To our valued Chamber community,
As we continue to adapt to this unprecedented situation in the face of COVID-19, we at the Chamber are committed to serving as the convener, voice, and advocate for all of our members.
To help us navigate through the evolving COVID-19 developments, the Chamber is introducing Boston's COVID-19 Digest for Business, a newsletter to provide you with periodic updates and resources from the government; federal, state, and local public policy analysis; and industry-specific insights into what employers are doing to confront COVID-19.
On behalf of our staff, I want to express our deepest gratitude to our membership community. Let us not forget that we are, and continue to be, #BostonStrong.
James E. Rooney, President & CEO
This page will continue to be updated as often as possible to reflect the latest information available. You must opt-in to communications to receive Boston's COVID-19 Digest for Business in your inbox. Click here to subscribe.
PUBLIC POLICY UPDATES
The CARES Act
The U.S. Congress on Friday passed a nearly $2 trillion economic stimulus package. The legislation makes temporary changes to Unemployment Insurance, helps both small businesses and hard-hit industries, and includes other relief provisions. These expanded benefits will be available through the crisis, with most sunsetting after several months or at the end of 2020.
Federal agencies published guidance related to the temporary programs established in the CARES Act and in the earlier Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA) for use by individuals, businesses, and municipal and state governments.
- IRS guidance and resources related to Coronavirus Tax Relief
- U.S. Treasury guidance for small business assistance
- IRS and Treasury FAQ for COVID-19-related business tax credits for required Paid Leave for small and medium businesses
- The Small Business Administration (SBA) released several resources related to the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP), including an overview of the program and information for both lenders and borrowers. The borrower application is available here.
Families First Coronavirus Response Act
On March 18, the President signed into law the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (H.R. 6201) to provide relief for employers and individuals. Importantly, as a result of the increased funding for health services, Massachusetts will receive an additional $1.08 billion in calendar year 2020 for MassHealth. Other key provisions are:
- Unemployment Compensation – gives states flexibility to shorten required waiting periods and adjust eligibility tests
- Paid Sick Leave – requires employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide two weeks of paid sick leave on top of existing sick time benefits, to be refunded via tax credit on the employer’s quarterly tax filing. There are provisions that dictate eligibility and rates of pay.
- Paid Family and Medical Leave – requires most employers with fewer than 500 employees to provide 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave to be refunded fully via tax credit, and includes an additional credit to cover the cost of the employee’s health care during the leave period. There are also key provisions on rates of pay and eligibility.
- Provisions for Diagnostic Testing – extends COVID-19 diagnostic testing at no cost to individuals insured by private plans, Medicare, Medicaid, TRICARE, Veterans programs, Indian Health Services, federal employees and to reimburse the cost of testing to uninsured individuals
- Health Services – increases federal funding for state and territory Medicaid allotments including more than $1 billion for Massachusetts
- School Nutrition Programs, WIC, SNAP, Senior Food Programs – increases funding for key food provision programs and suspends work and work training requirements for SNAP eligibility requirements; provides authority for state program waivers
- Medical Devices Liability – provides limited liability protection for medical device manufacturers producing personal respiratory devices
Department of Labor Guidelines regarding Paid Leave Changes
On March 24, the Department of Labor released its first set of guidelines to help both employers and individuals navigate the expanded paid leave benefits available through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). The guidance offers details about determining eligibility and coverage, small business exemptions, identifying benefits for part time employees, and calculating the benefit for individual employees.
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employee Paid Leave Rights
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Employer Paid Leave Requirements
- Families First Coronavirus Response Act: Questions and Answers
- Model Poster to meet Notification Requirements
The Employment and Training Administration, a program of the Department of Labor, announced new guidelines to give states flexibility with unemployment insurance programs. Under the new guidelines states may expand the eligibility requirements of their UI programs to include the following situations:
- Employees of a business that temporarily closes due to COVID-19
- Individuals in quarantine who expect to return to work following their quarantine period
- Individuals who choose to leave work due to concern of a high-risk of exposure or infection
- Individuals who leave work to care for a family member
- Individuals are not required to quit to become eligible for benefits
IRS Tax Return and Payment Deadlines
As of March 18, 2020 the Internal Revenue Service announced a delayed deadline of July 15, 2020 for income tax payment in response to the COVID-19 crisis. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin announced on March 20, 2020 that the filing deadline would also be postponed to July 15, 2020. The IRS also announced a temporary closure of all Taxpayer Assistance Centers and has discontinued face-to-face services nationwide.
Actions of the Federal Reserve
The Federal Reserve announced several new initiatives to support the economy:
- The Federal Open Market Committee (FOMC) will assist in market stabilization by purchasing Treasury securities and market-backed mortgages. The FOMC will continue to offer large-scale overnight and term purchase agreements and will use all available tools to enable the flow of credit to individuals and businesses.
- Encourage the flow of credit to individuals and businesses through the Exchange Stabilization Fund (ESF) by establishing new programs and $300 billion in new funding.
- Establishment of three new facilities to support the flow of credit to large employers, consumers, and businesses and for new bond and loan issuance: the Primary market Corporate Credit Facility (PMCCF), the Secondary Market Corporate Credit Facility (SMCCF), and the Term Asset-Backed Securities Loan Facility.
- Expansion of the Money Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility (MMLF) to include a wide range of securities.
- Expansion of the Commercial Paper Funding Facility (CPFF).
