|Today, as expected, the Baker-Polito Administration announced that it will be extending the current eviction moratorium by 60-days, using emergency powers granted by Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, An Act Providing for a Moratorium on Evictions and Foreclosures During the COVID-19 Emergency. This Act suspends most residential and small business commercial evictions, as well as residential foreclosures. It does not relieve tenants or homeowners of their obligation to pay rent or make mortgage payments. The extension will expire at 11:59pm on October 17, 2020. |
As reported on Friday, Massachusetts currently has the highest unemployment rate in the nation. In addition, the additional $600 available in federal unemployment benefits is expected to expire at the end of the month. Today’s announcement comes in the wake of the filing of House Docket 5166/Senate Bill 2831, An Act to Guarantee Housing Stability During the COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery, which seeks to institute a blanket eviction moratorium for 12-months beyond the end of the March 10 state of emergency that is currently still in effect. NAIOP has joined a coalition of real estate groups in strongly opposing this legislation. If enacted, HD 5166/SB 2831 would paralyze the real estate industry in Massachusetts by instituting rent control practices and rent cancellation, exposing good faith property owners to 93A damages, and sealing the records of all renters, not just those impacted by COVID-19.
NAIOP is in constant communication with the Administration and Legislative Leaders on this issue and we continue to work with a subcommittee of attorneys and owners on eviction policies and legislation. If you or a member of your firm would like to share your experience with this moratorium, please reach out to CEO Tamara Small or Government Affairs Associate Anastasia Nicolaou.
|Shutdown of Non-Essential Construction – FAQ Updated As we shared on Tuesday, the Baker-Polito Administration updated the construction related guidance in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The new guidance limits “essential” construction to housing and critical infrastructure activities. Under the revised list, private nonresidential construction is not considered essential (unless it falls within one of the specified exemptions). As of noon, April 1, only housing projects (including mixed use with housing), infrastructure, public works projects and construction related to COVID-19 can proceed. The state understands the need to wind down and provide security at an uncompleted project. A minimal crew for security is permissible under the following categories of essential service: 1) Security staff to maintain building access control and physical security measures and 2) Workers to ensure continuity of building functions, including but not limited to security and environmental controls (e.g., HVAC). The state has updated the FAQ page to answer questions on this issue.|
|Legislative Update – Municipal Permit Tolling Bill Expected to be Passed in House & Senate Today H. 4598, An Act to address challenges faced by municipalities and state authorities resulting from COVID-19, which includes language that addresses the tolling of local permits and is supported by the Mass Municipal Association, NAIOP MA, and the Home Builders & Remodelers Association, is expected to be passed in the House and Senate today and, hopefully, signed by the Governor as soon as this weekend. When it is signed into law we will let you know.|
|SJC Postpones Trials in MA Until May 4 Yesterday, the Supreme Judicial Court issued an order postponing all state trials to May 4, at the earliest. All civil and criminal trials which were scheduled to begin on or before May 1 will be delayed “unless the trial is a bench trial in a civil matter and may be conducted otherwise than in-person by agreement of the parties and of the court.” The offices of court clerks, registers, and recorders will continue to work. These duties include scheduling and facilitating hearings, issuing orders, answering questions from legal professionals and the public, and performing other necessary tasks. All business except the filing of pleadings and other documents will be done virtually.|
|CARES ACT – Resources for Small Businesses The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) is a loan program designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep workers on the payroll. Loans are up to $10M, with a 0.5% interest rate and a 2-year maturity; there are no payments for the first six months. |
Who can apply? Businesses, non-profits, Veterans organizations, Tribal concerns, sole proprietorships, self-employed individuals, and independent contractors, with 500 or fewer employees.
When can I apply? The Paycheck Protection Program will be available beginning on Friday, April 3rd. Applications must be submitted by June 30, 2020.
How do I apply? You can apply for the Paycheck Protection Program through any existing SBA 7(a) lender or through any participating federally insured depository institution, federally insured credit union, or Farm Credit institution. Ask your local lender if it is participating in the program.
What else should I know? The SBA will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities. The program will be available retroactive from February 15, 2020, so employers can rehire their recently laid-off employees through June 30, 2020. Read more here.
The Economic Injury Disaster Loan Advance is a Loan Advance of $10,000 that is available to applicants who have been approved for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan; it does not need to be repaid, so you can think of the Advance as a grant for business expenses.
Who can apply? If you have applied or intend to apply to the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program, you can also apply for a Loan Advance.
When can I apply? The Loan Advance is available now.
How do I apply? Visit the SBA’s website to submit an application for the Economic Disaster Injury Loan and Loan Advance.
What else should I know? Please note that you should submit an application at the above link, even if you’ve previously submitted an EIDL application prior to the Loan Advance being available. Read more here.
The SBA is also offering Debt Relief to small businesses. Under this relief, the SBA will pay the principal and interest for six months beginning March 27th, 2020 for qualifying new and current holders of 7(a) loans.
Who can apply? Businesses who already have a covered 7(a) SBA loan or receive a 7(a) SBA loan prior to September 27, 2020.
