June 4th Information & Resources Update
A Statement from the 495/MetroWest Partnership

The board and leadership of the 495/MetroWest Partnership are deeply saddened and troubled by the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last week, and by the continuing impact of racism on people of color and on our society.

Yesterday morning, our board of directors voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that the Partnership hereby calls on all Americans to respect all human rights, and supports only legal and humane public safety practices at all times.
Commuting & Work-from-Home Survey

The 495/MetroWest Partnership is partnering with businesses and transportation associations across the Commonwealth to survey employees about their commuting choices as the state reopens. We are asking area employers to please take a few minutes to distribute this online survey to your employees, to enhance this research and ensure that the perspective of the 495/MetroWest region is properly reflected. Your employees’ responses will be analyzed alongside those from employees across the Commonwealth. If enough responses are collected, the survey team may be able to analyze results for our region separately from the statewide results.

The survey is being conducted by The MassINC Polling Group, with support from The Barr Foundation.

Responses are anonymous and will not be used to identify individual survey respondents in any way.

Below is some suggested language for sending the survey to your employees:

Please take a few minutes to fill out this online survey about commuting and working from home as the state reopens from the coronavirus. Your responses will be analyzed alongside those from workers across the Commonwealth, to help us, other businesses, and policymakers understand what reopening means for traffic and public transit. The survey will close on Monday, June 22. Don’t miss your chance to make your voice heard. Thank you!
Upcoming Business Loan Opportunity:
The Main Street Lending Program

The Main Street Lending Program, a facility established by the Federal Reserve and administered by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, will soon begin accepting applications from small and medium-sized businesses.

The program is designed to help credit flow to medium-sized and small businesses that were in good financial condition, but now need loans to help until they have recovered from, or adapted to, the impacts of the pandemic.

The program offers 4-year loans, with floating rates, and principal and interest payments deferred during the first year to assist businesses facing temporary cash flow interruptions. The loans range in size from $500,000 to $200 million – a wide range that may support a broad set of employers.

Main Street loans are not grants and cannot be forgiven. The loans are underwritten and approved by eligible lenders.

Interested potential business borrowers can review the program parameters online at this link. The Federal Reserve is currently working to create the infrastructure to operationalize the program and is not yet accepting program documents; the website linked above includes an option for interested parties to sign up to receive email updates regarding the Main Street Lending Program, which will inform you when applications may be submitted.
Coronavirus Relief Fund for Cities & Towns: Deadline Extended

The deadline for municipalities to submit applications for FY20 Coronavirus Relief Funds (CvRF) has been extended one week until Friday, June 12th. The Partnership's previous informational update on the program is re-issued here:

From May 22, 2020:

The Baker-Polito Administration announced plans to distribute up to $502 million from the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CvRF) to cities and towns across the Commonwealth for eligible COVID-19 response costs.

  • Click here to access guidance on the formal distribution process for these funds
  • Click here to access a letter to Municipal Executive Officers on CvRF from the Secretary of Administration & Finance
  • Click here to view a webinar on CvRF hosted by A&F and the Massachusetts Municipal Association (MMA)

Municipalities, through their chief executive officer, may apply online for estimated FY20 needs. These funds will help address any existing deficits in FY20, thereby avoiding the need to use reserves to fund a deficit or carry one into FY21. Municipalities will then have the opportunity to request funding for FY21 eligible COVID-19 costs at a later date.

These federal funds must be utilized by municipalities consistent with parameters established by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (the “CARES” Act) and guidance from the US Treasury Department. Under federal law, eligible uses must be necessary expenditures incurred due to the public health emergency with respect to COVID–19, and may not be used to substitute for lost revenue. They cannot have been budgeted as of March 27, 2020 when the CARES Act was enacted, and may not supplant state or municipal spending. Additionally, the expenditures must be incurred on or after March 1, 2020, and up to December 30, 2020. Recently released federal guidance clarifies that CvRF resources can be used as the local FEMA match.

Questions from municipal leaders should be directed to your Division of Local Services (DLS) field representative, or via email to [email protected].

