April 1st COVID-19 Resources & Information
Good afternoon,

Below please find COVID-19-related resources and information, for our private and public partners:
Governor Baker's Expanded Order, Including Restrictions on Hotels, Motels, and Lodging

Yesterday, Governor Baker announced that he is extending the closure of all non-essential businesses until May 4th, and that the Department of Public Health's Stay At Home Advisory will also remain in effect until at least that time. The Governor also issued guidance that only allows hotels, motels, and short-term rentals to be used for healthcare workers and Massachusetts residents who are displaced.

Update on Legislation to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities, Corporations, and Non-Profits

The state legislature is currently considering H.4598, An act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19. This legislation contains provisions that impact municipal governments, corporations, and non-profits, and is designed to provide each with the flexibility necessary to continue functioning during the COVID-19 public health crisis.

Both the House and Senate have passed similar versions of the legislation, however key differences are still being worked out. Below please find a summary of the legislation as it currently stands; note that the contents of the legislation are subject to change as the House and Senate continue their negotiations. The Partnership will send an updated summary once the bill has been passed to be enacted by both chambers.

The legislation as it stands contains an emergency preamble, meaning once signed by the Governor, it will take effect immediately.

Provisions of the legislation, as it stands today, include:

Public Corporation Remote Shareholder Meetings: Allows, for the period of the state of emergency, a public corporation to conduct an annual or special meeting of the shareholders solely by means of remote communication in the event of unforeseen or emergency circumstances, including state or federal declarations of emergencies, public health emergencies, weather events or natural disasters, acts of terrorism or disruptions in travel.

Non-Profit Organization Remote Meeting Participation: Allows, for the period of the state of emergency, participation by remote communication at any non-profit corporate meeting of the members to constitute presence at such meeting, provided that: (i) reasonable measures are implemented to verify that each person deemed present and permitted to vote at the meeting by means of remote communication is a member or proxyholder; (ii) reasonable measures are implemented to provide members and proxyholders a reasonable opportunity to participate in the meeting and to vote on matters submitted to the members; and (iii) a record of votes or other action are maintained by the corporation.

Municipalities: For city and town governments, the bill:
  • Allows an annual town meeting to be delayed beyond June 30th in the event of an emergency that poses an immediate threat to health or safety that prevents the completion of the business of the delayed town meeting on or before June 30 if the Governor has declared a state of emergency with respect to the emergency.

  • Allows a town moderator or person designated to perform the duties of town moderator during a weather-related, public safety or public health emergency, in consultation with local public safety or public health officials and the board of selectmen, to recess and continue a town meeting previously called to a time, place and date certain not exceed 30 days.

  • Allows a town moderator or person designated to perform the duties of town moderator to renew the declaration of recess of town meeting and continuance period for up to 30 days at a time but not more than 30 days following the date of rescission of a state of emergency declared by the Governor.

  • Requires a local public safety or public health official designated by the board of selectmen of a town to submit a report to the Attorney General providing the justification for the initial declaration of recess and continuance of a town meeting.

  • Allows the Director of Accounts of the Department of Revenue, if a declared emergency prevents the adoption of an annual budget by a town or district by the June 30 preceding the start of the fiscal year, to approve expenditures of an amount sufficient for the operations of a town or district during the month of July not less than 1/12 of the total budget approved by the town or district in the most recent fiscal and allows the authority to continue for each successive month while the emergency continues to prevent the adoption of a budget.

  • Allows the Director of Accounts of the Department of Revenue to authorize the appropriation from the available balance of a town’s or district’s undesignated fund balance or “free cash” as a funding source for the town’s or district’s fiscal year 2021 expenditures if the adoption of an annual budget in a town or district is delayed beyond June 30, 2020, as a result of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.

  • Allows a city, town or district to amortize over fiscal years 2021 to 2023, the amount of its fiscal year 2020 deficit resulting from the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, as described in the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.

  • Allows a city or town, for fiscal year 2021, to expend from each revolving fund an amount not to exceed the amount authorized to be expended in fiscal year 2020 until the city or town adopts an annual budget for fiscal year 2021 and at which time, requires the legislative body of the city or town to vote on the total amount that may be expended from each revolving fund in fiscal year 2021.