The Federal Reserve will soon announce a Main Street Business Lending Program to support lending to eligible small-and-medium sized businesses.
On March 20, 2020 the President announced that the U.S. borders with Mexico and Canada will be closed to nonessential travel beginning at midnight on Sunday, March 22, 2020.
The Department of State announced a Global Level 4 Health Advisory asking citizens to avoid all international travel. This follows an earlier announcement that the Department of State had authorized U.S. diplomatic personnel and family to depart from any post.
United States Census Timelines Extended
The U.S. Census Bureau published an adjusted schedule for operations to protect the health and safety of Census Bureau staff and the public, and to ensure an accurate count of the population. The Boston Chamber encourages everyone to complete their Census form online.
- On March 20, 2020 Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos announced that states may submit a waiver to bypass standardized testing for students impacted by school closures.
- The Federal government announced that payments on federally held student loans may be placed on hold and interest will be waived for at least 60 days.
State of Emergency Declaration
The President has issued a series of proclamations related to COVID-19. On March 13, he declared a national State of Emergency that, in combination with Secretary Alex Azar’s previously declared National Public Health Emergency, can loosen regulatory requirements to provide resources to impacted individuals through federal and state programs including Medicare and Medicaid, and make federal aid available to states.
Federal Agency Flexibility
In the past week, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced that manufacturers of disinfectant products have temporary flexibility in their ability to source active ingredients, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) temporarily changed requirements to increase the availability of facemasks, and the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) will not enforce pilots’ expiring medical certificates through June 30.
Updated April 8, 2020
UPDATED Statewide Stay-at-Home Order
- On March 31, Governor Baker announced an updated statewide stay-at-home order effective through May 4 (originally April 7). All businesses that do not provide "COVID-19 Essential Services" must close their physical facilities to workers and the public.
- In conjunction with the updated order, the state issued new guidance on which businesses are considered “COVID-19 Essential Services”.
- For additional guidance, the Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development created a COVID-19 Essential Services FAQ.
- Businesses that are NOT covered under current guidance can submit an online request to be designated as essential for the purposes of the Emergency Order.
State Income Tax Guidance
The Governor and legislative leaders announced an agreement to extend the state individual income tax filing and payment deadline from April 15 to July 15. Accompanying legislation was filed to help finance and administer the extension.
The Department of Revenue issued a Technical Information Release (TIR 20-4) outlining state tax filing and payment relief:
- Postpones the due date for personal income tax filings and payments from April 15 to July 15.
- Waives certain late-file and late-payment penalties that apply to corporate excise returns and payments due April 15 that are filed and paid by July 15.
- Extends the due dates for the first and second installments of estimated personal income tax (originally April 15 and June 15) to July 15.
New State Law Grants Additional Flexibility to Municipalities, Businesses, and Individuals
On April 3, Governor Baker signed H.4598 (Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020) granting additional flexibility to municipalities, businesses, and individuals during the public health crisis:
- Temporarily allows restaurants to sell beer and wine with takeout orders
- Temporarily allows public corporations to conduct annual or special meetings remotely
- Temporarily allows non-profit boards of directors to meet remotely
- Permits scheduling and deadline flexibility for town meetings and municipal tax payments
- Allows a three-month extension for state personal income tax filing and payment
The Department of Public Health issued new guidance March 31 outlining the limited purposes and uses for which lodging (e.g., hotels, inns, beds and breakfasts and other short-term residential rentals) is an essential service under the Governor’s Emergency Order. The guidance states that these entities may only be used for efforts related to fighting COVID-19, like front line health workers or individuals, or for Massachusetts residents who have been displaced from their residences.
Governor Allows Construction Operations to Continue
On March 25, Governor Baker provided additional guidance pertaining to construction activity in the Commonwealth, following his Essential Services Order issued on March 23. The Governor’s clarification specifically allows all construction projects to continue during the State of Emergency, provided workers adhere to social distancing protocols. The Governor directly states that his Essential Services Order supplants any local bans on construction activity. Diverging from the Governor’s announcement, Mayor Marty Walsh on March 25 extended his order pausing non-essential construction work in Boston. The City of Cambridge’s Temporary Emergency Construction Moratorium is still in effect and Somerville Mayor Joseph Curtatone reiterated that the Somerville construction suspension remains in full force.
Prohibition on Gatherings of Over 10 People
Governor Baker on March 23 issued an executive order prohibiting gatherings of over 10 people.
Shareholder Meeting Requirements
On March 30, Governor Baker issued an emergency order permitting public companies to hold annual or special shareholder meetings via remote communication, until 60 days after the end of the state of emergency. The order also outlines new temporary notification requirements for corporations that have already scheduled an annual or special shareholder meeting at a physical location.
Corporate Finance Filings and Financial Professionals Relief Measures
Secretary of the Commonwealth Bill Galvin issued an Emergency Notice providing temporary relief from notarization and signature requirements in corporate finance filings and for the registration of financial professionals. The Emergency Notice is effective from March 24th until April 30th, unless otherwise extended or rescinded.
Major Disaster Declaration
On March 26, Governor Baker submitted a request to the federal government for a Major Disaster Declaration for Massachusetts. President Trump approved Massachusetts’ request on March 27. With the approved declaration, federal aid will be available to municipalities, state agencies and some non-profits to help pay for emergency protective measures related to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- On March 18, the state to temporarily waive the one-week waiting period for receiving unemployment benefits for those workers who are separated from work due to either the COVID-19 outbreak or the Governor’s declaration of a state of emergency. This change is retroactive to March 10, 2020. Visit the Commonwealth's COVID-19 unemployment information webpage.
