June 7th Information & Resources Update
Reopening Phase II Begins, In Part, Tomorrow;
Phase II Split Into Two Steps

Governor Baker has announced that Phase II of the state's reopening plan will begin, in part, tomorrow, Monday June 8th. However, Phase II will be broken into two Steps, with only Step One to commence tomorrow. The full text of the Governor's Phase II Executive Order can be found online here.

The following business entities are included in Step One of Phase II, and may reopen tomorrow with contingencies:

  • Retail, with occupancy limits

  • Childcare facilities and day camps, with detailed guidance

  • Restaurants (outdoor table service only)

  • Hotels and other lodgings, no events, functions or meetings

  • Warehouses and distribution centers

  • Personal services without close physical contact, such as home cleaning, photography, window washing, career coaching and education tutoring

  • Post-secondary, higher education, vocational-tech and occupation schools for the purpose of completing graduation requirements

  • Youth and adult amateur sports, with detailed guidance

  • Outdoor recreation facilities

  • Professional sports practices, no games or public admissions

  • Non-athletic youth instructional classes in arts, education or life skills and in groups of less than 10

  • Driving and flight schools

  • Outdoor historical spaces, no functions, gatherings or guided tours

  • Funeral homes, with occupancy limits

The following businesses will be eligible reopen in Step Two of Phase II at a later date to be determined:

  • Indoor table service at restaurants

  • Close-contact personal services, with restrictions, including: hair removal and replacement; nail care; skin care; massage therapy; makeup salons and makeup application services; tanning salons; tattoo, piercing and body art services; and personal training, with restrictions

Two additional sets of Sector Specific Guidance have been released as well (click the hyperlink associated with each to access the guidance):

Health care providers may also incrementally resume in-person elective, non-urgent procedures and services, including routine office visits, dental visits and vision care subject to compliance with public health and safety standards. Click here to access detailed reopening information for health care providers. All other in-person medical, behavioral health, dental and vision services may also resume on June 8th, except for elective cosmetic procedures and in-person day programs, which will be included in Phase III. Telehealth must continue to be utilized and prioritized to the greatest extent possible, whenever feasible and appropriate. Limited reopening of visitation will also begin, and all visitation is subject to infection control protocol, social distancing and face coverings.
Paycheck Protection Program Changes Approved

Last week, Congress passed and the President signed legislation aimed at revising the Small Business Administration Paycheck Protection Program (PPP). The legislation, H.R. 7010, includes provisions to:

  • Extend the period during which proceeds must be spent for loans to be forgiven from 8 weeks to 24 weeks, or until December 31, 2020, whichever comes first

  • Businesses will have up to 5 years, instead of 2 years, to repay any money owed on a loan

  • The percentage of PPP proceeds that can be used for rent and other approved non-payroll expenses increases from 25% to 40%. Eligible payroll expenses must now be at least 60% of loan proceeds

  • Allows PPP loan recipients to defer 2020 payroll taxes into 2021 and 2022

  • Extends the June 30 rehiring deadline to December 31, 2020

These new changes will stimulate new rule making by the US Treasury and the SBA. The full text of the legislation can be found online here.
Legislation for Municipalities Passed Relative to Municipal Elections, Town Meetings, Finance & Budget, and K-12 Education

Last week, both chambers of the state Legislature passed S.2680, An Act relative to municipal governance during the COVID-19 emergency, which allows for municipal elections and municipal caucuses that were originally scheduled prior to June 30 to be rescheduled to a date no later than August 1. It also ensures that voters will have the option to vote by absentee ballot or through early voting by mail when a municipal election is rescheduled.

The bill now proceeds to the Governor for his signature. The legislation carries an emergency preamble, meaning if signed by the Governor, it will take effect immediately. 

The full text of the legislation can be found online at this link; a partial summary is included below.