Summary: Pending Legislation to Permit Outdoor Dining, Takeout Sales of Mixed Drinks, Limits on Third-Party Fees

Yesterday, the state House of Representatives passed H.4767, An Act addressing challenges faced by food and beverage establishments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, which now proceeds to the Senate for consideration.

This legislation, if passed, would make a number of temporary changes to restaurant service in the Commonwealth as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic designed to allow for expanded safe restaurant operations. Municipalities would be permitted to temporarily modify licenses and permits to allow for outdoor table service without the standard notification and approval process, and restaurants would be permitted to sell mixed drinks in a sealed container for takeout or delivery. The bill also would allow for delayed payment of meals tax for the third and fourth quarters of 2020, and would prohibit third-party food service platforms (such as GrubHub and DoorDash) from charging exorbitant service fees to restaurants.

The legislation carries an emergency preamble, which if also adopted by the Senate, would mean the law would take effect immediately upon being signed by the Governor.

Among other provisions, the bill as it stands includes:

  • An extension of the existing, temporary allowance of off-premises sale of alcohol in original containers to continue through the end of the state of the emergency or February 28, 2021, whichever is later.

  • Allowance of deferred payment of meals tax on sales from June 1, 2020 to December 31, 2020. Delayed taxes on sales between June 1 and August 31 would have to be paid by September 20, 2020, and sales made between September 1 and December 31 would have to be paid by January 20, 2021. The Commissioner of Revenue would be required to waive any late-payment fees or interest accruals as long as payment is remitted by the dates established. The bill would permit the Commissioner to promulgate regulations for implementation.

  • Authorization for municipalities to approve requests for restaurants to provide outdoor table service provided that the chief executive officer of a city or town sets up a process for approval prior to any requests. Approvals would be permitted to take immediate effect without standard notification requirements as long as they are filed with the city or town clerk. Any approvals issued pursuant to this section would automatically revert back to their status prior to the approval of the change for expansion of outdoor table service on November 30, 2020.

  • Authorization for municipalities to modify licenses for on-premises consumption of alcoholic beverages to allow for outdoor alcohol service as local licensing authorities deem “reasonable.” Local licensing authorities may issue amended licenses without ABCC approval but must submit amended licenses to the commission after the fact. The ABCC would be required publish amended regulations and guidance for local licensing authorities within 10 days of enactment of the legislation. Amended licenses issued by local licensing authorities pursuant to this section would automatically revert back to their prior status on November 30, 2020.

  • Authorization for establishments licensed to sell alcoholic beverages for on-premises consumption to sell mixed drinks in a sealed container for takeout until February 28, 2021 or the end of the state of emergency, whichever is later. Sale of takeout mixed drinks would be limited to 64 ounces, must be part of a food order, cannot be placed after 12 AM or the latest hour at which the establishment is licensed to sell alcohol (whichever is earlier), and must be transported in the trunk of a vehicle or “some other area that is not considered the passenger area.”

  • Third-party delivery service companies (such as GrubHub or DoorDash) would be prohibited from charging more than 15% of the purchase price on online orders as a delivery fee; the bill was amended so that such companies are further prohibited from charging more than 5% of the purchase price for other services such as advertising and listing.

To access the full text of the legislation as it currently stands, click here. Note this measure has passed only the House of Representatives, and proceeds now to the Senate for consideration.
Join the 495/MetroWest Partnership &
the MassHire Metro South/West Workforce Board for our
MetroWest Weekly Employer Town Hall Series

Area employers are invited to join the 495/MetroWest Partnership and the MassHire Metro South/West Workforce Board for our continuing weekly discussions surrounding critical issues business are facing right now. We will answer questions about the various resources that are available to companies and their workers during these difficult times.

These discussions are open to any interested party, and are held each Wednesday afternoon starting May 6th, at 1:00 PM via Zoom. Click here to sign up!

  • Jason Palitsch, Executive Director, the 495/Metro West Partnership
  • Greg Bunn, Executive Director, MassHire Metro South/West Workforce Board
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