- The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance are filing emergency regulations to assist workers and employers. Workers impacted by COVID-19 will be allowed to collect unemployment benefits if their employer is closed but expects to reopen in fewer than four weeks. Employers impacted by COVID-19 will be allowed to request up to a 60-day grace period to file quarterly reports and to pay contributions.
- The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development and the Department of Unemployment Assistance will host virtual town hall meetings the week of March 23 to provide a step-by-step overview of submitting an unemployment claim.
For small businesses, the state has postponed the collection of regular sales, meals, and room occupancy taxes that would be due in March, April and May so that they will instead be due on June 20. All penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived. The Department of Revenue is drafting emergency regulations to implement these relief measures, and they are expected to be finalized before Friday, March 20, 2020.
- Businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes.
- Businesses, that paid less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes.
The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved the state’s small business disaster declaration and will begin approving low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Massachusetts small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. Click here to apply online or to receive additional disaster assistance information. Applications are due on or before December 18, 2020.
Governor Baker announced a $10 million small business loan fund, with loans of up to $75,000 available immediately for those impacted by COVID-19. Emergency capital is available to Massachusetts-based businesses with under 50 full- and part-time employees, including nonprofits. As of March 19, the state is no longer accepting applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund. Those still seeking assistance should apply for federal relief from the Small Business Administration. On March 20, the state announced an additional $10 million in available funding for the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund. This new funding is in addition to $10 million announced in mid-March.
The Massachusetts Department of Revenue will waive any late-file or late-payment penalties for returns and payment due for meals and room occupancy taxes between March 20 and May 31, 2020.
Flexibility in the Issuance and Administration of Insurance
The Massachusetts Division of Insurance issued Bulletin 2020-05 on March 23rd, which provides flexibility in the issuance and administration of insurance during the current public health crisis. The Bulletin provides the Division’s expectations of insurance carriers regarding steps to address concerns about maintaining coverage and preserving the state’s insurance market.
Message from Division of Banks to Financial Institutions & Mortgage Lenders
The Division of Banks (DOB) issued a message on March 25th outlining new expectations of financial institutions, mortgage lenders, and mortgage loan servicers. The DOB expects these institutions to implement reasonable changes to provide relief for borrowers impacted during the ongoing public health crisis. These actions include but are not limited to: postponing foreclosures for 60 days, forbearing mortgage payments for 60 or more days from their due dates, waiving late payment fees for a period of 60 days, and refraining from reporting late payments to credit rating agencies for 60 days.
Attorney General Maura Healey filed an amendment to regulation 940 CMR 3:18 immediately prohibiting price gouging of goods and services deemed necessary for public health and safety during a statewide or national emergency, including the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency.
Self-Quarantine Advisory for Travelers
The State on March 27 announced that all travelers arriving in Massachusetts are recommended to self-quarantine for 14 days. Health care and other essential workers are exempt from this requirement.
Bar Exam Postponed
The Supreme Judicial Court and the Board of Bar Examiners announced that the Massachusetts bar examination will not be administered on July 28 and July 29, 2020 as previously scheduled. The exam is postponed to September 30 and October 1.
- On March 15th, Governor Baker filed an executive order temporarily expanding access to telehealth services during the State of Emergency. Under the order, all commercial insurers are required to cover medically necessary telehealth services in the same manner they cover in-person services. In addition, insurers must cover COVID-19 related testing and treatment without requiring cost-sharing, such as a co-pay, and without requiring prior-authorizations.
- Secretary of Health and Human Services Marylou Sudders announced $200 million worth of accelerated FY20 and FY21 payments for MassHealth’s safety-net health care providers. The immediate advanced funding is meant to ensure the health care system can continue providing necessary resources to patients.
- The Massachusetts Health Connector has initiated an extended enrollment period for anyone without health insurance to enroll. Click here to apply. The Division of Insurance (DOI) also created a special enrollment period for anyone seeking to shop for individual coverage in the off-Exchange individual market. Both special enrollment periods will run through April 25. Loss of employment-based coverage is a qualifying event to get coverage through the Health Connector. The worker losing work-based coverage has 60 days before or after the loss of that coverage to obtain coverage through the Health Connector. Applications must be submitted by the 23rd of the month in order to secure coverage for the following month.
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) approved, in part, Massachusetts’ MassHealth waiver. With the approval, the state has additional flexibility to respond to the COVID-19 crisis.
- The Department of Public Health issued an order designed to provide on-demand licensing and re-licensing for certain health care professionals with licenses in good standing in other states, and professionals who have allowed their Massachusetts licenses to expire within the past 10 years while in good standing.
- On March 30, Governor Baker issued an emergency order authorizing the Executive Office of Health and Human Services to extend financial relief to providers of critical health care and social services that serve EOHHS clients, including members of MassHealth.
Governor Baker signed a new emergency order that declares any occupational or professional licenses of individuals that are in good standing and that would otherwise be up for renewal during the COVID-19 emergency shall be extended for 90 days after the end of the public health emergency.
On March 26, Governor Baker issued an emergency order extending certain professional licenses, certificates, or registration by a state agency that has expired or will expire during the state of emergency.