  • Suspends all time periods within which any municipality is required to act, respond, effectuate or exercise an option to purchase during and for a period of 90 days after the termination of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency.

  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or town, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus, to extend certain local tax payment deadlines in accordance with this act.

  • Allows the chief executive officer of a city or the prudential committee or commissioners of a district, as a result of the outbreak of the 2019 novel coronavirus and the declaration of a state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to waive the payment of interest and other penalty in the event of late payment of any excise, tax, betterment assessment or apportionment thereof, water rate or annual sewer use or other charge added to a tax for any payments with a due date on or after March 10, 2020 and made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020.

  • Extends the filing deadline for all tax returns and payments for the 2019 calendar year otherwise due on April 15, 2020 to July 15, 2020.

  • Allows an establishment licensed to sell alcoholic beverages or only wines and malt beverages on-premises, during the state of emergency declared by the Governor on March 10, 2020, to sell wine or malt beverages only for off-premises consumption subject to the following conditions: (i) the wine or malt beverage must not be sold to a person under 21 years of age and any delivery must obtain verification that the person receiving the order has attained 21 years of age; (ii) the wine is to be sold in its original, sealed container and the malt beverage shall be sold in a sealed container; (iii) the wine or malt beverage is sold as part of the same transaction as the purchase of food with the order placed on or before 12:00 midnight; and (iv) a customer is limited to 192 ounces of malt beverage and 1.5 liters of wine per transaction.

  • Exempts from the caps on hours worked and earnings received during the state of emergency issued by the Governor on March 10, 2020 (i) any person who has been retired and who is receiving a pension or retirement allowance from the commonwealth, a county, city, town, district or authority; and (ii) any person whose employment in the service of the commonwealth, county, city, town, district or authority has been terminated by reason of having attained a specified age without being entitled to any pension or retirement allowance.

Regarding permit applications, the legislation currently includes the following stipulations:

  • An application for a permit shall be deemed duly filed and accepted as of the date of the filing by the applicant, if filed with and certified as received the receiving entity; a requirement of a statute, ordinance, bylaw, rule or regulation that a hearing commence within a specific period of time after the filing of an application or request for approval of a permit is suspended as of March 10, 2020 but shall resume 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency.

  • A permit in effect or existence as of March 10, 2020, shall not lapse or expire and the expiration date of the permit, or time period for meeting a deadline or for performance of a condition of the permit, shall toll during the state of emergency.

  • No permit shall be considered granted, approved or denied due to a failure of the permit granting authority to act within the time required by law provided that the permit granting authority acts within 45 days of the termination of the state of emergency.

  • No permit granting authority may schedule or reschedule on 1 or more occasions the hearing or decision deadlines on a permit application provided no such date or deadline is rescheduled for more than 45 days after the termination of the state of emergency.

  • Suspends the requirement that a permit be recorded with the registry of deeds or filed with registry district of the land court within a certain period of time after its issuance in order to remain in force and effect or as a condition to exercising the permit.

  • A permit granting authority, during the state of emergency, may conduct meetings and public hearings remotely, consistent with the Governor’s order entitled “Order Suspending Certain Provisions of the Open Meeting Law, G.L. c. 30A, § 20” issued March 12, 2020.

  • A permit granting authority may issue decisions on permit applications for which duly held public hearings or meetings have been held.

The full text of the legislation, as it stands today, can be found online here. A reminder that the Partnership will send a revised summary of the final legislation once passed to be enacted by both chambers.

Late last week, Congress passed and the President signed into law The Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which is aimed at alleviating the economic fallout from the COVID-19 situation.

For Small Businesses: The Act allocated $350 billion to help small businesses keep workers employed amid the pandemic and economic downturn. Key facets of the legislation as it relates to businesses include ( details available here):

  • The Paycheck Protection Program, which provides capital to cover the cost of retaining employees through 100% federally-guaranteed loans (if employers maintain their payroll, these loans will be forgiven)

  • The Emergency Economic Injury Grant, which provides quick infusions of smaller amounts of cash (please see the next item in our newsletter, immediately below)

  • The Small Business Debt Relief Program, which will provide immediate relief to small businesses with non-disaster SBA loans

  • Contracting modifications aimed at assisting business entities with government contracts

  • Small business counseling & training, specific to COVID-19 mitigation

The U.S. Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship has created a comprehensive guide to the legislation and the programs it establishes for small business owners, available online at this link.

