COVID-19: Update on Issues Affecting CRE

We hope you are staying safe and healthy during this challenging time. As this situation is changing by the hour, NAIOP Massachusetts would like to serve as a resource on issues affecting the CRE industry. We are in constant contact with state officials on this issue and we are committed to working to find solutions that address both the long and short-term impacts of this crisis. We are already working on legislative and regulatory solutions including discussions around an extension of permits and other emergency measures. Have an idea you would like to share or a challenge that needs to be addressed in response to this crisis? Contact NAIOP’s CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou.   

In the meantime, we will continue to update this blog to provide you with the most recent and up to date information:

Construction Moratoriums: On Monday, Mayor Walsh issued a halt to all construction in Boston. Companies should maintain the crews necessary to make sure sites are “safe and secure.” The sites need to be secure by Monday, March 23. Skeleton crews will be allowed to stay on to make sure the sites are safe. The ban will be reevaluated in 14 days. Although Governor Baker has not proposed a statewide shutdown on construction sites, many communities throughout Massachusetts have followed Boston’s lead and are now shutting down sites. Cambridge announced its construction shutdown yesterday and we are aware of many other suburban communities who have also enacted shutdowns. The Cambridge shutdown is effective only for construction work on public and private property, including building trades, regulated or permitted by the Commissioner of Inspectional Services or the Commissioner of Public Works.

BBRS Issues Guidance for Building Inspectors: On Tuesday, March 17, the state Office of Public Safety and Inspections issued guidance for local building officials to identify options that would satisfy the inspector’s responsibilities in connection to administering and enforcing the state building code. Specifically, the state building code provides inspectors with the authority to accept reports from an approved subject matter expert per building code sections 104.4 and R104.4.

Changes at MEPA: MEPA procedures have changed in response to COVID-19. and these changes will be in place until April 3, 2020, unless further extended. Among other changes, electronic submittals that are sent to MEPA@mass.gov by 5:00 PM on the submittal deadline will be accepted for publication in the next edition of the Environmental Monitor. Check out the MEPA web site for more information.

Extension of Professional Licensure: On March 18, Governor Baker signed a new emergency order to ensure that licensed professionals do not have their licenses or registrations lapse due to unforeseen problems with renewal during the COVID-19 emergency. Specifically, under this order, occupational or professional licenses of individuals that are in good standing and that would otherwise be up for renewal during the COVID-19 emergency shall be extended for 90 days after the end of the public health emergency. This order does not affect license extensions that have already been granted in earlier emergency orders.

SJC Issues Order Extending All Statutory Deadlines to Apr. 21: The SJC issued an order extending all statutory deadlines to April 21. Specifically, paragraph 9 states “Unless otherwise ordered by the applicable court, all deadlines set forth in statutes or court rules, standing orders, or guidelines that would otherwise expire before April 21, 2020, are extended to that date.”

Resources for Businesses: The Commonwealth has published a list of resources for businesses impacted by the outbreak, including dedicated guidance for businesses affected by the Emergency Order issued on Sunday, 3/15.

Changes to Open Meeting Law: An emergency order was filed temporarily modifying the state’s Open Meeting Law in order to allow state, quasi and local governments to continue to carry out essential functions and operations during the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak. This emergency order suspends the requirement for public access to the physical location where a public meeting is taking place, provided there are other means of access available (such as a phone conference line, social media or other internet streaming services, etc.). Additionally, the order relieves the requirement that a quorum of members be physically present at a public meeting. During this period, members may all participate by remote or virtual means. This order is applicable to meetings of public bodies including commissions, boards, and committees that engage in policy making at the state, quasi and local level. 

Small Business Administration’s Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program Open: Massachusetts small businesses can now access and apply for Economic Impact Disaster Loans at www.sba.gov/disaster. The SBA has established a toll-free line to answer questions at 1-800-659-2955. U.S. Small Business Administration, SCORE, and Women Business Centers will be providing workshops to answer questions and to help small businesses with the loan application process.

Changes to Unemployment Insurance Signed into Law: Yesterday Governor Baker signed (S 2598), which will allow workers to begin immediately collecting unemployment benefits. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development will also file emergency regulations allowing employees affected by the coronavirus to collect unemployment if their workplace shuts down with plans to reopen within four weeks.

Municipal Flexibility Bill: The municipal flexibility bill (H 4572) would allow town moderators, in consultation with local board of selectmen, to postpone Town Meetings for up to 30 days because of a public health emergency, and a select board could push the meeting beyond June 30, which is currently the deadline in state law. Towns would also be able to reduce quorum requirements to conduct the most pressing Town Meeting business, and town leaders could extend budgets on a month-to-month basis based at prior-year spending levels if they are unable to complete a new fiscal year 2021 budget. This is still moving through the legislative process.

$10M Small Business Recovery Fund Announced by Governor Baker: The program is open to small businesses with less than 50 employees who can demonstrate an adverse impact on revenues resulting from the coronavirus outbreak. Loans are up to $75,000, with an annual interest rate of 3%; there are no payments for the first six months, followed 30-months of principal and interest payments.

Massachusetts 2-1-1: Massachusetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone or use the live chat option on the Mass 2-1-1 website. There are 17 staff now answering calls, including staff from United Way and 7 staff members from DPH.

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