Health Care Licensure
The Baker-Polito Administration announced four new emergency orders to expedite the onboarding of more licensed health care professionals during the COVID-19 emergency. These orders, among other directives, allow licenses of certain retired physicians to be reactivated and for providers licensed in other states to obtain emergency licenses to practice in person or through telemedicine. The full orders are available below:
- Registration of Health Care Professionals
- Expanded Access to Physician Services
- DPH Credentialing and Staffing Order
- DPH EMS Care Order
Economic uncertainty and an expectation of a drop in tax revenue is impacting the drafting of an FY 2021 budget. After Governor Baker filed his proposed budget in January, the House was expected to put forth its own version in April. Representative Aaron Michlewitz, Chair of the House Committee on Ways & Means, has said that it is unlikely that the House will have a budget prepared by April. Adding to the uncertainty, legislators are grappling with how to debate and vote on legislation given social distancing and other health guidelines.
Debt Collection Regulations
Attorney General Maura Healey on March 26 filed an emergency regulation prohibiting certain debt collection practices (940 CMR 35.00). The regulation is in effect for 90 days or until the expiration of the State of Emergency.
Updated April 8, 2020
- Mayor Marty Walsh on March 25th extended his order pausing non-essential construction work in Boston. This order diverges from the clarification issued earlier the same day by Governor Charlie Baker specifically allowing all construction projects to continue during the State of Emergency.
- The City of Boston is updating its COVID-19 webpage daily with resources and orders as well as the number of confirmed and presumptive cases of COVID-19 in both Boston and Massachusetts.
- This week, the City announced a partnership with several large employers to implement the Boston Resiliency Fund, which will provide a centralized philanthropic effort for necessary funding to provide food to students and seniors, learning technology for students, and support for health care workers and first responders.
- In a press conference on March 18, Mayor Martin J. Walsh highlighted that Boston 311 is operational and that residents can text “boscovid” to 99411 for text updates from the City of Boston.
- On a call with Chamber members on March 23, Mayor Walsh stated that the City's FY 2021 budget cycle will proceed as usual.
- The City of Boston and the Boston Public Health Commission laid out a response plan for the city’s homeless population that includes partnering with private institutions such as Suffolk University and Boston Medical Center to provide additional dedicated space for shelter and health care.
- The Boston Housing Authority and Boston Public Schools partnered to house up to 1,000 families with BPS students who are at risk of or already experience homelessness during and after the COVID-19 emergency.
- Property tax bills previously due May 1 have been extended to June 1. Interest on late property tax and motor vehicle excise tax payments due between March 1 and June 30 is also waived.
- Mayor Walsh put in place several new social distancing measures, including recommendations to wear face coverings in public and to stay at home between 9pm and 6am daily.
- Beginning April 7, City Hall will only be open to the public by appointment on Tuesdays and Fridays from 9am to 5pm.
- The City of Cambridge has compiled information and resources related to COVID-19 on their webpage. Following Boston’s announcement earlier this week, Cambridge has announced a moratorium on construction projects and permits.
- On March 20, 2020 the City of Cambridge issued an emergency closure order for several categories of businesses.
- The City of Cambridge announced a City-led initiative to use local businesses, such as restaurants, to serve to serve the homeless population.
- Cambridge extended the due date for Second Half Real Estate and Property Tax bills to June 1. The City will waive interest and penalties on late payments for Excise Tax and water/sewer bills due after March 10 if paid before June 30.
- The City of Cambridge will pay all credit card and ACH fees for online payments of Real Estate, Personal Property, Water Bills, and others paid through the City’s online payment portal.
- On March 20 the City of Somerville announced several measures including the emergency closure of personal service and general retail businesses and new requirements for construction projects, which must provide a Job Hazard Analysis and Site-Specific Safety Plan in order to continue operations.
- Mayor Joseph Curtatone announced that the Somerville’s construction stoppage remains in place.
- The City of Worcester has established a centralized web page for information regarding COVID-19. Beginning March 18, Worcester City Hall and all public buildings are closed.
- The City of Springfield is publishing updates regarding the COVID-19 crisis regularly. On March 18, Springfield announced a Restaurant Grant Program to support businesses shifting to delivery to comply with dine-in restrictions and to maintain staff.
- The City of Springfield implemented an extended deadline for the collection of real estate taxes.
- On March 18, 2020 the City of Worcester announced a delayed effective date for a ban on single-use shopping bags previously planned to become effective on April 1, 2020.
- The City of Worcester partnered with MassHire and the Worcester Regional Chamber of Commerce to launch a portal connecting job-seekers with urgent job demands – such as delivery service, industrial cleaners and medical support staff – during the ongoing public health crisis.
- The City of Quincy extended the property tax due date for fourth quarter bills to June 1.
Updated April 8, 2020
General Employer Issues/Questions
- The Commonwealth of Massachusetts is providing small business assistance for those impacted by COVID-19. As part of these efforts, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) will offer low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Massachusetts small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. Click here to apply online or to receive additional disaster assistance information. Applications are due December 18, 2020.
- The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has set up a web page of resources and guidelines for businesses as well as a web page dedicated to business resilience and disaster recovery.
- Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts is providing a new health news service featuring coronavirus articles called Coverage. Coronavirus articles are available on the Coverage website or you can subscribe to the weekly Coverage newsletter. All articles can be republished on your company website, your company newsletters, or via company email.
