Step 2 of Phase III Begins October 5th
The Governor announced this week that effective Monday, October 5th, lower risk communities will be permitted to move into Step 2 of Phase III of the Commonwealth’s reopening plan. All other communities will remain in Phase III, Step 1.
Changes to Protocols and New Reopenings
Effective October 5th, a limited number of sectors will be eligible to reopen, with restrictions, in Step 2 of Phase III for lower risk communities only. Updated protocols for the below industries and businesses were posted on the Reopening website this week. Industry specific guidance and protocols for a range of Phase I, II, and III businesses have also been updated.
This includes the extension of the deferral of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes for small businesses due from March 2020 through April 2021, so that they will instead be due in May 2021. Read more here.
Updates to Restaurant Protocols
Effective September 28th, restaurants can seat 10 people to a table, an increase over the previous limit of six; this will apply to both indoor and outdoor seating. These protocols also reflect updates to guidance on bar seating for dining.
Updates to Retail Protocols Regarding Self-serve Beverages
As of September 28th, self-serve beverage stations may reopen in retail businesses in line with guidance provided in the protocols.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO
Last week Governor Charlie Baker and Lt. Governor Karyn Polito announced the launch of an effort to encourage residents of the Commonwealth to support their local economies by shopping at local Massachusetts businesses and attractions, safely – in person, online, and using curbside pickup or takeout.
Post submitted by Gerry Criscenzo, Founder, Advanced Service Knowledge.
Great customer experiences that build long lasting customer relationships are the Holy Grail for business success. As if everything from your competitors to your own employees made it challenging, pre-Covid, to create great experiences, now post-Covid, you must overcome probably the greatest challenge of all time … fear.
Covid-19 created a customer experience “gate” where your customers must first feel safe to enter before you can begin serving them. Regardless of the industry, however, there is a tool you can use to determine what you must change for your customers to feel safe; the Customer Journey Map.
A Customer Journey Map is a time-tested tool that helps identify every “touch-point” of when and where your customer comes in contact with your business but most importantly identifies their potential emotions during that point of contact. In short, a Customer Journey Map identifies pain-points so you can resolve them and improve customer experiences.
Fear is now a serious pain-point where it never was for many industries. A Customer Journey Map will help you create a fundamentally different level of trust for your customer that dispels their fears. You must build a strategy and define tactics to move your business toward the “new normal” where your customers will trust you to keep them safe. Only after you resolve this new pain-point can you begin again to provide them with great customer experiences.
Use the Customer Journey Map to consider every way that a customer comes in physical contact with your business. Determine if you can eliminate contact or how to assure the customer visually that you have sanitization procedures in place. For example, some gyms have staff walking around spraying equipment with sanitizing “guns” after each use. Some auto service departments cover the steering wheel, seats and door handles with plastic. Some of these will increase your operating costs.
Forget “back to normal” and think forward of how to assure your customers they are safe, which is different for every business. Creating trust and sense of security will vary from providing hand sanitizer to completely rethinking how to get your customer to use your service or product. Technology can help some industries. Deliveries can help others. Whatever your industry, communication is crucial. Reach out to your customers. Use signage. Do not let your customer wonder what you are doing to keep them safe because they will go to the competitor who assures them that they are.
Please also visit the NRR Chamber website which has a wealth of helpful Covid-19 Business resources to help move your business forward to the new normal.
This month's post is provided by Jackie McMenimon, Profile by Sanford.
When faced with uncertainty, it’s normal to go on a roller coaster of emotions and to feel like no one understands. Whatever you’re feeling as a result of your daily routine changing is valid, and it’s important you show yourself kindness. Self-compassion means being kind to yourself when faced with challenges, adversity, or the discomfort of an unknown future. Treating yourself with the same compassion you offer others can help you accept your circumstances without being overwhelmed by them.
The first step in practicing self-compassion is to acknowledge and honor your thoughts and feelings. Think about how you show others (a close friend or family member) kindness and extend that to yourself. Remember: you are not alone during this. We are in this together. Dealing with frustrations and challenges if part of being human, and we are all interconnected in this way. We all strive for comfort, and we can offer kindness to each other as well as ourselves.
If you find yourself worrying about the future or feeling upset, here is how you can anchor your awareness back to the present and feel peace:
Step 1) Stand up and feel the soles of your feet on the Earth beneath you. Close your eyes and take a few deep breaths. Focus on the contrast between the soles of your feet and the floor below you.
Step 2) Rock forward and backward a little. Next, move the weight your feet carry side to side. Notice the sensations in your feet as you do so. Make small circles with your knees, feeling the changes of sensation in the soles of your feet.
Step 3) When your mind has wandered (which is normal!), return your focus and attention to the soles of your feet.
