COVID-19 Updates: Small businesses and gatherings

UPDATE (7/10/2020)

Resources for Reopening Massachusetts
If you have questions or comments about the Massachusetts Reopening plan you can submit them here.If you are a business owner and need clarification about what Hygienic or Protective Supplies you need for the workplace or where to buy them, check out this website.Phase 2 Step 2 Information

Phase 2 of Massachusetts’ Reopening Plan is in effect until Monday July 6th. Governor Baker announced that initiated Step 2 of Phase 2 on June 22nd. This step will allow the following businesses to resume operations: Indoor table service at restaurants;Close contact personal services, with restrictions;Retail dressing rooms, by appointment only;Offices, at 50 percent capacity.Indoor Table Service at Restaurants
Restaurants are now allowed to serve customers indoors with restrictions in place. Tables cannot be closer than 6 feet apart and parties may not exceed 6 people. Customers are also required to be seated to receive service; no standing or bar service is allowed. If a restaurant has other amenities indoors, such as dance floors, pool tables or areas not used for food service, they cannot be used by staff or customers. More information on protocols for indoor restaurant service can be found here.

Close Contact Personal Services
These services include hair salons/barber shops, nail care services, skin care services, personal trainer services and more. Information on this sector’s requirements and guidelines can be found here. Some restrictions will still be in place which will require customers to wear masks during their appointments and to wait in their car or outside until it is time for their appointment.

Retail Dressing Rooms
Clothing retailers are encouraged to keep fitting rooms closed and not allow people to try on clothes. However, retailers are allowed to operate fitting rooms on an appointment-only basis. Clothes that are tried on must either be quarantined for 24 hours or thoroughly steam cleaned prior to being returned to the sales floor. You can read more about safety and health protocols for retail stores here

Offices at 50% Capacity
Office spaces can now increase capacity of workers to 50%. Social distancing is still required and meetings sizes should be limited. Offices are encouraged to stagger work schedules to accommodate these requirements. More information about office space protocols can be found here.

You can find a detailed report of the Governor’s reopening plan here. Each “sector” of business must follow sector-specific protocols when reopening. Each sector can refer to a designated circular and checklist. Business owners may go to the state’s reopening website to find the guidance and documents they need, where each sector has its own guidance and the links can be found on this main page. Businesses are required to self-certify that they have met the standards required to reopen and stay open. Each sector is supplied with a checklist to help business owners ensure they are compliant. In addition to sector-specific protocols, businesses must also follow the general guidance provided by the administration. This information can be found on the main page of the reopening website. You can see a full list of when every business and sector of the economy will open here. It is important to note that employers who are permitted to reopen as part of Phase One cannot bring back employees until they are fully compliant with the guidance provided by the administration.

Small Businesses
The Governor also announced the creation of a $10 million loan fund for small businesses, with fewer than 50 employees. Frankly, this amount seems inadequate and I will be in discussions as to other assistance the state can do for small businesses. Clearly, significant economic dislocation is coming. This is precisely the kind of scenario in which the government must intervene aggressively to mitigate the downside consequences. To apply visit this website.

Small Business Tax Relief

Governor announced measures to provide administrative tax relief for small local businesses that have been impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak, in particular in the restaurant and hospitality sectors.

  • For small businesses (defined as those who paid less than $150,000 in the year ending in February 29, 2020 in sales, meals, or room occupancy taxes) the collection of those taxes will be postponed for March, April, and May.
  • Those taxes will now be due on June 20, 2020.
  • All penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived.

Here is a general webpage with Guidance and Directives from the administration.  

Legislative Updates
I have co-sponsored a number of important pieces of legislation addressing the ongoing public health emergency. On March 12, the House and Senate both voted to approve a supplemental budget to create a $15 million fund in response to the outbreak of COVID-19 in Massachusetts. The fund will go towards monitoring, treatment, containment, public awareness and prevention through the Department of Public Health, local boards of health and other relevant public entities.

I have also co-sponsored, An Act to Provide Short-Term Relief for Families in Deep Poverty. This bill provides one-time supplemental cash assistance to Massachusetts’ 30,000 families with children who receive Transitional Aid to Families with Dependent Children (TAFDC) benefits and 19,000 elders and persons with disabilities who receive benefits under the Emergency Aid to Elders, Disabled and Children (EAEDC) program. My colleagues and I have advocated from the start of this crisis for immediate access to funding to address the threat to public health. I am happy that our leadership has listened to these requests and acted quickly to make the funding available. This funding is just the start of our legislative effort to address this virus, and we are also looking to make substantial policy changes that may benefit you or your family.

Governor Baker filed S.2598 which would waive the one week waiting period for unemployment benefits to be paid to workers impacted by COVID-19. This would allow for the Department of Unemployment Assistance to immediately help residents who have become unemployed due to the virus. This waiver will last until 90 days after the state of emergency has terminated. As of January 2020, the unemployment insurance trust fund has a balance of $1.6 billion.

Although I applaud the Governor’s idea, as with the small business loan fund, I do not believe this legislation goes far enough to protect our workers. That is why I have also been, advocating to include a provision in this bill that will help residents already on unemployment that are close to exhausting their benefits. At this point in time, it does not seem likely that employers will be hiring new staff. Therefore, it is imperative that we help those folks struggling financially at this difficult time and I will be filing amendments to this legislation to help protect the most economically vulnerable in our state in two specific ways. First, I believe we need to increase the maximum eligible payment for those who are without work. Second, I also think we need to extend the duration of unemployment benefits. Our economy is headed for a shock and this is when government needs to step up and act as a buffer against the coming downturn in economic activity.  Not only with this alleviate economic hardship, it will inject an economic stimulus at a time when I believe consumer demand will fall sharply.And of course, all of this state action must be debated and considered in light of whatever aid package is enacted by the federal government.

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Phone: 617-722-2637
Mail: State House Room 544, Boston, MA 02133