- Harvard Business Review: How the Coronavirus is Already Rewriting the Future of Business
- The United States Small Business Administration (SBA) has several guidance and loan resources.
- Goodwin Proctor LLP: The Implications of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Contractual Performance and Negotiations
- KPMGestablished a COVID-19 portal with insights and guidance to help business leaders gain perspective and better understand evolving business implications as they occur.
- PwC has outlined how and why US companies, including those without direct exposure, should focus their efforts on six key areas.
- Deloitte has guidance for companies experiencing significant operational disruption due to public policy measures put in place to contain the spread of COVID-19.
- McKinsey & Company offered business leaders a perspective on the evolving situation and implications for their companies.
- Ernst & Young has insight into how to build supply chains resilient to disruption.
- Denterlein published a two-part blog on communicating in the time of coronavirus as well as tips for a successful conference call.
- Commonwealth of Massachusetts COVID-19 unemployment information
- The New York Times is providing free access to all COVID-19 related news.
- State House News Service is providing free access to its Coronavirus Tracker.
- Nutter published a review of the role of employer-sponsored charitable organizations in national emergencies.
- The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development has two programs to help businesses avoid layoffs. The WorkShare program permits employees to work reduced hours while collecting unemployment benefits to supplement their lower wages. The Rapid Response Team helps employers identify their exact needs during a time of crisis and then assists them by establishing partnerships and building networks that help them meet the needs meant to reduce the possibility of layoffs or a plant closure.
- Massachusetts launched a COVID-19 Text Message Notification System, called “AlertsMA”, to deliver important information about the State’s COVID-19 response to residents. You can text “COVIDMA” to 888-777 to receive text updates to your phone.
- Nutter released three advisory publications:
- An overview of the Federal Reserve’s most recent announcement on new emergency lending programs and initiatives to promote employment, stable prices, and stability to the financial system.
- Policymakers are granting tort immunity to health care providers developing a cure for COVID-19. Companies developing lifesaving technologies to combat the coronavirus should not be subject, years from now, to juries second-guessing the time-sensitive decisions on countermeasures that need to be made by those on the front lines fighting COVID-19
- The U.S. Department of Labor has supplemented its guidance on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act. Over the past few days there has been debate on issues such as employee threshold, small business exemptions, and employee pay.
- Harvard Business Review shares their advice for managers and individual contributors as they transition to working from home during the coronavirus crisis.
- Takeda has donated more than $6.25 million to organizations including the American Red Cross ($4M), the City of Cambridge’s Mayor’s Disaster Relief Fund ($2M) and the Town of Lexington’s Emergency Assistance Fund ($250,000).
- Iandoli Desai & Cronin P.C. note that employers and employees are struggling to comply with completing in-person Employment Eligibility Verification documents due to COVID-19. The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that the agency will temporarily suspend the in-person review of documents normally required to complete the Form I-9 for employers who have transitioned to a telecommuting policy.
- Foley Hoag shares two blogs. One on the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) guidance on disclosures to law enforcement, first responders, and public health authorities while complying to HIPAA during COVID-19. The other on altenative notary solutions. In a time of stay-at-home orders and business closures, what has historically been a minor logistical item may now pose a serious impediment to filing a Form ID and obtaining valid EDGAR (electronic data gathering, analysis and retrieval) codes. Read more.
- Duane Morris LLP releases their latest alert to advise clients to expect delays in any merger reviews by the FTC and DOJ in processing investigations during COVID-19 restrictions.
- Pierce Atwood published a list of COVID-19 resources and insight on numerous topics including construction, employment & immigration, litigation, and state-specific news.
- U.S. Chamber guide and checklist for small businesses applying for the newly created federal emergency loans. This document provides clear information on eligibility, required documents, and loan structures.
- The U.S. Chamber released new and updated guidance for the small business resources created under the CARES Act.
- New American Economy developed a COVID-19 portal to track the work being done around the country to ensure that immigrants, refugees, and other vulnerable groups have access to information and resources they need, from health care to economic stability. The portal also provides up-to-date data from the team on the role of immigrants during the current crisis.
- The U.S. Chamber released new and updated guidance for employers on the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
- RSM released their coronavirus resources center page, including guidance on cash-flow projections, risk management, and workforce dynamics.
- McKinsey & Company discuss solutions on how to manage our economy and our lives during the time of COVID-19.
- Soofa makes digital outdoor signs that serve as the neighborhood news feed across communities in and around Boston. Because of all the hardship and uncertainty this public health crisis is causing local businesses, Soofa is offering free accounts for local businesses to advertise gift cards, delivery services, or other promotions.
- Nutter is providing clients’ legal services remotely and has published a resource page full of insights on the COVID-19 outbreak and associated business considerations, including guidance for employers.
- Sullivan & Worcester has eliminated in-person meetings and has replaced them with teleconference/videoconference. All domestic travel is restricted to essential business only and international travel is delayed indefinitely.
- Nitsch Engineering has encouraged all employees to work from home, and has closed its office to the public.
- Foley Hoag personnel are working remotely, and meetings are being held virtually. The firm has also established a COVID-19 Task Force to address client matters related to the virus.
- McCarter & English has implemented remote work, limited non-essential business travel, established quarantine procedures, and limited in-person meetings. The firm has also established a resource page.
- Sasaski has asked employees to work remotely until further notice, transition to virtual meetings, and restrict all air travel. Employees will be asked to quarantine themselves at home for two weeks following any travel.
