Need some alone time? Hop aboard the T’s Newton rail bus

We’re three days away from the full reopening of the Massachusetts economy and 20 days away from the lifting of the state of emergency.
 
Are you ready? Will you be ripping down your Plexiglass? Peeling the social distancing stickers off your floors? Letting in as many people as you can squeeze in? Or heading to the nearest ball pit?
 
Join us via Zoom at noon today for an informal conversation about what Saturday’s reopening means for your company and you.
 
 
Would you like fries – or an iPhone -- with that?
 
Here’s how dire the job market has become:  
 
A McDonald's in Illinois is giving away iPhones to new recruits if they stay for six months.
 
Jobs at a bike shop in Colorado comes with ski passes, housing and healthcare.
 
Meanwhile, the Washington Post looks at why millions of workers have quit the restaurant industry and haven’t come back.
 
The industry has 1.7 million fewer jobs filled than before the pandemic, despite posting almost a million job openings in March while raising pay and perks.
 
There's no one answer: Many point to COVID concerns. Others say they're changing careers due to long hours and low pay driven by low margins and a public that’s reluctant to pay what it truly cost a restaurant to feed us.
 
Most striking are those who said they left hospitality because they feel the industry was no longer worth the stress and volatility.
 
“The staffing issue has actually a lot more to do with the conditions that the industry was in before COVID and people not wanting to go back to that, knowing what they would be facing with a pandemic on top of it,” one restaurant worker told the Post.
 
“People are forgetting that restaurant workers have actually experienced decades of abuse and trauma. The pandemic is just the final straw,” she added.
 
“It was very difficult to constantly have to police people about mask-wearing,” said another. “It was very difficult to try to bartend and run out to the back parking lot to deliver to-go food, and to deal with Uber Eats drivers and the like, while making significantly less money than I’d been making previously.”
 
Let’s remember those comments as we head out to eat -- many of us for the first time -- this weekend.
 
Restrictions have been lifted. But the men and women taking our orders and, working in the kitchen, have been there for months.
 
They’re likely short staffed. It may longer to get your order. Certainly if you’ve been to the grocery store lately, you should know to expect that prices have gone up.
 
Don't get me wrong: Folks in the restaurant biz are excited to welcome you back. They'll bust their butts to make sure you have a great experience.
 
But please be kind and patient with all our front line workers. Let them know how much you appreciate them.
 

 
Senate declines to address expiring orders in budget
 
Speaking of restaurants, State Senators declined this week to extend the soon-to-expire rules on to-go cocktails and (more importantly to many operators' bottom line) capping fees on restaurant delivery apps, along with other measures.
 
That doesn’t mean those and other expiring orders will not find another path forward, just that Senate President Karen Spilka does not see the state budget as "the appropriate vehicle to address time-sensitive issues,” according to Katie Lannan at State House News.

 
Need some alone time? Hop aboard the T’s Newton rail bus
 
On Tuesday, I wrote about how the MBTA is now offering a free circulator bus that loops between the Newton’s three commuter rail stops and the Green Line.
 
The bus (it's called "rail bus" on the schedule but it's just a regular, full size, MBTA bus) is the T’s workaround for the fact that it no longer offers express buses between Newton and Boston, even though there are whole chunks of the day when the commuter trains that used to stop in Newtonville, West Newton and Auburndale, no longer do.
 
As CommonWealth reported earlier this month, Newton is the only community along the Framingham-Worcester line where service has been cut off.
 
Let's repeat that: This gap in service is only happening in Newton. And the "rail bus" is the T's way of compensating.
 
So how successful is the rail bus?
 
It’s not, according to the ridership data listed here.
 
Turns out the total number of passengers per day riding the "rail bus" -- inbound and outbound combined -- has yet to break double digits.
 
Most days, five or fewer people ride the darn things. Even though it's free!
 
We need the T to restore our cancelled 505 Express Buses and begin working on a fix that allows our rail platforms to accommodate in and outbound riders at the same time.

 
Her mission? Fixing the SBA
 
The new head of the SBA knows her agency has work to do.
 
But given the unprecedented demands placed on what was a relatively small, sleepy federal agency (its annual budget is typically less than half of what the Defense Department spends in a day) it's not surprising that the PPP, Shuttered Venues Operators Grants, and other programs hit multiple speed bumps along the way.
 
Certainly, I did a lot of virtual eye rolling in this newsletter over the past year-plus, while also acknowledging how SBA programs were a lifesaver for many businesses and nonprofits.
 
This week, the agency unveiled its new community navigators program. And the its star-crossed Shuttered Venue Operators program is finally ready to start notifying applicants, five months after the program was funded.
 
The New York Times has a fascinating look at how Isabella Casillas Guzman plans to fix the agency she now oversees.
 
 
Big Papi pops into Newton
 
Yep, that was former Red Sox slugger David Ortiz swinging his clubs at Brae Burn Country Club on Monday.
 
The one-time Chestnut Hill resident raised $429,000 for the David Ortiz Children's Fund in Newton Monday during his second annual Heart Classic charity tournamentreports Jenna Fisher at Patch.
 
The fund helps low-income children in New England and the Dominican Republic who cannot afford the critical cardiac services they need. Monday’s proceeds could provide lifesaving heart surgeries for 85 children.
 
Golfers played an 18-hole tournament with cocktails at each stop along the course.
 
And that’s today’s Need to Knows -- unless you need to know if you could pull-off wearing a suit jacket, tie and shorts when you return to the office this summer. 
 
Back tomorrow!
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688

P.S. Thanks to Insource Services for presenting an insightful webinar yesterday on "Unconscious Bias." Here's the video in case you missed it:

 

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