When can I apply? This relief is applied for covered loans beginning with payments due after March 27, 2020.
How do I apply? Reach out to your SBA lender to discuss how this debt relief applies to your SBA loan.
What else should I know? This debt relief is available only to 7(a) loans and not to loans made under the Paycheck Protection Program, 504 loans, or microloans. Read more here. Two other Small Business Administration loan programs are also open: Economic Injury Disaster Loans are available through the SBA website; apply here. EIDL loans can be up to $2M, with interest rates of 3.75%, and are for businesses whose revenues were adversely impacted by the coronavirus outbreak. The Express Bridge Loan Program is available to businesses that have an existing business relationship with an SBA-approved lender; speak to your lender about accessing this option while you await a decision on long-term financing.
|Statement from Eversource on Services During COVID-19 Eversource wants to reassure the development community that we are currently well prepared to continue providing safe, reliable energy and essential services while also safeguarding the health and well-being of our employees and the communities we serve. Connecting new customers is considered an essential service, therefore, here at Eversource: Our Customer Service and Engineering teams are working remotely, taking orders and designing and engineering your project. In an effort to maximize safety, joint site meetings are suspended and replaced with conference calls and virtual meetings. Individual site visits will continue where necessary.Construction will continue where permitted by local cities and towns, and Eversource field crews will continue working on projects. However, outage requests are being evaluated on a case by case basis.Outdoor meter installs will continue. Indoor meter installs will be evaluated on a case by case basis.Eversource will continue to require any and all State and Municipal Inspection requirements to move forward with energizing your facility. For more information Eversource’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, please visit the Eversource website.|
|Ongoing Blood Product Shortage & Need for Blood Donation Sites As you are aware, the COVID-19 virus has caused the cancellation of blood drives across the Commonwealth. There is an urgent need now for patients with chronic conditions and trauma, as well as ensuring an adequate blood and blood product supply going forward. The Governor has deemed “Blood and plasma donors and the employees of the organizations that operate and manage related activities” as an essential service. Donating is a necessity to supply the hospitals with the blood our neighbors require. Donating blood is safe and people should not hesitate to give. In addition, there is a need for community blood drive sites in the eastern part of the state. Identifying donation sites is vital to meet the demand as we go forward. Your local knowledge, suggestions of sites, and potential partners are crucial to meeting the needs of our neighbors who need blood and blood products. To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808 or at email William.Forsyth@redcross.org. Those who are healthy, feeling well and eligible to give blood or platelets, are urged to make an appointment to donate as soon as possible by using the Red Cross Blood Donor App, visiting RedCrossBlood.org or calling 1-800-RED CROSS (1-800-733-2767).|
Earlier this week, Governor Patrick announced a massive, top-to-bottom regulatory reevaluation for all state agencies. By the end of 2012, the Administration will have reviewed 1,000 of the regulations that were first put into place prior to 2000, with another 1,000 by the end of 2013. The goal is to determine which regulations should be rescinded, which should be modified, and which could be made more consistent with a national model or standard.
This announcement may be surprising to some since Massachusetts, rightly or not, has not always had a business friendly reputation. With this new sweeping policy, the Governor has taken a hands-on, direct approach to ensure that there will be real results with immediate impacts.
In addition to the regulatory review, any newly proposed regulation must go through an extensive vetting process, lasting over nine months, that starts with a “small business impact statement” consisting of 25 questions delving into the potential financial and time costs. Small businesses are defined as those with up to 500 employees (85% of the companies in the state.) All draft regulations will go to the Executive Office of Administration and Finance, and to the new Regulatory Ombudsman for fiscal and business impact review . They will then go to the Governor’s office, where a case must be made that the agency’s recommendations outweigh the impacts and burdens on business and the public. Only then will these regulations go on to the Secretary of State’s office for posting and public comment.
April Anderson Lamoureux, Assistant Secretary for Economic Development, was just appointed as the first Regulatory Ombudsman between the Administration and the business community. She gave a detailed presentation on the regulatory reform initiative at the NAIOP Government Affairs program yesterday, along with Alicia McDevitt, Deputy Commissioner at MassDEP.
At the meeting, Assistant Secretary Lamoureux asked that businesses provide her with their suggestions on regulations that do not make sense, have extensive problems, do not add value, or where alternative solutions may better address the issue. NAIOP has been appointed to a Business Advisory Committee that will help identify problematic regulations and alternative processes.
MassDEP, under the leadership of Commissioner Ken Kimmell and Deputy Commissioner Alicia McDevitt, has led the way on regulatory reform by establishing a target list of 21 different reforms within the Department. McDevitt provided an update on the Final DEP Regulatory Reform Plan, which was released on Monday. Although, the reason for this effort originated with a reduced budget affecting staff permitting and oversight, the effort has moved in the direction of creating general permits, self-certification, and third party reviews. Collectively, these reforms will make a substantial improvement on the cost and time for the regulated community, without diminishing environmental protection.
Kudos to the Governor and his Administration for boldly going where few states have gone! Massachusetts has clearly earned the status of “first in the nation” setting a policy to reform one of the most frustrating aspects of government for most businesses and citizens. As always, others will follow.