- Marcum LLP’s physical offices have closed but the firm plans to maintain remote work arrangements through March 22 and will closely monitor the situation to determine if those arrangements need to be extended.
- RSM has established a resource center which includes analysis and guidance for middle market economies during the COVID-19 outbreak.
- Sullivan & Galleshaw have moved all in-person meetings to video conferences, and have prepared all staff to continue to work on matters remotely.
- Goodwin Law issued their weekly newsletter with the latest about financial regulators ramping up measures to address COVID-19. The Federal Reserve has created Monthly Market Mutual Fund Liquidity Facility, similar to a facility created during the 2008 financial crisis, to make loans to financial institutions to purchase assets that money market funds (MMF) are selling to meet redemptions. Read more about it here.
- Korn Ferry shares their insight on how you can remain indispensable during a crisis like coronavirus; be empathetic, remain agile, always communicate, and stick to your word.
- Sullivan & Worcester and Nutter have issued guidance for employers on interpreting the Governor’s shutdown order for non-essential businesses.
- Sullivan Law recently issued a client alert that explores the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the CARES Act.
- Nutter published a full advisory on the temporary rule issued on April 1 by the Department of Labor, providing further guidance with respect to the paid leave available under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (the “FFCRA”).
- Pierce Atwood issued an advisory on crossing state lines. Several New England states – including Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Massachusetts – issued 14 day self-quarantine orders for travelers arriving from outside their respective states, unless they are traveling for essential reasons.
- Citizens Bank has gathered helpful resources for customers and employers, from COVID-19 fraud prevention tips to a perspective on the financial markets.
- John Hancock has implemented business continuity plans and indicates that employees will work remotely.
- Bank of America has increased deep cleaning efforts at all financial centers and is encouraging customers to use online banking tools. For employees, Bank of America has limited travel to essential domestic travel only.
- The Financial Services Forum member institutions have collectively decided to halt share buybacks for the remainder of Q1 and all of Q2. The eight members of the Forum include Bank of America, Bank of New York Mellon, Citigroup, Goldman Sachs, JP Morgan Chase, Morgan Stanley, State Street, and Wells Fargo.
- Fidelity Investor Centers are open with enhanced cleaning routines; however, they encourage you to consider a phone-based appointment. As Fidelity continues to monitor the situation, it may temporarily transition all client service to digital channels and phone. Fidelity has free advice on navigating volatility in the stock market amid coronavirus fears.
- JP Morgan Chase has been applying its resiliency plans as necessary and as a result, restricted all international travel and is able to operate fully from remote locations. Additionally, JPMorgan Chase announced a $50 million global philanthropic commitment to address the immediate public health and long-term economic challenges from the COVID-19 global pandemic.
- Eastern Bank, announced a coronavirus relief effort valued at more than $10 million today. It included a $5 million loan fund for small businesses in need of working capital, requiring, that only interest be paid for the first six months.
- Citizens Bank pledged $5 million for virus-related relief.
- Santander committed $25 million to finance small business-loans through community development financial institutions.
- Wells Fargo announced additional comprehensive steps to help their customers, communities, and employees grappling with the impact of COVID-19. The company has suspended residential property foreclosure sales, evictions and involuntary auto repossessions. Additionally, the Wells Fargo Foundation will increase its charitable donations to $175 million to help address food, shelter, small business and housing stability, as well as to provide help to public health organizations.
- JPMorgan Chase CEO, Jamie Dimon, writes a letter to shareholders about dealing with the current COVID-19 crisis, and also includes their 2019 Annual Report.
- Boston University has suspended in-person learning and transitioned to remote teaching and learning. All campus events and athletics have been suspended, and students are encouraged to return home. The university has activated a COVID-19 hotline for students, faculty, staff, and visiting scholars.
- Harvard University is remaining open while transitioning to remote work, learning, and teaching. All university sponsored travel has been suspended and staff and students returning from a country with a CDC Level 4 travel notice are required to submit confidential paperwork 48 hours before returning and are required to immediately begin a 14-day quarantine upon arrival.
- Boston College will transition to remote learning and teaching effective March 19th. Dining halls will continue providing food as a take-out service only. Students are required to leave campus unless an exemption has been granted.
- Northeastern University has transitioned to remote learning and teaching. Students who are currently participating in co-operative education at a workplace have been included in the university's request to leave campus and are instructed to work with their current employer regarding continuing as a remote worker.
- MIT has cancelled all courses until March 30, when they will resume as virtual options. Research activity has been limited and students have been required to leave campus.
- Emmanuel College resumed its Spring semester in an online/remote learning context.
- Roxbury Community College is undergoing preventative sanitizing cleaning this week and has extended Spring Break through March 28.
- The Association for Library and Information Science Education (ALISE) has a resource guide for the information sciences and with guides to remote learning and CDC recommendations specific to institutions of higher education and libraries.
- Bunker Hill Community College is open, but students are asked to call or email before visiting the campus. Mini-sessions and online classes are scheduled to resume March 23, with the rest of the school on Spring Break until March 30.
- University of Massachusetts Boston is transitioning to full time remote mode and taking efforts to reduce the number of employees on campus by the close of business on March 20. Classes are being maintained as usual. The University launched a program to provide laptops to students in need, to date the University has raised funds to purchase 143 machines. Donors can contribute to UMass Boston’s Beacon Student Aid Fund.