The legislation, among other provisions:

Municipal Elections

  • Permits the select board, town council, board of registrars or city council of the city or town to vote on any day prior to the date of their scheduled municipal caucus or municipal election to postpone the municipal caucus or municipal election to a date certain on or before August 1, 2020

  • Mandates that, for an election held on or before August 1, 2020 any person taking precaution related to COVID-19 in response to a declared state of emergency or from guidance from a medical professional, local or state health official, or any civil authority shall be deemed to be unable by reason of physical disability to cast their vote in person at a polling location

  • Permits any eligible voter to vote early by mail for any annual or special municipal or state election held on or before August 1, 2020

Town Meetings

  • Permits select boards or board of selectmen, in consultation with town moderators, to reduce quorum requirements for open town meetings to not less than 10% of the existing quorum level. Requires the select board or board of selectmen to publish its intention of adjusting the quorum level at least 7 days before their vote. Requires the town clerk to notify the attorney general of the adjusted quorum level

  • Permits representative town meetings to meet remotely so long as it is approved by the select board/board of selectmen through a request by the town moderator. Stipulates requirements that must be met in order to request the meeting be held remotely as well as sets notification requirements if a remote meeting is authorized. Mandates several standards that must be provided by the video or teleconference platform being used for the remote town meeting such as ensuring members and the public can hear the town moderator, making sure members and the public can be recognized without prior authorization, ensuring the ability to hold a roll call, and requiring that the meeting be recorded

  • Requires the board of selectmen or select board, no later than 10 business days following receipt of a written request by the moderator of remote participation, shall vote to determine if town meeting will be held remotely

  • Stipulates that if the select board approves remote participation and previously issued a warrant calling a town meeting to be held not later than June 30, 2020, the select board shall issue a notice that expressly states that the town meeting shall be held remotely, the date and time of the meeting and information necessary to witness the meeting

  • Stipulates that if the select board approves remote participation and has not yet issued a warrant, the board shall approve and issue a warrant that expressly states that the meeting shall be held remotely, the date and time of the meeting and any information necessary to witness the meeting

  • Requires the town clerk to submit certified copies of the vote of the select board and the written request of the moderator to the attorney general no later than 5 business days after the vote to approve the remote meeting request

  • Requires the town meeting members to vote on whether to commence business at the town meeting remotely, prior to taking up any business. Should the town not vote to commence business, then the town meeting shall be adjourned to the date, time and place in the notice of warrant

  • Stipulates that a vote taken at a remote meeting shall be taken by any means that the moderator determines accurately and securely records the votes of those entitled to vote at the meeting, including, but not limited to, a roll call vote, electronic voting, voting by ballot, voting by phone or any combination thereof

  • Requires town meeting held remotely to be recorded and made public on the town’s website for at least 90 days after the conclusion of the remote meeting

  • Stipulates that all actions taken during a remote meeting are ratified, validated and confirmed to the same extent as if the town meeting had been conducted in person and such actions are in accordance with all other applicable laws

Municipal Finance & Budgeting

  • Extends the deadline for mayors to submit FY21 budgets to city councils as result of the state of emergency and COVID-19 to July 31 or within 30 days after the termination of the state of emergency, whichever is earlier. Permits the Mayor to submit to the city council a continuing appropriation budget for the city on a month-by-month basis for a period not to exceed 3 months if the city has not approved an annual budget for FY21 by June 30, 2020 due to the state of emergency

  • Allows municipalities to suspend the dedication of revenues to one or more special funds in Fiscal Year 2021 and to place those revenues in the general fund, where they can be appropriated “for any lawful purpose notwithstanding the specified purpose of the fund” by a 2/3 vote of the local governing body. If the specific stabilization fund or special fund has been established for educational purposes, any money appropriated from these funds must be approved by the local school committee

  • Mandates that a city, town, or district, shall not terminate an essential service of a resident, including, but not limited to, water, trash collection or electricity, for nonpayment of taxes or fees with a due date on or after March 10, 2020, made after its respective due date but before June 30, 2020, if the nonpayment resulted from a demonstrated inability to pay due to circumstances related to the outbreak of COVID-19 or the governor’s March 10, 2020 declaration of a state of emergency; provided that the inability to pay shall include a demonstrated financial hardship of a resident, which may include, but not be limited to, loss of employment, serious illness of someone within the home or death of someone within the home

K-12 Education

  • Authorizes the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education to issue emergency educator licenses during the State of Emergency and for up to 180 days after the State of Emergency is terminated

  • Facilitates payments on service contracts for school or education-related services provided to cities, towns and regional school districts

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!
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 jason@495partnership.org .

Jason Palitsch
Executive Director
The 495/MetroWest Partnership