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SPRINGFIELD REGIONAL CHAMBER UPDATES

Message from the president

src-businesses-covid-effect
April 2, 2020
Yesterday, we asked the exact same poll question we did on March 18 regarding your sentiment for the future. In some good news, we saw a significant drop in those that think COVID-19 will have a devastating impact on their businesses as well as increases in those who feel it will have moderate and low impacts. Perhaps this shows that some panic has been alleviated, and we are beginning to see a light at the end of the tunnel.
As we continue to navigate these uncharted waters, the Chamber is preparing for the future: what does recovery look like? We know our business community will continue to need economic support, information, and resources, and we will continue to provide those. But what else?
Some members have voiced an interest in social networking and learning opportunities. That said, we hope you join us next Thursday, April 9, from 4:30-5:30 p.m. for our first "Open for Business" virtual networking event. While we are still working out the final details, we know it will be fun. Space is limited to reserve your spot today.
In other news, I’m pleased to see a variety of free resources popping up for our local businesses. Grow with Google is offering many free, web-based trainings from using data to drive growth to getting your business on Google search and maps. And for our restaurant community, MassLive Media is offering 50,000 free display advertisement impressions on MassLive.com and will even trade for gift cards to garner you more impressions.
Nancy Creed
President

Quickly Evolving News

April 1, 2020
As many anticipated, Governor Baker has extended the stay-at-home order from April 7 to May 4, including the continued closure of brick-and-mortar locations to the public. Social distancing requirements have been extended, as well as the prohibition on gatherings larger than 10 people.
In addition to the extension, the Administration has updated the list of businesses considered “non-essential” and provided additional guidance and clarity around businesses that support the supply chain of those deemed “essential.” He has added healthcare providers such as optometrists and chiropractors (among others) to the “essential” list. He has also provided new guidance for hotels, motels, and short-term rentals.
Restaurants, bars, and other retail establishments that sell food or beverages can continue to operate on a take-out, curbside/delivery basis. 59% of yesterday's poll-takers are getting takeout at least once per week, and I am sure our local restaurants are thankful.
March 31, 2020
Yesterday seemed to be relatively quiet in comparison to the past few weeks. Perhaps we all needed a moment to pause and take a deep breath.
The Governor has issued two new orders. One regarding the conduct of shareholder meetings by public companies and the other authorizing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to adjust essential provider rates. Both can be found on the COVID-19 State of Emergency page.
The Massachusetts Senate will be advancing a bill to expand unemployment benefits beginning next year. This bill will also serve to protect employers from the ratings impact of unemployment claims filed as a result of COVID-19. Typically, employers that pay into unemployment insurance often have to pay higher rates if a large number of their workers tap into the UI system. This bill will protect those employers from higher rates. We will be monitoring this new legislation as it makes its way through the process.
Eversource announced new support for small business customers through a $0 down payment and a 12-month payment arrangement, with the first payment not due until June 1.
March 30, 2020
Much has happened since our last communication. As you have likely heard, late Friday afternoon, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act or the “CARES Act.”
Also on Friday, Governor Baker issued new guidance instructing travelers coming back to Massachusetts to self-quarantine for 14 days. It is important to note health care workers, public health workers, public safety workers, transportation workers, and designated essential workers are exempt from this requirement.
Over the weekend, the Trump Administration also approved Baker’s request for a Major Disaster Declaration in order for the Commonwealth. This allows the Governor and his team to access much needed funding for our frontline workers, local governments, our homeless community, and those needing crisis counseling support.
Here at your Springfield Regional Chamber, we continue to field calls and emails from businesses and organizations across our region. We have ramped up our resources page with essential information for our business community, so I encourage you to avail yourself of the online resources and reach out to us with questions.
Additionally, through the Chamber’s Minority Business Council, we will be working to ensure our minority business community – especially those where English is not their first language – have access to critical information.
March 26
What a difference a single day can make. Yesterday the Governor extended the closure of schools and day cares, as well as issued a new order for grocery stores and pharmacies to reduce exposure to COVID-19 including the temporary ban of reusable bags.
Despite the rapid changes, I am continually impressed by the resiliency of our local businesses, and more importantly, by the compassion of our community. See some of the Good News spotlights we’ve been collecting, and please consider sharing the story of an individual or business that is making a difference.
We continue working with our Congressional and Senate partners on the latest COVID-19 relief package. We were pleased to see an updated federal CARES Act outlining loan forgiveness initiatives and grants to support small businesses as well as sole proprietors, independent contractors, and gig economy workers.
MARCH 25
Much has changed since the work week started. Many businesses have had to temporarily close their doors to the public, but technology has turned out to be a tremendous asset for others. In fact, yesterday’s poll shows the majority of companies were already working remotely before Gov. Baker's order. We are working to capitalize on that technology and have been testing out various platforms and methods to connect. I encourage you to take today’s poll so we can create the right connection for you in the right way at the right time.
We continue to work with the Baker-Polito Administration to make sure you get accurate and timely information. The Administration has crafted an FAQ page that can answer many of your questions. Like they did with the banking industry, they have asked insurance providers to provide flexibility to policyholders so they can maintain coverage through premium payment deferrals, waiving of late fees and the like. They have proposed a municipal relief package that would provide additional support to our restaurant community and allow municipalities to provide tax relief. And the Mass. DOR is working on a plan to provide relief with respect to Massachusetts tax returns and payments.