- Boston University National Emerging Infectious Diseases Laboratories (NEIDL) is the only lab in New England to be testing compounds against live coronavirus pathogens and putting new approved and unapproved drugs to the test.
- The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) approved the state’s small business disaster declaration and will begin approving low-interest federal disaster loans for working capital to Massachusetts small businesses suffering substantial economic injury as a result of COVID-19. Click here to apply online or to receive additional disaster assistance information. Applications are due on or before December 18, 2020.
- Google has resources to help your small business manage through uncertainty.
- Bowditch stands ready to fully support businesses in a collective effort to confront and overcome the COVID-19 crisis. Their most recent post is a checklist for small businesses who are ordered to shut down or are minimizing operations.
- U.S. Chamber guide and checklist for small businesses applying for the newly created federal emergency loans. This document provides clear information on eligibility, required documents, and loan structures.
- The U.S. Chamber released new and updated guidance for the small business resources created under the CARES Act.
Target will be implementing new protocols as a proactive measure to protect team members and guests, such as, decals on the floor to measure out 6 feet between guests waiting in line and staggering checkout lanes in use.
Wayfair is providing emergency paid time off to enable team members who are not feeling well to stay home without losing pay. In-home deliveries are operating on schedule; however, delays caused by local regulations are possible.
Primark is following advice from the World Health Organization, government, and health authorities in deciding to close all U.S. stores until further notice.
Commonwealth Kitchen has compiled a Food Business in the face of COVID-19 Resource guide available for HR, financial, and other aspects of food businesses being impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Simon Property Group has announced the temporary closure of all domestic retail locations including Copley Place.
The health care industry is at the frontlines of the COVID-19 crisis providing care to patients, evidence-based guidance to the public, and developing tests and treatments as quickly as possible. The industry continues to point to the CDC and MA Department of Public Health as the primary resources of information. The health care industry is using its expertise to set standards and practices appropriate to their involvement in the COVID-19 response.
- Boston Medical Center has published a centralized list of resources for the recovery community through their Grayken Center for Addiction. BMC also says that people experiencing homelessness may be more vulnerable to serious health complications and that Boston Health Care for the Homeless Program is calling for all hands on deck.
- The Harvard Pilgrim Health Care Foundation has implemented its first round of $3 million in funds to support COVID-19 relief efforts across Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, and Connecticut.
- A potential plasma-derived therapy for treating COVID-19 has been developed by leading pharmaceutical organizations like CSL Behring, Takeda, Biotest Pharmaceuticals Corporation, and BPL Group. Read more here.
- Gilbane has created a dedicated, 24/7 COVID-19 Crisis Hotline and email for all employees, established a FAQ forum, and continues to educate employees on telemedicine screening options. The organization is also communicating guidelines to subcontractors and suppliers to reinforce the importance of wellness procedures
- Turner Construction has instituted a complete restriction on all business travel to areas heavily impacted by COVID-19 and postponed participation in large conferences or events through the end of April. Turner has also established a task force focused on protecting people, sharing information, reducing the spread of the virus, and supporting the continuity of operations.
- Suffolk has mobilized task forces to address health and safety concerns related to COVID-19, deployed employee-facing communications channels, and is donating more than 1,000 N95 face masks to patients and medical personnel at Mass General Brigham. Suffolk’s employee-run and funded nonprofit, The Giving Circle, is fielding requests for financial support from members of the Suffolk family.
- JLL has engaged in a scenario planning approach to monitor real estate markets.
- Colliers International Boston has set up its Knowledge Leader platform for perspective on the economic and commercial real estate impact of COVID-19. You will also find tips and guidelines to help you and your colleagues be most productive while working remotely.
- Boston Harbor Cruises has cancelled ferry and water taxi service until further notices. Excursion cruises and whale watches are cancelled through April 6.
- The Massachusetts Convention Center Authority issued a health advisory outlining efforts the MCCA is undertaking to prevent the spread of COVID-19.
- InterContinental Boston has established additional hygiene standards throughout the hotel beyond existing daily cleaning regimens and standards.
- Delta Air Lines has instituted additional cleanliness standards and capped fares in the U.S. and Canada through March 31.
- The New England Aquarium, the Museum of Science, and the Children’s Museum put out a joint statement announcing their temporary closure while monitoring the evolving pandemic in Boston.
- Jewish Vocational Service (JVS) has suspended face-to-face services and is currently expanding distance-learning, coaching, and employment services.
- Ethos has discontinued all work-related foreign and domestic travel and requiring staff to self-quarantine following personal international travel. Because many of the venues that host Ethos cafes have had to close, any seniors served by Ethos are able to pick up “Grab & Go” meals.
- Susan G. Komen staff already work from remote offices and has limited travel to a need-only basis.
- Museum of Fine Arts, Boston closed on March 13 for up to 30 days and cancelled its 44th annual Art in Bloom scheduled for May 2 to 4, 2020.
- The Boston Private Industry Council, in its role as the city’s MassHire Workforce Board, is assisting the city’s career centers as they transition to providing remote service to existing customers and to those who need to apply for unemployment insurance through an expedited process.
- The Boston Foundation is hosting the COVID-19 Response Fund which will award one-time operating grants on a rolling basis to non-profits whose operations in support of elders and other vulnerable populations have been stressed by the outbreak.
- The Barr Foundation is extending support and flexibility to its grantees.