Step 4) If you choose, you can begin to walk slowly. When walking, notice the change in sensations in your feet. Pay attention to how you lift your foot, step forward, and place your foot on the floor.
Step 5) As you walk, take a moment to reflect on how small the surface area of your feet is, and how hard your feet work daily to keep your body upright and uplifted. Try to reflect on these things with a sense of gratitude and appreciation.
Step 6) Return to standing when you’re ready. Take a few deep breaths and continue about your day.
Finally, remember the common humanity piece of self-compassion: We are all doing the best we can to work through changes in our daily life. Offer a smile or small act of kindness to a stranger in passing. And if you’re striving to be more self-compassionate, offer a smile to yourself, too.
Businesses are re-opening, economic activity is picking up, people are out and about. Yet life is still not the same by any means. We've become accustomed to wearing masks, we carry hand sanitizer everywhere and I have my temperature taken almost every day (it typically runs low at 97.7). Many businesses are still having their employees work from home and others are operating at mandated reduced capacity.
As we continue to move through Phase 3 of the Commonwealth's 4 phase re-opening plan, I thought I would look back at the past 4 months of activity here at the Chamber. For the past 125 years, the Chamber has been here to serve the local business community. Our tagline is "Connections at Work". And while we haven't had any in-person meetings since March, we have continued to provide "Connections at Work".
Here's a quick runddown:
We can tell by the "open rates" and "click throughs" on our emails and the activity on our COVID-19 webpage that our members have accessed and utilized this information. By creating these new "Connections at Work", we hope that we have helped your businesses better manage this crisis and bring your business back to where it once was.
We know that many are still struggling and we will continue to provide you the latest and best information as we have it.
We are here for you. But please know that we need your support now more than ever. Membership dues are our lifeblood and we look forward to your continued support.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO
The Neponset River Regional Chamber is one of more than 500 state and local chambers and national business associations that have joined the Equality of Opportunity Initiative, a program of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce.
Last week we participated in the National Summit on Equality of Opportunity, along with more than 2,500 others who have committed to hosting similar conversations and taking action in their own communities and industries to address inequality of opportunity across America. The National Summit brought together leaders from across the private and public sectors including Gayle King, co-host of CBS This Morning; Randall Stephenson, AT&T Chairman and CEO; Tim Ryan, U.S. Chairman and Senior Partner of PwC; and former NBA basketball star Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, to discuss solutions to some of the underlying challenges driving inequality of opportunity for Black Americans.
The initiative is focused on bridging opportunity gaps in four key areas: education, employment, entrepreneurship, and the criminal justice system—all of which perpetuate broader inequities in society and hold back individual and business success and economic growth.
In order to drive meaningful, measurable impact, we must listen, learn, and lead. The U.S. Chamber recently released America's Opportunity Gaps: By the Numbers, a research compilation to help quantify the racial divides in key areas and explore some of the contributing factors. The findings will inform our work as we pursue targeted, data-driven, and sustainable policy and private sector solutions. We will share additional information and resources on the initiative as they become available.
Tom O'Rourke, CCE
President and CEO
After a long few months, we are beginning to gain more clarity on reopening the economy of the region, the state and the world for that matter.
At this time it is incumbent on business owners to familiarize themselves with the protocols and safety measures necessary to ensure a safe opening for employees and customers. The last thing any of us needs is a spike in infections that leads to another shutdown.
The state has provided a great deal of sector-specific guidance for businesses preparing to reopen. We have worked hard to ensure that you have access to the latest and most relevant information to help you make decisions about your own particular business.
As you know, you can access all the tools and information you need on our COVID-19 webpage. Please do so, and if you need any assistance, don't hesitate to contact me.
I'd like to take a moment to acknowledge the work of our local elected and appointed officials in preparing for reopening. I've participated in a number of video and conference calls with our municipal leaders as towns attempt to clarify local rules for businesses to reopen.
In particular, we will be seeing a dramatic shift in restaurant operations as they transition to outdoor dining. You should know that our civic leaders in the Neponset River Region have worked quickly to create opportunities for local eateries to adapt their businesses in order to get back up and running. Creating safe outdoor spaces where people and families can enjoy a meal and a drink is no small task. I've been particularly impressed with the flexibility our region's towns have shown and their willingness to experiment with new ways of doing things.
We still have a long way to go in this pandemic battle, but slow progress is being made. We will continue to work with our federal, state and local partners to bring you the information and resources you need to come out of this intact and ultimately stronger.
I'm looking forward to dining at one of our member restaurants, hopefully as soon as next week.
President and CEO
As you know, the Governor has extended his emergency shutdown order until May 18th. While it is possible that it could be extended even further, the fact is we are getting closer to re-opening the economy and it’s time to take the necessary steps to prepare.
