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SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER UPDATES

Message from the president

February 24, 2020
Today, the Administration announced the opening of the Natick Mall mass vaccination site. Currently, all individuals in the Phase 1 priority groups as well as individuals age 75 and older,individuals age 65 and older, those with two medical conditions, and residents and staff of low-income and affordable senior housing are eligible to be vaccinated.
Each week, the state receives 130,000 first and second doses of the vaccine. Tomorrow, approximately 50,000 appointments will become available at the mass vaccination sites on the state’s vaccine locator, as well as an anticipated 20,000 appointments at local retailers. Individuals who do not have access to the internet or are unable to use the internet, may contact the state’s call center at 211. Due to the limited supply of vaccines, it is estimated to take a month to vaccinate all currently eligible residents unless there is an increase in the supply received from the federal government.
While we continue to work through the vaccination process, additional funding support for our business community continues to come online. As of today, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has established a 14-day, exclusive Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan application period for businesses and nonprofits with fewer than 20 employees. This will give lenders and community partners more time to work with the smallest businesses to submit their applications, while also ensuring that larger PPP-eligible businesses will still have plenty of time to apply for and receive support before the program expires on March 31, 2021.
The SBA has also announced four changes to open the PPP to more underserved small businesses. These changes will:
  • Allow sole proprietors, independent contractors, and self-employed individuals to receive more financial support by revising the PPP’s funding formula for these categories of applicants;
  • Eliminate an exclusionary restriction on PPP access for small business owners with prior non-fraud felony convictions, consistent with a bipartisan congressional proposal;
  • Eliminate PPP access restrictions on small business owners who have struggled to make student loan payments by eliminating student loan debt delinquency as a disqualifier to participating in the PPP; and
  • Ensure access for non-citizen small business owners who are lawful U.S. residents by clarifying that they may use Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) to apply for the PPP.
The SBA is currently working with lenders and community partners to implement these changes. Visit our Resources Page to download PPP information and applications as well as other resources and vaccine information.
Vistaprint and the Boston Celtics Shamrock Foundation have announced the launch of a $1 million Power Forward Small Business Grant in partnership with the NAACP. The new program will provide grants of $25,000 to support Black-owned small businesses based and operating in New England that have between 1 and 25 employees. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis. Applicants must sign up through the NAACP Hello Alice web portal.
We know there is frustration in making vaccine appointments, in the limited supply the Commonwealth is allocated, and patience with the pandemic is wearing thin. However, there is an answer with the vaccine; there is hope, and there continues to be support for our business community. Until we get through this, continue to #MaskUpMA, shop distance, shop, eat and play local, and #LoveMyLocalMA.
Stay safe, stay well.
Nancy Creed
President
February 17, 2020
Today, the Administration announced it is moving to the next priority group of Phase 2 in the vaccination process – expanding eligibility to individuals age 65 and over, those age 16 or older with 2 or more certain medical conditions, and residents and staff of low-income and affordable senior housing. Vaccine appointments for these individuals will become available tomorrow. Details for booking can be found through the vaxfinderweb application.
The Administration also announced a new approach to ensure that our most disproportionately impacted communities have equitable access to the vaccine, identifying 20 municipalities with the greater percentage of non-white residents and which have had the greatest impact from COVID-19. In our region, this includes Holyoke and Springfield and these communities will be able to continue to distribute the vaccine at the local level. The shift creates a more level playing field for communities with less access to the vaccination sites.
FedEx has announced the 2021 Small Business Grant Contest offering small businesses an opportunity to win up to $50,000. To be eligible, you must be a for-profit small business with a FedEx account number, be in operation for at least six months, have a shipping need, and less than 100 employees. Deadline to enter the contest is March 9.
Today’s vaccination expansion is more great news for our region, our Commonwealth, our business community, our residents, and our economy, but we must continue to exercise patience given the continued supply constraints. But, we are seeing brighter beacons of hope!
Until we have the “all clear,” continue to #MaskUpMA, properly sanitize, socially distance, and #LoveMyLocalMA.
Please stay safe, stay well, stay positive!
Nancy Creed
President
February 16, 2020
A Message from the President
To more easily identify available vaccine appointments, the state has launched a new vaxfinder web application. The application will allow site visitors to find available appointments by nearest location, including availability at mass vaccination sites, local retail pharmacies, healthcare locations, and local boards of health. The state is currently vaccinating the first priority group in Phase 2 which includes healthcare workers, first responders, long-term care facilities, rest homes, assisted living facilities, congregate care settings, home-based healthcare workers and individuals age 75 and older and their trusted caregiver. The next priority group of Phase 2 will include individuals age 65 and older, those with 2 or more certain medical conditions, and residents and staff of low-income and affordable senior housing. The Administration has also provided additional clarity around other groups eligible in Phase 2which include the sectors of early education/daycare, K-12, grocery, retail, restaurant, transit and transportation, certain manufacturing sectors, and more. Individuals with one certain medical condition round out the priority groups of Phase 2. The state continues to maintain that vaccinations for Phase 2 individuals will be complete by the end of March with Phase 3 expected to launch in April.
While we continue to monitor the vaccine process, your Chamber is also monitoring the legislative process. Both the House of Representatives and the Senate have determined their committee structures and have assigned legislators to these committees. We congratulate Representative Joseph Wagner on his leadership position as Second Assistant Majority Leader. We also congratulate those members of our region which have been named chairs of committees:
  • Rep. Bud Williams (Racial Equity, Civil Rights and Inclusion)
  • Rep. Michael Finn (Children and Families)
  • Rep. Angelo Puppolo Jr. (Export Development)
  • Rep. Carlos González (Public Safety and Homeland Security)
  • Sen. Eric Lesser (Ethics as well as Economic Development and Emerging Technologies)
  • Sen. Adam Hinds (Reimagining Massachusetts: Post-Pandemic Resiliency as well as Revenue)
  • Sen. Jo Comerford (COVID-19 and Emergency Management and Preparedness as well as Public Health)
  • Sen. Adam Gomez (Children and Families and Persons with Disabilities)
  • Sen. John Velis (Veterans and Federal Affairs)
We look forward to working with these leaders throughout the coming session to bring your voice to Beacon Hill.
This Friday is the last day for proposed legislation to be filed. To date, more than 3,300 bills have been filed and your Chamber is tracking nearly 400 of these with new legislation being tracked every day. These bills will be assigned to one of four Chamber subcommittees: Budget and Tax Policy; Energy, Infrastructure and the Environment; Healthcare, and Workforce and Workplace where Chamber members of these subcommittees will review, analyze and determine what action, if any, the Chamber should take on your behalf. As our past experience tells us, this is a long and arduous process and much of the work done by the Beacon Hill delegation happens at the end of the session. Given that we just started a new two-year session – more to come.
In other news, your Chamber has partnered with the Greater Springfield Convention & Visitors Bureau on a grant application to the MA Office of Travel & Tourism's Tourism Recovery Grant program. The plan submitted is titled "Hidden Gems of the Gateway Cities" and focuses on the Hampden County gateway cities of Springfield, Westfield, Chicopee, and Holyoke. If successful, we will create videos featuring women and minority-owned businesses from each city with the help of their economic development officials in an effort to shine a brighter light on our lesser-known small businesses and to support our mission of championing business growth.
So, stay tuned on all fronts and stay safe and stay well.
Nancy Creed
President

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 DOESN'T STOP... AND NEITHER DO WE

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.

A NEW STRATEGY

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.”

REFUNDS

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.