Braintree’s elected officials briefed members of the local business community in a videoconference hosted by the Braintree Chamber of Commerce on April 27.
The virtual meeting featured Mayor Charles Kokoros, Town Council President Shannon Hume and Braintree’s two state senators: Walter Timilty and John Keenan. Here is the recap:
Mayor Kokoros on testing, reopening and the budget
The mayor provided these updates:
COVID-19 infections, testing and tracing: The town is battling a spike of infections that has not yet peaked. The positive rate is currently 32% but the goal is 10%. The town is testing at great frequency, and most people tested are symptomatic. (Update: After the video conference the town reported 573 positive cases and 61 deaths as of April 27.)
About 65% of cases are in nursing homes, and the town is working with Rep. Mark Cusack to help those facilities get testing supplies.
The town has a strong tracing mechanism thanks to the work of its public health nurse Jean McGinty, director of health Marybeth McGrath, and up to 15 school nurses.
Face coverings: The town’s emergency order requires people to wear face coverings in the communal areas of all residential or commercial buildings, and the mayor does not expect to lift this order soon. Police details are posted at Shaw’s and Stop & Shop to remind shoppers of the order. It is critical we get through the spike so we do not see a resurgence.
Reopening: The mayor does not expect Braintree to reopen on May 4, the expiration date of the state’s current nonessential business closures and stay-at-home advisory. (Update: On April 28 the governor extended the order to May 18.)
For Braintree to reopen, first we must get through the surge and the governor must lift restrictions. After that, the mayor and council president will determine the safest ways to reopen. A coordinated effort among communities is important to flatten the curve. May is unlikely and June is still in question. Additionally, some employees may be reluctant to return to work if they have safety concerns or are earning more income by collecting the federal unemployment supplement on top of state benefits.
As a small business owner himself, the mayor very much understands the business community’s pain from loss of income and frustrations securing and implementing government relief benefits. His office is committed to working with every business to decide the safest way to reopen. Creative options will be considered, such as outdoor dining via street closures or public areas.
Community Task Force: The Braintree Community Task Force has been organizing weekly food and PPE drives throughout the shutdown. Any businesses that need sanitizer, disinfectant, gloves or masks should call Kate Naughton at 781-794-8026. Kate will work with the Task Force to try to procure supplies.
The Task Force recently asked local business owners to send a video of how they plan to reopen or to state their hours of operations, products and services. For information on this video campaign, visit the Braintree Community Response and Assistance Facebook page or email email@example.com.
The town budget: The town cut costs for 2020 by reducing the hours of about 60 employees. Looking ahead, the mayor’s office soon will complete its proposed FY 2021 budget. The mayor is taking a “very conservative approach” and feels confident the town will have a strong and healthy budget to provide services to our community.
Council President Hume on supporting small businesses
The Braintree Town Council continues to meet and hold votes via video conference.
Council President Hume expressed that Braintree’s small businesses have always been there for our schools and charities and now need our support. After the shutdown, she asked her fellow councilors to contact their small business constituents and assemble a list of hours and modified operations, which you can read and bookmark on the Braintree Chamber blog: How to support Braintree’s restaurants and small businesses during the COVID-19 crisis.
Councilor Hume invites community members to share ideas for how the town can further support business. For example, The Casual Cup requested, and was granted, the right to place cones outside on Washington Street to allow for curbside pickup, and this has been done in the Landing as well.
Given many people have been laid off or furloughed, Councilor Hume looks forward to working with the Chamber to spread the word about who is hiring. The Town Council is also willing to spotlight businesses via its Facebook page.
Updates from the state
State Senator Keenan reported on various state activities regarding coronavirus:
State Senator Timilty stated that small and mid-level businesses make our economies run, and the State House is very aware of the pain and challenges facing them. State officials are doing everything they can to help these businesses start up safely and revive the economy. Senator Timilty welcomes anyone to contact his office with ideas so he can advocate for them. Businesses that need PPE can request them through the state’s Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) During COVID-19 website.
Margaret LaForest of the Mass. Office of Business Development represents the governor’s economic development agency. She and her colleague Sue Whitaker connect businesses in 30 communities with state-offered programs and incentives.
Updates from the business community
Mike Wilcox of Coastal Heritage Bank reports “just about everyone” has applied for PPP, from companies of several hundred employees to sole proprietors. His bank processed close to 300 applications in the one and one-half weeks the program was open. He congratulated community banks for stepping up to meet the demand. They are also fielding questions about forgiveness and the banks look forward to advising their customers of the federal government’s final guidance. Businesses that will not be allowed to open until a later stage, such as daycare centers or hair salons, are especially concerned.
Peter Forman, president & CEO of the South Shore Chamber of Commerce, reported on what he is hearing from his members and from his peers at the state and national levels. Business leaders are anticipating economic disruption of 18 to 24 months amidst a layered, soft reopening of businesses. Some businesses will reopen more slowly partly because employees are receiving stimulus checks or fear coming back. Economic recovery depends on municipalities being strong. The public’s mood and comfort level will be huge factors, and many businesses do not want to risk being accused of reopening too quickly.
About the Braintree Chamber of Commerce
The video conference was moderated by Kim Kroha, incoming chair of the Braintree Chamber. Kim is an attorney with Baker, Braverman & Barbadoro, a Braintree resident and a member of the Braintree Conservation Commission. She was introduced by acting chair Mike Wilcox of Coastal Heritage Bank. View the Chamber’s board members here.
For more business updates and community-building, follow the Braintree Chamber’s Facebook page.
Your officials want to hear from you!
All elected officials strongly encourage members of the business community to contact them with questions, needs or ideas.
Mayor Charles Kokoros
Jean McGinty, Braintree Public Health Nurse, 781-794-8094
Marybeth McGrath, Director of Health, 781-794-8095
Town Council President Shannon Hume
To contact all nine town councilors, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
State Senator John F. Keenan
State Senator Walter F. Timilty