Eric Rosengren’s advice for employers

In yesterday’s email I noted that Eric Rosengren, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston, gave what he called a “a really optimistic talk” about the prospects for our economy during his presentation to our chamber.
 
But Rosengren also offered some interesting advice to employers during the Q&A portion of our event that I didn’t have a chance to mention yesterday:
 
“I think it’s going to be a tight labor market," Rosengren told me. "Those employers that decide to wait before reemploying people may find that they have difficulty filling jobs if they wait too long.”
 
“I would urge employers to try and get employees back as quickly as possible.”
 
“I think this is a good time to consider getting people back to work but it’s also a good time to consider what kind of package you’re providing that worker,” he added.
 
Rosengren added that employers should not expect to be able to "get the same employee for the wage that you were getting pre-pandemic even for relatively low wage workers.”
 
Needham voters choose historic change
 
Needham voters signaled yesterday that they wanted a change.
 
They elected Lakshmi Balachandra, and Marcus Nelson to the select board, according to unofficial results.
 
Balachandra and Nelson will become the first people of color to serve on the town's select board. Balachandra is an associate professor of entrepreneurship at Babson College. Nelson is director of operations at the YMCA of Greater Boston.
 
They will replace long time incumbents Moe Handel, who placed third in yesterday’s election and John Bulian who decided earlier this year to not seek reelection. This is first time a seat has turned over on the five member board since 2013.
 
I look forward to working with Balachandra and Nelson.
 
I also want to express our gratitude to Handel and Bulian for their service. I'm especially grateful to Handel who, in addition to his service on the board, was a founding member our N-Squared Innovation District project committee and sits on our International Committee. His steady, consistent leadership and advocacy for Needham's economic and cultural vitality will be missed.
 
Lawmakers ask Baker to address UI sticker shock
 
Beacon Hill lawmakers are urging the Baker administration to take “immediate action” to address an unexpected surge in Unemployment Insurance rates charged to businesses and nonprofits.
 
They want Baker to use federal dollars to soften a surprise “solvency assessment” hike, which spiked from 0.58% in 2020 to 9.23% this year, reports Chris Lisinski at State House News.
 
"We are urging you to follow the lead of Maryland and other states by dedicating a portion of the federal COVID-19 relief aid Massachusetts is receiving through the American Rescue Plan Act or other available and relevant federal funds to replenish the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund," lawmakers wrote a letter to Baker.
 
"Doing so will remove the financial burden from employers who are already struggling to survive, which in turn will help protect jobs and contribute to a strong post-pandemic economic recovery."
 
The solvency assessment is a cost shared by all employers for businesses that have closed or, under CARES Act rules, were laid off due to the pandemic. The charge is separate from a near 60 percent UI hike Baker and lawmakers agreed to freeze just weeks ago.
 
The unexpectedly high new charge could mean an extra $1,000 per worker for some businesses -- or about 16 times more per worker than last year.
 
In Maryland, Gov. Larry Hogan and legislative leaders agreed to use $1.1 billion of the $3.9 billion the state received from Washington to stabilize their UI system and limit taxes on businesses in 2022 and 2023.
 
Last week our chamber joined business groups across the Massachusetts urging state and federal leaders to provide relief, noting that these unemployment hikes were due to circumstances beyond business owners’ control.
 
Drought conditions worsen across state
 
State officials are urging the public to take water conservation steps now after announcing much of the Bay State is in a state of drought and noting drying conditions will likely continue. (MassLive)
 
“In most regions across the Commonwealth, dry conditions have set in again, and it is important that we all take water conservation steps now to lessen its potential impacts on our environment and water supplies,” said Energy and Environmental Affairs Secretary Kathleen Theoharides said in a statement.
 
Last year, Massachusetts experienced its worst drought in four years. 
 
Need to knows
 
  • Moving back to your office? To celebrate your return, Marks Moving is offering to provide businesses with moving boxes, at no charge. Reach out to Mark Silverman.
  • The National Restaurant Association recently updated these FAQs about the SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund Grant Program. No word yet on when the program will open.
  • FEMA is offering reimbursement for funeral costs due to COVID. The federal agency will reimburse up to $9,000 in funeral expenses for those who lost a loved one to COVID-19 after Jan. 20, 2020. Details.
 
One branch exits, another on the way
 
Cambridge Trust is closing its Central Street branch in Wellesley in July but maintaining its presence at Linden Square and Lower Falls, according to the Swellesley Report.
 
Cambridge Trust came to Wellesley Square last June as the result of the Wellesley Bank merger.
 
“As a Central Street fixture for 45 years, many in town will recall Wellesley Bank as a place where the candy flowed freely and friendly tellers were always ready to update a young person’s passbook savings account,” recalls Swellesley’s Deborah Brown.
 
While Cambridge Trust leaves Central Street, Chase Bank is getting ready to move in across the street at the former Peets Coffee & Tea.
 
“In the interest of balance or karma or something like that, we’re thinking a coffee and tea house would be just perfect in the Cambridge Trust spot,” Brown adds.
 
Even better, here's hoping Wellesley Town Meeting passes Article 21 so that coffee and tea house can serve beer and wine too.
 
Shuttered venue program still shuttered
 
Nearly one week after the application portal to the SBA’s Shuttered Venue Operators Grant program was supposed to open, but didn’t, there’s still no news on when it will.
 
“This is people’s work lives, their home lives, everything has been waiting for this moment,” said Audrey Fix Schaefer, with the National Independent Venue Association tells the Hill . “We still have no idea when the SBA’s going to open up the program again,” she said.
 
The grant program was signed into law in December 2020 and has yet to disburse a penny of the $16.2 billion program.
 
Updates from the SBA will appear here.
 
Check this off your supply chain worry list
 
“Everywhere You Look, the Global Supply Chain Is a Mess,” read a headline last month in the Wall Street Journal. “Everything from cars and clothing to home siding and medical needle containers.”
 
"Rubber scarcity creates new headache for beleaguered automakers" reports Bloomberg.
 
“There are shortages of everything,” added CBS Boston, “from lawnmowers to refrigerators, there are supply chain problems at companies all around the world.”
 
Not everything. Turns out, the Journal reported yesterday, Americans finally have too much toilet paper
 
So now you know. Be back tomorrow.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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