By Jim Giammarinaro
President & CEO of the MetroWest Chamber of Commerce
FRAMINGHAM – Most of us are happy to see 2020 in the rearview mirror.
As we move into 2021, we have looked at the status of our member organizations both for-profit and non-profit. The need for continued and new forms of advocacy will be of great importance. In addition to our ongoing initiatives for advocacy, we will weave advocacy into the chamber’s advertising, training, and networking.
Our Public Policy Team will continue to gather monthly under the leadership of Vice Chair Brian Casaceli of Mirick O’Connell. This group is totally dedicated to advocacy for our members in the MetroWest region. We identify issues surrounding public policy and work with or legislative partners to
ensure that our organizations can overcome obstacles that can block their path to sustained viability.
The issues may change from month to month, but our support will not waiver throughout the year.
Our Small Business Team will be led in 2021 by Vice Chair Jamie Stafslien of Computer Technology Resources. Jamie’s team will focus on our Business Referral Group as well as schedule and conduct our networking events. Our 2021 networking events are planned to be virtual. We will begin each networking event with a video from an organization. The organization will come from industries most impacted from COVID. The video will be for 10 minutes and when completed there will be a Q&A session lasting 5 minutes. Members of the audience can then participate in a traditional networking
The chamber’s Diversity, Equity & Inclusion Team will be led by Vice Chair Towma Rastad of Wegmans. This will be the second year of operation for our team. Our participants include members of our deaf and hard of hearing community, people of color, as well as individuals from organizations representing people with cognitive disabilities and mental health issues. Together we will continue to work on expanding the diversity within our BOD, provide for women’s networking, create networking with businesses owned by individuals from underrepresented populations, provide scholarships which promote inclusion, continue to be a participant in Community Stakeholders led by Reverend Lloyd and provide content for the Inclusion Corner segment in our chamber’s newsletter.
The lead for our Non-Profit Team will be Vice Chair Eileen Davis from the United Way of Tri County. Eileen will spearhead efforts to support the chamber’s non-profits. We hope to work with them to publicize their activities and fundraising needs through the chamber’s marketing and hopefully provide articles for the chamber to run in the space graciously provided here by the Framingham Source.
In addition, Framingham State University has made interns available in the areas of marketing & communications and we hope to connect them with projects for our chamber’s non-profits.
Finally, we will be working with Bob Valair from Staples our Vice Chair of Large Business & Danielle Kehoe from TLC Deaf our Vice Chair of Education to incorporate advocacy within their planned initiatives.
In addition to the work being done under the umbrellas of our Vice Chairs, we will continue to work on other initiatives related to advocacy for our members. These initiatives are the Business Growth in Framingham Team, Reopening Support Team, Recovery Corner Newsletter, Educational Webinars and Women’s Networking.
There is a sense of urgency entering 2021 to do everything possible to sustain organizations in the upcoming months. Particularly those within the hardest hit industries. There are some segments who will experience significant sales shortfalls for anther nine months based on the speed of vaccinations, reopening of the economy and individual’s confidence to begin purchasing in person indoors. There is nothing on the horizon which would speed up this process.
Access to funding will continue to be critical moving forward. Banks are preparing to put systems in place for organizations to apply for another round of PPP funding. It is important to know the criteria which will allow you to apply. Below is a summary of some of the aspects of this new funding:
$284 billion for Paycheck Protection Program (PPP)
o Extends PPP through March 31, 2021
o Provides second PPP forgivable loan for small businesses/non-profits w/300 or fewer employees that can demonstrate a loss of 25% of gross receipts in any quarter during 2020 when compared to same quarter in 2019
o Dedicated $15 billion set-aside for community lending institutions to increase access for minority-owned and underserved small businesses/non-profits.
o Expands PPP eligibility to local newspapers, hospitals, housing cooperatives, and 501(c)(6) non-profits.
o Restaurants and hospitality industries eligible to receive larger awards of 3.5 times average total monthly payroll rather than 2.5 times.
o Adds personal protective equipment (PPE), costs associated w/outdoor dining, and supplier costs as eligible/forgivable expenses
o Simplifies forgiveness process for loans under $150,000
The state also has a program for funding which stops taking applications on January 15.
The Administration announced a $668 million business relief package to be administered by Massachusetts Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC). The business relief package consists of two programs:
(1) a recapitalization of the first small business relief program, which launched in October and
(2) additional funding for businesses that fall into specific industry sectors. MGCC is reviewing existing applications from the first small business relief program, and is preparing to post the application for the sector-specific grant program.
The application period for the new program will run from Thursday, December 31st through Friday, January 15
Businesses that already applied to MGCC’s first small business relief program from October do not need to reapply to the new program. All applications in the existing program are currently being reviewed.
Businesses that have already submitted complete and accurate applications to the first program and either (a) meet the demographic preferences from the first program or (b) meet the sector-specific preferences from the new program will receive funding.
Demographic preferences: Minority-owned, women-owned, veteran-owned, LGBTQ+-owned, businesses owned by persons with disabilities, or businesses located in Gateway Cities
Sector preferences: Restaurants/Bars, Independent Retailers, Indoor Recreation and Entertainment, Personal Services, Event Support Companies
Businesses that have already applied to MGCC through the first program will be notified of their award status by January 18.
Businesses that have not already applied to MGCC and choose to apply in the new program will be notified of their award status in February.
In summary, our chamber will continue to advocate for our businesses and non-profits. Our efforts will focus on both activities within our own control and access to resources outside the chamber. We are hopeful for a better 2021 for all of us.
Editor’s Note: SOURCE and the MetroWest Chamber have formed a partnership. The Chamber’s column will run on Tuesdays on the digital news media outlet.