economic confidence, investment, and recovery. We can all use a little of that these days.
Stay safe, stay well, and stay confident.
Nancy Creed

A Brief Pause for In-Person Programming

All around us, our region is taking action to minimize the spread of COVID-19. In congruence with the guidance of Governor Baker as well as the actions of other chambers and organizations, the Springfield Regional Chamber will pause in-person programming until May 1, at which point we will determine next steps.

We intend to reschedule our current events, including Fire & Ice, the Mayors' Forum and our Beacon Hill Summit, when it is safe to do so. Just like you, we are taking this situation seriously and day-by-day.


Business hasn't stopped, and your Chamber hasn't either. Our legislative advocacy work in Boston continues. Board and Committee meetings will continue virtually. And our staff will continue to work, be it in the office or from home, to serve our members during this challenging time.


New developments call for a new strategy. To that end, we're refocusing some of our resources to support digital member and community engagement.

Be on the lookout for webinars, our regular newsletters, as well as exciting member stories and engagement opportunities on our social platforms. We will continue to build community and support commerce, even "from home.”


We will be processing refunds for anyone who has already purchased admission to events previously scheduled in the near future: Multi-Chamber Speed Networking Breakfast, Mayor's Forum 2020, Fire & Ice, Beacon Hill Summit 2020.

Thank you for your patience and support, and please reach out to us with questions or concerns.