For Midsize and Larger Employers: In addition to small business assistance, the CARES Act also created more broadly applicable emergency relief for medium and large businesses impacted by COVID-19. These include certain tax provisions for corporate payers, further details of which can be found here.

The CARES Act does specifically require the Treasury Secretary to ask the Federal Reserve to create a special direct loan program for businesses and non-profit organizations with between 500 and 10,000 employees. The interest rate on such loans would be capped at 2% per annum, and for the first six months no principal or interest would be due. Applicants would have to certify, among other stipulations, that the uncertain economic conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic make the loan necessary to support ongoing operations, and that they will agree to dividend, stock buyback, and executive compensation restrictions. Details will be forthcoming from the Department of the Treasury.
SBA Economic Injury Disaster Loan: $10,000 Advances

The U.S. Small Business Administration has released a new Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) processing platform, which incorporates the ability to request an EIDL advance of up to $10,000. The loan advances are intended to provide economic relief to businesses that are currently experiencing temporary loss of revenue. Funds will be made available within three days of a successful application, and this loan advance will not have to be repaid.

Businesses wishing to apply for the advance on an EIDL should visit SBA.gov/Disaster as soon as possible to fill out a new, streamlined application. In order to qualify for the advance, this new application must be submitted, even if a business had previously submitted an EIDL application. Applying for the advance will not impact the status of or slow an existing application.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)

Health care providers of all kinds, throughout our region, are in desperate need of testing and medical equipment including N-95 masks, gloves, gowns, ventilators, and other needed personal protective equipment that can be used by front line medical staff and care providers. The Commonwealth has announced an online portal where individuals and companies can easily donate or sell personal protective equipment (PPE) to support efforts to address the COVID-19 outbreak in Massachusetts.

By visiting the COVID-19 PPE Procurement and Donation website, businesses and organizations can offer for purchase or donation critically needed personal protective equipment, including: N95/N99 masks (respirators), surgical/procedure masks, facemasks with integrated shields, Powered Air-Purifying Respirators (PAPR), goggles, gloves, protective suits/gowns, booties/shoe covers, headcovers, hand sanitizer, and sanitizing wipes. The portal can be accessed online at this link.

The program also provides an entry point for local manufacturers to get more information on adapting their businesses to produce more equipment here in Massachusetts.
RTA Service & Schedule Adjustments in the 495/MetroWest Corridor

Many essential workers continue to rely on public transportation to access vital workplaces, and provide needed services to respond to the COVID-19 situation. During this crisis, our regional transit authorities have been forced to cope with drastic ridership level drops, changes in destinations needed, and staffing shortages. The 495/MetroWest Partnership has compiled a one-stop, online information hub for updated RTA service information across the 495/MetroWest region, available here. Please note this information is subject to change as our RTAs work to cope with an ever-evolving situation.
Price Gouging Protections

Attorney General Maura Healey's office has filed an emergency regulation to prohibit price gouging of essential products and services during the COVID-19 public health emergency. The amendment to regulation 940 CMR 3:18, filed with the Secretary of State’s Office and effective immediately, prohibits price gouging of goods and services necessary for public health and safety during a declared statewide or national emergency. Previously under the state’s consumer protection law, the only existing regulation related to price gouging addressed the sale of gasoline and other petroleum products.

There have been widespread reports of inflated prices for goods like hand sanitizer, face masks, and gloves as well as temporary personnel in response to the growing demand for such products and services due to the spread of COVID-19. 

The AG’s Consumer Protection Division encourages members of the public to call 617-727-8400 or file a complaint online about unreasonably high prices of consumer goods during this public health emergency. 
As always, please do not hesitate to reach out if the Partnership can be of any assistance to you. Partnership operations are continuing throughout the duration of the current public health crisis, with our staff working remotely. You may reach me directly via email at [email protected] .

Jason Palitsch
Executive Director
The 495/MetroWest Partnership