#10 | MONDAY, MARCH 30, 2020

Over the weekend, the federal government put into action a $2 trillion stimulus bill to aid the economy given the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic known as the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act, or CARES Act . Title one, the Keeping American Workers Paid and Employed, provides relief for small businesses and their employees adversely impacted by COVID-19.

The cornerstone is the Paycheck Protection Program – an emergency lending program administered by the Small Business Administration. At $349 billion in new lending capacity, it will provide loans to borrowers at this time of economic uncertainty. The fund, which accounts for the vast majority of the small business assistance provided in the legislation, is intended to accomplish two fundamental goals:
  • Help small businesses cover their near-term operating expenses during the worst of the crisis
  • Provide a strong incentive for employers to retain their employees. 

In short, it is intended as a partial revenue replacement program to allow deeply affected businesses to hibernate through a period of severe disruption without making drastic changes to their footprint.
  • It targets businesses, 501(c)(3) nonprofits, tribal businesses, and veteran organizations with 500 employees or less as eligible for federally-insured, partially-forgivable loans to cover short-term operating expenses during the economic crisis. 
  • The maximum loan is equivalent to 250 percent of the employer’s average monthly payroll costs or $10 million, whichever is less. Payroll costs are defined broadly to include wages, salaries, retirement contributions, healthcare benefits, covered leave, and other expenses.
  • The program includes a number of generous features for borrowers, including six to 12 months of deferred repayment, fee waivers, and streamlined application requirements. 
  • Borrowers are eligible for loan forgiveness equivalent to the sum spent on covered expenses during the eight-week period after the loan is originated. Covered expenses include: the bulk of a typical business’ fixed operating costs such as payroll, rent, utilities, and mortgage interest obligations. However, to qualify for forgiveness, employers must maintain their pre-crisis level of full-time equivalent employees or face a reduction in forgiveness proportional to the reduction in headcount. Since many businesses have already been forced to make staffing reductions in response to vanishing customers and lost revenues, the legislation includes a clause that allows them to qualify for loan forgiveness if they have re-hired back to pre-crisis levels by June 30, 2020.
Congress made the terms generous and the barriers to entry low in an effort to ensure resources would be made available as quickly as possible. Borrowers do not need to demonstrate actual economic harm in order to qualify. Instead, they simply need to make a series of good faith certifications, principally that current economic conditions necessitate the loan to support ongoing business operations, and that the funds will be used to maintain payroll and address other covered expenses.

While this streamlined approach will certainly make it easier for vulnerable businesses to receive support on an expedited basis, it may also lead some otherwise healthy businesses to take advantage of the program at the expense of those whose survival depends upon it.
April events scheduled by the Chamber are being transitioned to webinars and / or being postponed to a later date. There will be NO in-person events and some events may be cancelled. Please check our events calendar for updated information about all events as well as new events added to assist our members during this pandemic.

Worcester Women's Leadership Conference Rescheduled
The Chamber, our planning committee, and presenting sponsors, UMass Memorial Health Care and Fallon Health, are pleased to inform you that the conference has been rescheduled to Monday, Nov. 16, 2020.
Employment Legal Issues in a COVID-19 Remote World | Monday, March 30 from 2 to 3 PM
Please join us for a Human Resources Roundtable webinar with Robert Young  of Bowditch & Dewey, LLP on Monday, March 30 from 2 to 3 PM.

He will discuss legal implications
from the coronavirus for employers including leaves of absence, sick time, and paid medical leave; crisis communication plans; and work-from-home policies.
FREE Webinar: NEW Federal Employment Act | Thursday, April 2 from 10 to 11 AM
Join us to learn about the new federal coronavirus employment act, including the Emergency Sick Leave Law, the Emergency FMLA Amendment, and the Payroll Protection Act.
Employers with under 500 employees may receive a refundable credit for up to 80 hours of sick leave paid to employees under the Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act and a refundable child care leave credit for up to 10 weeks under the Emergency FMLA Expansion Act. Under the Payroll Act the SBA will pay off loans for up to 8 weeks for payrolls. 
Attorney D. Moschos,  Labor and Employment, Mirick O'Connell
Attorney Kimberly Rozak,  Labor and Employment, Mirick O’Connell
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It's Monday and, for many of us, it's the third consecutive week we are working remotely. The weather is gloomy. Click below for a smile. Sound on and UP!

Ten days ago, the Rotterdam Philharmonic Orchestra uploaded this video to their YouTube channel

... we've been smiling
ever since!
NOTE | To keep our members up-to-date on available resources and the Chamber response to COVID-19, for the foreseeable future the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce will issue daily emails at noon. These emails contain a variety of information from local, state, and federal loans to the offerings of local businesses and best practices during this uncertain time.

As always, we are here to help. Due to the Governor’s stay-at-home advisory for non-essential employees, the Chamber office will be closed through April 7. Staff members will be checking email and voicemail and will respond accordingly. We will continue to monitor the most up-to-date information to best serve our business community. If you need assistance at the office, please email the Chamber . If you need assistance with Certificate of Origin processing, please email Brenda Elmes , office manager.
We wish you all continued health. Please reach out if the Chamber can be of assistance.