Our employers are spilt on masks and vax (but feeling bullish)

Thanks to the more than 450 people who responded to our 2021 Business Outlook Survey.
 
We’ll be releasing the full results later this month. But we shared your answers to three questions with the Globe’s Jon Chesto for an article published yesterday.
 
As Chesto noted, nearly one third of our businesses and nonprofits told us they will require all employees wear masks in the workplace. One third said they won’t. One third were undecided.
 
Meanwhile, 23 percent of our respondents said they will make vaccines mandatory for employees. About 40 percent said they won’t. The rest were undecided or unsure about requiring vaccines.
 
But when we looked at the same question and factored in company size, we found that business with 20 or fewer employee were more likely to have a vax mandate.
 
Quite a few small business operators said a mandate isn't needed since their workers are already vaccinated. The decision is likely more challenging for employers with larger workforces, many of whom are still working remotely.
 
Meanwhile, more than half (53 percent) of respondents told us they were very or somewhat optimistic about their business' or nonprofit's financial performance for the remainder of 2021. Only three percent were very or somewhat pessimistic 
 
We also asked our respondents to tell us if they plan on requiring all workers return to the office and which issues will have the greatest impact on their ability to be successful for the remainder of 2021.
 
We’ll be discussing those questions and other things we learned from the survey with Mike Kennealy, Secretary of Housing and Economic Development for the Baker administration, and other panelists at a zoomposium on June 17 at 9 a.m.
 
Please save the date.

 
Senate would require T to fix Newton service gap
 
Might Beacon Hill force the MBTA to address a major gap in service between Newton’s north side and downtown Boston by bringing back the 505 Express Bus or finding another solution?
 
Last month the T announced plans to increase frequency on the Green Line and other routes, along with more than two dozen bus routes starting June 20. 
 
The agency is also bringing back four shut down bus routes, including Route 52 from Dedham to Watertown.
 
Still missing in action is the discontinued 505 Express Bus route that once zipped Newton commuters directly into Boston and Boston workers to jobs in Newton and surrounding communities.
 
In addition, express routes 553, 554, 556 and 558 that used to take riders all the way downtown now terminate at Newton Corner and require a transfer.
 
Making matters worse, a revamp of the commuter rail has created long stretches in the morning heading west, and long stretches of the afternoon heading east, when the commuter trains fly by the Newtonville, West Newton and Auburndale stations without stopping.
 
But last week, Newton's state Sen. Cindy Cream successfully inserted into the senate budget an amendment that requires the T to address to provide a fix.
 
“This unacceptable gap in service is detrimental to Newton’s residents and businesses,” Creem said.
 
We agree.
 
The amendment would require the agency to provide regular inbound and outbound service at least once every 60 minutes from 4 a.m. to 7 p.m. and at least once every 80 minutes from 7 p.m. to 11:30 p.m. between Auburndale, West Newton, and Newtonville stations, or to restore the 505 express bus.
 
The success of the Washington Street corridor depends on resuming past service and also investing in two sided loading platforms at our three rail stations.
 
Creem’s amendment must survive the conference committee process since it wasn't included in the House budget.
 
 
Restaurant relief math doesn’t add up
 
The SBA’s Restaurant Revitalization Fund has more than $75 billion in applications but only $28.6 billion in funding.
 
But help may be on the way, reports Andy Medici for the BBJ who says there may be rare bipartisan support in Congress to add more funding.
 
“I am certain we are going to have strong bipartisan support for that," said Ben Cardin, D-Md., chair of the Senate’s small Business Committee.
 
Bipartisan support in 2021? Wouldn’t that be refreshing.
 
Earlier this year some House and Senate Republicans took credit for supporting the restaurant relief bill they had actually voted against.

 
Unfortunately 3rd party apps add up quickly
 
The Mass Restaurant Alliance will hold a press conference tomorrow (Weds) at 10 a.m. to advocate for an extension of the 15 percent cap on third party delivery fees.
 
Food delivery apps including Uber Eats, Doordash, and Grubhub charge astronomic fees, sometimes hidden, up to 30 percent of every transaction. It has also been reported that Grubhub announced that certain Boston area restaurants will see an increase to 38 percent in the upcoming months, MRA says.
 
Without legislative action the caps expire June 15.

 
Footbridge would reconnect Newton and Needham
 
The City of Newton is looking for feedback on three design proposals for the old rail bridge that connects Christina Street in Newton to Needham Crossing and the Blue Heron Trail and parks along the Needham Street side of the Charles.
 
The presentation is available here along with the transcript.
 
The deadline to comment is tomorrow (Wednesday). Send your comments to crundelli@newtonma.gov

 
UI spike kicked down a very long road
 
Gov. Charlie Baker signed legislation last week that will spread the solvency assessments charges to Unemployment Insurance bills over the next 20 years. (State House News)
 
That’s certainly a relief for businesses and nonprofits who were hit by staggering increases.
 
A better solution would be to use some of the federal relief funds to replenish the UI fund. It's not too late for that to happen too.

 
Baker vows to help businesses hurt the hardest
 
Baker said Friday he wants to find ways to help people who owned businesses or worked in industries that were hammered by the pandemic and the government-mandated restrictions that came with it, writes Colin A. Young at State House News.
 
He said owners of businesses that have thrived during the pandemic have told him they weren't any smarter than others, they just happened to be on the right side of the "COVID curve."
 
Businesses that failed weren't led by people who were any dumber than others, he said.
 
"In some ways, that's the most difficult thing of all. It's not like anybody did anything wrong. They just happened to be in a business that COVID hammered," Baker said.

 
Making work from home work
 
Are you allowing employees to keep working from home? Ty West for the BBJ has this list of common mistakes to avoid.

 
'You gave your life to save mine’
 
In case you missed it, the Globe’s Brian MacQuarrie wrote a wonderful story about 76-year-old Needham native Anthony Grasso visiting the grave of his Army lieutenant who saved his life during World War II.
 
“Drafted while still a student at Needham High School, Grasso went off to war as an 18-year-old son of Italian immigrants. He had never been kissed or gone on a date,” MacQuarrie writes.
 
And MacQuarrie tells the story about who helped Grasso find Frank DuBose’s final resting place.

 
One more thing to know
 
I'll be taking the next two days off from this newsletter. Be back in your inbox Friday morning.

And that’s today’s Need to Knows, unless you need to know who will be making cars for your trip to the moon.
 
President, Newton-Needham Regional Chamber
617-244-1688
 
Your chamber is here when you need us.

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