Are you willing to have an uncomfortable conversation?

Join us tomorrow (Friday) at noon for “Seizing the Moment Against Racism: What Allies Can Do,” a frank discussion about the role companies, executives, employees and customers must all play when we witness acts of injustice or bigotry in our places of work and our communities.  
I’ll be joined by a remarkable panel of local leaders, including Michael Curry, president & CEO of Massachusetts League of Community Health Centers (who was a guest attendee at President Biden’s address to Congress last night) and Colette Phillips, CEO of Colette Phillips Communications and Get Konnected! (who was just named to Boston Magazine’s Most Influential list).
We'll also hear from Liz Cheng, general manager for GBH television; Tali Golan, interim director of Diversity, Equity & Inclusion of Tripadvisor; and Eneida M. Roman, principal of Roman Law and co-founder of Amplify Latinx.
Our panel will discuss what it means to be an ally; how we can be better employers and employees to BIPOC; and how small and midsize employers can make a difference. 
I can’t promise the conversation will be comfortable.
But I can promise it will be honest.
And another don't-miss event next week
The pandemic has produced a “female recession” – with women leaving the workplace in greater numbers and/or disproportionally facing child care or other caregiving responsibilities.
These obstacles are not new. Just amplified.
As we look ahead to returning to work and ‘normal’ life, we should be asking what we – as employers and as individuals – should be focusing on in order to support and cultivate more opportunities for women in the post-pandemic workplace. 
That’s the topic on the agenda for our program one week from today (May 6), where we’ll be joined by Tina Lawler McHugh and Keila Viñas of Boston College’s Center for Work and Families.
They'll be presenting a strategic framework for employers to re-evaluate and re-design their women’s career advancement efforts in response to this gendered pandemic - and includes best practices from four global organizations.
Addressing gender parity is a conversation that must include both men and women. 

Federal bill would provide relief for hotels
A newly proposed US Senate bill would provide payroll grants and tax credits to bring back hotel industry workers.
The Save Hotel Jobs Act, would be the first to give targeted relief to hotels. It would direct payroll grants to be utilized for payroll and benefit expenses for workers and require hotels that receive grants to give laid-off workers recall rights to get back to work.
It also would provide a personal protective equipment tax credit, which would allow a payroll tax credit for 50 percent of the costs of personal protective equipment, technology to reduce the impact of the pandemic, testing for employees and enhanced cleaning. The Hill has details.

Needham group calls for housing density at Muzi site
Equal Justice in Needham is calling for changes to the proposed rezoning of the Muzi/Channel 5 parcels along I-95 set to go before Needham Town Meeting on Monday.
One amendment would remove the 240-unit housing limit proposed for the site.
“Removing the cap would not change the need for developers to present their proposals to the town through the Special Permit process and address citizens’ concerns through careful analysis and mitigation,” wrote Oscar Mertz on behalf of Equal Justice in Needham in an oped for the Needham Times.
“The removal of the cap would, however, indicate to the development community that Needham is ready to consider solutions that prioritize the creation of affordable housing in our town,” he added.
A second amendment would raise the percentage of required affordable units.

Need to knows
  • The MBTA will present its $8 million plan tonight (Thurs.) at 6 p.m. to improve accessibility at the Waban, Eliot, Chestnut Hill and Beaconsfield T stations along the D Branch of the Green Line. Register here. (Newton Patch story here.)
  • The Needham Employee Resource Group "Stronger Together" will host Understanding the Impact of COVID-19 in Communities of Color via zoom at 6 p.m. on May 6. Register.
  • I've received a few questions about the SBA’s new Supplemental Targeted Advance program. Note this program is only available in qualified low-income communities. It is not available to businesses in Newton, Needham, Watertown or Wellesley.
Good news, bad news for at-home COVID testing
New home COVID tests have long been seen as an important tool for managing spread, even at a time there’s uncertainty about variants or about whether vaccines will prove to be fully effective.
The good news is the FDA recently cleared over-the-counter sales for two rapid at-home screening tests that provide results in about 15 minutes.
The bad news is the tests will cost consumers at least $20 or more for a pack of two, which health experts say is probably too pricey for frequent use. 
“I think most people would pay that once. But would they pay it every week or every two weeks?” asks Zoe McLaren, a health economist and an associate professor in the School of Public Policy at the University of Maryland.

News you already figured out
Here’s some news that won’t surprise you: Traffic is getting worse.
It just hasn’t reached “pre-pandemic levels... at least, not yet” writes the Globe’s Emily Sweeney
But from March 29 to April 11, statewide traffic volumes were down only between 5 and 14 percent compared to 2019, according to MassDOT.
Contrast that to April 2020, during the height of the shut down, when traffic levels had plummeted by about 60 percent. (Data can be found here.)

Your company should look into this
Finally this morning, if your company has yet to explore the Employee Retention Credit program you may be losing out on a significant COVID relief program.
The ERC allows businesses that were required to close or partially suspend operations during Covid-19, or saw business fall by 50% or more, to get a credit of up to 50% of qualifying wages of employees up to $5,000 per employee in 2020.
In December, Congress passed legislation that increased the credit to 70% of qualifying wages up to $14,000 per employee through June 30, 2021. Congress also reversed a rule that prevented business that received a PPP loan from claiming the tax credit.
The BBJ has details here. The updated guidance from the IRS can be found here.
You can thank us when the IRS sends you your check.
See you Friday!
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
Your chamber is here when you need us.

P.S. Looking for something that appeared in an earlier edition of this e-newsletter? We’ve archived them all here.

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