Covid- 19 Business Support and Resources Letter

Updated As of March 19, 2020 4PM

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Dear Reading Business Community,

 

In an effort to support local businesses, the Town of Reading has begun to issue business updates. In my role as the Economic Development Director for the Town, I will be the point person who passes this information along to the business community. The following is a compilation of information on federal, state and local resources and tools to support businesses in response to economic impacts of COVID-19.

 

 To bring the most updated information to you, I continue to reach out to a number of individual businesses, local financial institutions, and the Reading-North-Reading Chamber of Commerce. I am also listening on frequent calls for Economic Development professionals from state and regional entities to provide the most up to date resources and information.

 

During this time, if there are specific business-related questions or needs, please let me know so I can continue to seek and provide information and support. I can be contacted at eschaeffer@ci.reading.ma.us.

 

Federal Assistance

U.S. Federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program (EIDL)

On March 18, 2020, the U.S. Federal Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program was activated. This federal program provides federal loans to small businesses, non-profits, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted directly by COVID-19. 

 

Who Can Apply:

Small businesses, private non-profit organizations of any size, small agricultural cooperatives and small aquaculture enterprises that have been financially impacted as a direct result of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) since Jan. 31, 2020, may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans of up to $2 million to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses which could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

 

Eligibility:

Eligibility for Economic Injury Disaster Loans is based on the financial impact of the Coronavirus (COVID-19). The interest rate is 3.75 percent for small businesses. The interest rate for private non-profit organizations is 2.75 percent. SBA offers loans with long-term repayments in order to keep payments affordable, up to a maximum of 30 years, and are available to entities without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship.

 

How to apply:

Applicants may apply online, receive additional disaster assistance information and download applications at https://disasterloan.sba.gov/ela.

 

Applicants may also call SBA’s Customer Service Center at (800) 659-2955 or email disastercustomerservice@sba.gov for more information on SBA disaster assistance.

 

Individuals who are deaf or hard‑of‑hearing may call (800) 877-8339. Completed applications should be mailed to U.S. Small Business Administration, Processing and Disbursement Center, 14925 Kingsport Road, Fort Worth, TX  76155.

 

The deadline to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 18, 2020.

 

OSHA Guidance on Preparing Workplaces for COVID-19

*These are not requirements, but rather suggested modifications.

https://www.osha.gov/Publications/OSHA3990.pdf

 

State Assistance

If you applied to Mass Growth Capital Corporation’s Small Business Recovery Loan fund, the Commonwealth encourages you to apply for additional U.S. SBA EIDL support (information above).

*Due to the availability of EIDL funds, Mass Growth Capital Corporation (MGCC) is no longer accepting applications to the Small Business Recovery Loan Fund at MGCC as of 12:30PM on March 19th, 2020.

Massachusetts Rapid Response Program (Pre-Layoff Intervention)

For companies and employees experiencing a layoff or closing, the Massachusetts Department of Career Services uses a Rapid Response team to identify exact needs of a company in crisis and help the company establish partnerships with other organizations and networks to try to reduce the possibility of layoffs or closure. For more information and support for employers and staff during a difficult business closure transition, please see: https://www.mass.gov/prevent-layoffs-with-rapid-response

 

Massachusetts Workshare Program (Layoff Prevention)

For employers who are interested in avoiding layoffs, this program is an alternative for employers faces with a cut in workforce. Employers can divide available work between affected employees instead of laying off workers. It also allows employees to receive a part of their unemployment insurance (UI) benefits while working reduced hours. This program helps employers avoid layoffs and helps employees to avoid full unemployment. WorkShare also allows employers to:

 

  • Increase cash flow
  • Keep skilled, trained workers
  • Reduce future hiring and retraining costs
  • Avoid disruption in business operations
  • Be prepared for future business growth
  • Maintain worker productivity

For more information about this program and to apply to utilize it:

https://www.mass.gov/how-to/apply-for-workshare

 

Please note that the best way to receive services is to apply online. Someone is on the other side and processing your request and WILL get back to you. Since state employees are working remotely, they are currently not able to take incoming phone calls, but can place outgoing calls to applicants. The state is working to improve access by phone. In the meantime, please apply online.

 

MassHire

MassHire is a state entity that provides connections between businesses and jobseekers though a statewide network of employment professionals. If you are business who needs to hire additional employees to meet business demand or if you are a worker looking for employment and assistance, MassHire can provide services to meet your needs.

 

MassHire for employers: https://www.mass.gov/topics/masshire-for-businesses

 

MassHire for workers: https://www.mass.gov/topics/masshire-for-jobseekers

 

At this time it is recommended that service requests from MassHire be made online due to the volume of service request and temporary limits to connecting service providers to work phones. These service providers are working to increase technology capacity for their own employees who are working from home. More information regarding service capacity is pending. For now, please request services via e-mail and online tools.

 

Unemployment Benefits

The fastest way to file a claim is to apply for unemployment benefits online. People with special needs, disabilities, or language difficulties can use this form to contact DUA. For a tutorial on how to apply for benefits online please see the “COVID-19 Umemployment Handbook” at the bottom of this website under “downloads”: https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-unemployment-and-coronavirus-covid-19

To assist individuals who cannot work due to the impact of COVID-19, the Baker-Polito administration has filed emergency legislation and emergency regulations that allow people impacted by COVID-19 to collect unemployment if their workplace is shut down. https://www.mass.gov/resource/information-on-unemployment-and-coronavirus-covid-19

Notice The quickest way to file a successful unemployment claim is through the UI online portal

 

MassHire professional career services councilors can assist individuals with the application process and also help people find other employment opportunities.

 

 

Tax Relief

On Wednesday, March 18, the Baker-Polito Administration announced administrative tax relief measures for small local businesses which have been impacted by the ongoing COVID-19 outbreak, especially in the restaurant and hospitality sectors. This tax relief includes postponing the collection of regular sales tax, meals tax, and room occupancy taxes that would be due in March, April and May so that they will instead be due on June 20. Additionally, all penalties and interest that would otherwise apply will be waived.

  • Businesses that paid less than $150,000 in regular sales plus meals taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief for sales and meals taxes, and business that paid less than $150,000 in room occupancy taxes in the year ending February 29, 2020 will be eligible for relief with respect to room occupancy taxes.
  • The Department of Revenue is currently drafting emergency regulations to implement these administrative relief measures, and they are expected to be finalized before Friday, March 20, 2020.

 

Local Assistance

Local Banks and Credit Unions

If you are a customer of a local bank or credit union, please speak with financial institution to ask about flexible payment options or loan information. As of March 17, 2020, The Division of Banks are encouraging financial institutions to work with affected customers and communities because such efforts serve the long-term interest of communities and the financial system. Some local financial institutions are offering the following to all customers:

  • Loans
  • Flexible payment options on a case-by-case basis
  • Increasing ATM daily cash withdrawal limits
  • Easing restrictions on cashing out-of-state and non-customer checks
  • Increasing credit card limits for creditworthy borrowers
  • Offering payment accommodations, such as allowing borrowers to defer, or skip some payments, or extend the payment due day, which would avoid delinquencies and negative credit bureau reporting caused by COVID-19 related disruptions on a case-by-case basis.
  • Waiving the following types of fees such as
    •  ATM fees for customers and non-customers
    • Overdraft fees
    • Late payment fees on credit cards and other loans
    • Early withdrawal penalties on time deposits

 

 

I

Sincerely,

Erin Schaeffer

Economic Development Director

 

eschaeffer@ci.reading.ma.us

 

My Hours:

M, W, Th – 7:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday:  7:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.

FRIDAY CLOSED