- ALPFA, the first national Latino professional association in the U.S., calls for collective efforts in the face of a difficult economic situation that impacts the Latino community. For further insight, read Mario Rivera’s, President of ALPFA, message on COVID-19 here.
- RIZE Massachusetts say that according to experts, COVID-19 could hit those with addiction particularly hard. There is less access to health care, housing insecurity, inability to practice social distancing, challenges in accessing harm reduction or treatment services, and harm caused by involvement with the criminal justice system. SAMHSA and the Mass. Bureau of Substance Addiction Services have recently released guidance on regulation changes for methadone treatment.
- The Boston Symphony Orchestra wants you to tune in to their social media channels to receive daily offerings of great performances from the BSO archives, behind the scenes content, and videos from their musicians as they stay at home.
- The Huntington Theatre reschedules its production until July. The organization has received cost of ticket donations to the Company. Learn more about the other ways you can give to one of Boston’s culture institutes here.
- WGBH’s Arun Rath hosts In It Together, airing weekdays at 7 pm. This talk show is an outlet for your questions, concerns, and stories. They want to hear how coronavirus is impacting your business, organization or industry.
- P&G / Gillette has asked all employees who can work from home to do so. Additional preventative measures have been adopted for roles where work-from-home is not an option. P&G also made a commitment to donate 50,000 N95 masks to help protect health care workers and first responders An additional donation of razors was made along with these masks, in keeping with the CDC’s recommendation to be clean shaven for a proper mask fit.
- Takeda has asked customer-facing employees to step away from healthcare sites and provide virtual support. Takeda is reaching out to healthcare providers to best meet their needs virtually.
- Biogen has established a fund for colleagues who are juggling home and family, and health and safety. In addition, the Biogen Foundation is donating $10 million to provide immediate relief for communities affected by COVID-19.
- MilliporeSigma is accelerating production of the materials being used to make the COVID-19 test kits worldwide. They're the only major life sciences company with a webpage solely dedicated COVID-19 listing over 125 products being used by scientists and drug manufacturers.
- Rapid7 published a blog with tips on how to work from home and keep your digital self safe.
- iCorps Technologies has taken measures that include employee education and limiting travel for nonessential meetings and conferences. The firm continues to offer IT and telecommunications support to business moving employees off-site.
- Google is partnering with the U.S. government in developing a website dedicated to COVID-19 education, prevention, and local resources nationwide.
- Verizon is waiving late fees for residential and small business customers and will not terminate service to these customers for inability to pay their bills on time.
- AT&T has established several internal protocols including excused paid leave for individuals in quarantine, experiencing school closures, or who may be at higher risk and cannot work from home. AT&T will not terminate services due to missed bills, will waive late payments fees, and keep public Wi-Fi hot spots open.
- Comcast will implement a number of new policies over the next 60 days, including free access to Xfinity WiFi hotspots across the country, pausing its data plan, and eliminating late fees and disconnects.
- Eversource implemented several measures to reduce in-person employee interaction in its facilities, including a work-from-home requirement for employees who can do so, as well as enhanced cleaning measures. In addition, Eversource has taken measures to alleviate any financial concerns its customers may face.
- National Grid is taking precautionary actions to mitigate exposure and reduce the impact of COVID-19 on its customers and employees. National Grid has also temporarily suspended collections-related activities, including service disconnections.
- AAA Northeast is abiding by the state of emergency order and limiting the number of people in retail locations. Roadside assistance is still available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.
- UPS is complying with all government regulations and health safety guidelines while also monitoring its air and ground networks to address potential sources of disruption in our air and ground networks.
- The Association for Chamber of Commerce Executives (ACCE) has compiled a guide for fellow Chambers to provide support as they prepare and respond to businesses during COVID-19.
- Inspiration Zone shared United Way of Massachusetts Bay and Merrimack Valley's COVID-19 Family Support Fund to help those without the support systems, networks, financial stability -- the sick, elderly, struggling families, small businesses and caregivers who may not have access to resources to weather this unexpected crisis.
Accurate Information Resources
- The best source for accurate information is the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The CDC has a section dedicated to COVID-19 that includes regularly updated information on:
- the disease: how it spreads, symptoms, treatment, etc.
- the situation: in the U.S. and abroad, how the U.S. is responding, and what may happen next.
- Guidance for businesses and employers. This page includes strategies for employers to use now, and information about planning for a potential U.S. outbreak.
- Partners HealthCare provided the Chamber with its policies for employee travel and employees who may have been exposed to the virus. You can view that PDF.
- Questions and Answers from Partners HealthCare
State & Local Government
- The state Department of Public Health has an information page on COVID-19. Data on statewide flu cases and coronavirus is reported in the state’s Weekly Flu Report.
- What does a state of emergency mean in Massachusetts? See the state's website.
- The City of Boston also has an information page on COVID-19 and it includes links to fact sheets in multiple languages.
Updates from the Chamber
- Chamber Programs & Events: Consistent with Governor Baker’s guidance, effective immediately through Friday, May 1, 2020, in-person Chamber programs and events will be rescheduled, include a virtual option, or be only virtual. Ticket prices will be reduced for programs that become virtual. If you are already registered for an upcoming event, Chamber staff will reach out to you soon with more information. See our programs section of our website for more information.
- March 13th letter to Chamber members from Boston Chamber President & CEO James E. Rooney
Updated: April 8, 2020