On the federal level, we have been working with partners across the state and the US Chamber on the third stimulus relief package. In the wee hours of the morning, a deal was reached with the White House and Senate leaders. While the final language has not been released, it appears to provide business tax relief, financial support for small businesses, small business loan forgiveness provisions, support for our hospitals, an employee retention tax credit to help businesses keep workers on the payroll, and more. We will be unpacking this throughout the day and will keep you informed.
MARCH 24
First, let me thank all of our members who have reached out with respect to our daily updates. I am pleased that you find these valuable, and we will continue to update you as the situation unfolds.
As you know, the Governor issued an executive order yesterday that all non-essential services should close their brick and mortar locations and work remotely as of noon today. While I recognize the hardship this causes, we are all in this together, and while we navigate this “new normal,” know that the Springfield Regional Chamber is here to support you as best we can.
To that end, we continue to work remotely and remain very active in support of our members.
To date, 37 bills have been filed in the Legislature pertaining to COVID-19. They range from small business grant funding to restaurant relief to unemployment benefits for independent contractors and sole proprietors. We are hard at work reviewing them all and weighing in where appropriate to be sure all segments of our economy can be stabilized.
Amidst all this chaos, I'm delighted to see that our community is coming together to do the right thing. I was heartened when I saw Friday's poll results: while business owners are facing difficult choices, they are making sure that their employees are well cared for.
MARCH 23, 2020
On Friday afternoon, I struggled with the news of the first death due to COVID-19 in the Commonwealth. Our community was saddened again when four more deaths were announced over the weekend. Our hearts go out to their friends and families. I urge you to take this grim news as a reminder to follow the guidance and directives of our state and local officials. Please heed the cautions.
Just this morning, Governor Baker issued an order to close all non-essential physical locations and work remotely. Above you'll see the links to the order, list of essential services, as well as the form you can complete if you believe you should be exempted but do not appear on the list.
Meanwhile, leaders are heeding the business community's calls for more support. The SBA adjusted its lending practices with respect to the emergency disaster loan fund and will now defer loan payments for up to 12 months. The Baker-Polito Administration re-opened day cares across the state for the children of our critical care workers who remain on the front lines caring for us all. Furthermore, an additional $10 million will re-infuse the Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation’s Small Business Recovery Loan Fund. We continue to work at the local, state, and federal levels on regulatory and legislative changes because we know more can be done to help our business community immediately and in the future.
Amidst all this chaos, I'm delighted to see that our community is coming together to do the right thing. I was heartened when I saw Friday's poll results: while business owners are facing difficult choices, they are making sure that their employees are well cared for.
MARCH 20, 2020
I cannot say it enough: these are challenging and ever-evolving times for all of us. A quick look at yesterday's poll results shows just how much our community has had to change in a short period of time.
In addition to our Resources page, daily updates from the Mass. Emergency Mgmt. Agency's Covid Command Center (see below), and our Good News section, the Chamber is implementing a member “Check-In” campaign to proactively respond to pressing concerns and requests.
Since yesterday's communication, Governor Baker activated the National Guard. While it may seem alarming, this is good news, giving the Commonwealth more support for our supply chain, logistics, warehousing, and equipment needs. Additionally, MassMutual has spearheaded an effort to create the COVID-19 Response Fund administered by the Community Foundation of Western Massachusetts to help our struggling nonprofits. It received more than $1.7 million in donations in one day alone!
Lastly, while the Chamber is a member-driven organization, our community is in this together. I invite you, whether you are a Springfield Regional Chamber member or not, to reach out if we can offer help during these challenging and ever-evolving times.
MARCH 19, 2020
Yesterday's poll revealed that the majority of our community believes that COVID-19 will have a medium or high impact on their businesses. While the result may not come as a surprise to you, I do think it is a reminder that we're all in this together.
Fortunately, support seems to be coming. Just yesterday, the Baker/Polito Administration announced deferment of some taxes for those in the restaurant and hospitality industries. Certain occupational and professional licenses have been extended in the Commonwealth.
Closer to home, Springfield Mayor Sarno announced a new “Prime the Pump” grant program for restaurants adjusting their service model to take-out and delivery. And, President Trump signed legislation providing for paid leave for certain employees while also reimbursing small businesses for this expense. Some good news for us all!
For our next poll, please share how you are managing workforce issues. And as always, see the Springfield Regional Chamber's robust Resources page and our our newly added Good News section, highlighting the ways we are taking care of each other during these challenging times.
MARCH 18, 2020
These are challenging and ever-evolving times. In an effort to support our community, we will be sharing frequent updates with you including pressing news, newly available resources, and daily updates we receive from the COVID-19 Response Command Center on behalf of the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency.
I invite you to visit our newly added Good News section, highlighting our community in action. Scroll through the page to learn about the ways local individuals and businesses are supporting one another during this time of uncertainty. Please submit your own good news (scroll through the page), honoring the acts of kindness you are witnessing by individuals and businesses in our community.
Connect with your peers by participating in our daily poll. Together, we will overcome these challenging times.
MARCH 17, 2020
We care deeply about the community here in our region, and we understand that COVID-19 has already impacted you, your family, your team, your business, and our global community at large. During this challenging time, be assured that the Springfield Regional Chamber is here to support you however we can.
Much changed when Governor Baker introduced new measures to minimize the spread of COVID-19, and we can only guess that the situation will continue to change.
We will be updating our COVID-19 resources page regularly to provide our business community with comprehensive resources in response to this ever-evolving situation.

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.”

COVID-19 RESOURCES

To help protect our overall community, we want to remind our members there are steps we all can take to prevent further spread of the virus. In addition to frequent hand washing, you can help by limiting person-to-person interaction with telecommunication efforts.

Last updated March 18, 2020

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.