While government leaders and public health officials will make decisions and issue guidance on when we return to work, truly regaining some semblance of normalcy will be determined by how people feel and what motivates them to act or not act.
In short, the consumers will ultimately decide.
People must feel safe to venture back out into workplaces and entertainment venues. They must have confidence that our economy and their own finances will eventually recover to help drive the demand needed to restore growth.
I was on a call this week in which it was stressed that businesses play an important role in reassuring the public and instilling the confidence needed to return to work—and life.
Here are a couple of key takeaways from that presentation:
For the past several weeks we have worked hard to share with you all of the relevant resources and information from our public and private partners to help you through this crises – loan programs, grants, training, etc. Moving forward, we will be focused on providing you the tools you need to focus on the future and the re-opening of the economy and your business.
Please let us know what you need.
As a start, here are two resources that the Pioneer Institute in partnership with the law firm of Verrill, has put together to assist our community in doing a great job of preparing. These two checklists will help you comply with the law and keep your employees safe. These checklists for employers and commercial real estate managers will help you anticipate challenges before they arise and develop feasible and useful methods to successfully deal with those challenges when they do.
President and CEO
How can we help you?
That is the question we are continually asking here at the Chamber. We are experiencing something none of us ever could have imagined and certainly not planned for. So, in order to fulfill our commitment to providing our members with the connections they need under any circumstance, we have been asking for your guidance as to what you need.
To date that answer has been primarily – information. For the past few weeks we have been inundated with information from the federal government, state government, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, Small Business Administration, other chambers of commerce and many more. We have done our best to curate that information and share it with you in a timely and easy to understand manner.
Now that the CARES Act is being implemented, we will continue to share information about how you can access benefits that can help your business survive. In fact, next Tuesday we are hosting a webinar describing how you can apply for benefits through the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program.
We also recognize that social distancing, while important, doesn’t need to result in social isolation. We are now offering virtual meetings to bring members together to network, share their experiences or just have a friendly face to chat with. Our next "Chamber Chat" is Tuesday at 11:00 am and we will hold a "Chamber Social" trivia event on Thursday at 4:30 pm. We will continue to enhance these offerings as long is necessary.
If there is anything else that we can be doing to assist local businesses, please let us know.
How can you help us?
Like many of you, the Chamber is feeling the impact of this crisis. We are experiencing a loss of revenue to due to canceled events and the inability of many of our members to renew their memberships. While this is perfectly understandable, it is causing us to make adjustments to how we do business. Unfortunately, we have had to eliminate a staff position already.
Moving forward we will continue to invoice our members for their dues, and we thank you in advance for your payment. However, we know that everyone’s situation is different, so we have instituted additional payment options, for those who need it. We will allow partial payments to those who can manage that, monthly, quarterly, whatever it takes. Just reach out to us, so we can talk about your situation and set up payment arrangements. We will also adjust your future billing date to whenever you can make your renewal. Also, we will not cancel any memberships due to non-payment for the foreseeable future.
What we ask is that for those who can, please do your best to maintain your membership. If you can increase your investment to the Chamber, please consider doing so.
It is our intention to see that every business we serve has the tools and resources they need to manage through these times. We in turn, need your help and support to fulfill that pledge.
Rob Ferrini, McGowanPRO, Chair of the Board
Tom O’Rourke, President and CEO
The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed last night by the U.S. Senate offers $2.2 trillion in assistance to help individuals and businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
In addition to direct payments to most Americans that are expected to start within the next three weeks, the legislation provides $350 billion in aid to small businesses, as well as $500 billion in loans and other assistance to large companies and besieged states and cities.
It is important to note that the CARES Act has not yet been passed by the U.S. House of Representatives nor signed into law. Final action on the bill is expected tomorrow. We will update this article should any changes be made in the content.
Below are highlights of the legislation that impact businesses and individuals.
‘Recovery Rebates’ for Individuals
Depending on income level, taxpayers will receive a one-time “recovery rebate,” which is an advance refund of a 2020 tax credit. Individuals will receive $1,200 ($2,400 for joint filers) plus $500 for each qualifying child age 16 or under. The recovery rebate payments will be reduced and phased out for taxpayers with adjusted gross income of more than $150,000 (for joint filers), $112,500 (for heads of household) and $75,000 for other individuals.
The recovery rebate checks will be based on the adjusted gross income shown on your 2019 tax returns, or your 2018 tax returns if you have not yet filed for 2019. For Social Security recipients who did not file tax returns, the IRS will determine your eligibility for a recovery rebate based on your Form SSA-1099, Social Security Benefit Statement.
The credit is not available to individuals who can be claimed as a dependent by another taxpayer, or estates and trusts. Taxpayers will reduce the amount of the credit available on their 2020 tax return by the amount of the advance refund payment they receive. (continue reading)