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Formerly the Newton-Needham Chamber

Here we go again: The new staffing crisis

Our employers are facing a new staffing crisis.
Employees are calling in sick -- forcing some businesses to suspend operations, curtail hours, or return to remote work.
For working parents, the child care crisis never abated but now that’s worse too.
If you, your family, your employees, or your coworkers, hadn’t been directly touched by COVID over the past two years, chances are you, or they, have now, right?
Remarkably, those on the front lines continue to be there from the rest of us, only too often facing short tempers and worse.
This time there’s no PPP or other programs to help cover the rent or make the payroll, at least not yet. And the strategies we thought protected us – like many of our masks -- demand reevaluation.
We’re facing a different illness than we had two years ago. Symptoms are generally milder, especially for the vaccinated. And, yes, there’s reason to hope that this surge will be short lived.
We will adapt. We will embrace uncertainty. We will find new ways to keep our enterprises running. It's what we do.
I hope you found time to enjoy your holidays, family and friends. Here's what you need to know as we begin a new year.
This chart may be useful
Mass Restaurant Association has produced this flowchart to help you and your employees navigate current COVID symptom protocols.  
Vax or test rules go before Supreme Court Friday
The Supreme Court will hear arguments on President Biden's vaccine or test rule for employers with 100-plus on-site workers this Friday (Jan. 7).
Yesterday, former Vice President Mike Pence filed an amicus brief urging the court to reject the rules, arguing that -- unlike asbestos, or chemicals that have been regulated by emergency OSHA rules -- COVID is not a workplace safety issue, according to the Hill. 
Under Biden's rule (unless struck down by the court) large employers are required to know the vaccination status of their employees by next Monday (Jan. 10) and unvaccinated employees must wear masks.  
By Feb. 9, unvaccinated workers will need to test weekly, or else employers will face steep financial penalties.
Read OSHA’s FAQs here.
And speaking of vaccine mandates
We're conducting a very brief survey about COVID-19 vaccine mandates in the workplace.
Your participation will help us advocate on behalf of our businesses and nonprofits in Newton, Needham, Watertown and Wellesley.
If you haven't participated yet, go here. We'll share results later this week.
Two major employers heading to Kendrick Street campus
Good things are happening at the campus that once served as home to PTC next to Cutler Pond at 140 Kendrick Street in Needham.
The private investment firm Wellington Management has committed to a long-term, 106,000 square foot net zero lease at the Boston Properties facility.
In addition, Clarks Shoes – which for 18 years was headquartered on Oak Street in Newton before moving to Waltham in 2016 – is reportedly heading to 140 Kendrick too. Clark’s space in at 60 Tower Road in Waltham is being taken over by local 3D printing company Markforged.
140 Kendrick is a 440,000 square foot complex consisting of three interconnected office buildings with shared conference facilities, a full-service café, boutique fitness studio, and structured parking.
(And it's right across the street from the Needham Workbar at 117 Kendrick where your favorite chamber is based!)
Wellington will lease the entirety of Building A. according to Boston Real Estate Times.
The build-out will become the first net zero, carbon neutral office repositioning of this scale in Massachusetts.
The repositioning of Building A will include a deep energy retrofit, full electrification of gas-fired systems, HVAC modernization, including advanced heat recovery, and onsite renewable energy generation from a solar photovoltaic system that is designed to exceed annual consumption.
File under: Could have been worse
We finally know the size of the state’s unemployment trust fund's structural deficit.
While once feared to be upwards of $7 billion, a Baker administration report puts the UI deficit closer to more modest $115 million.
Private employers fund the UI program through unemployment taxes and will ultimately be responsible for closing the deficit and replenishing the trust fund.
But we’re still a few weeks away from knowing just how much that will cost businesses. 
Larry Edelman at the Globe does his usual good job explaining the situation.
Catching up on other stories from over the holidays
  • Cutting emissions is never an easy task, but it’s more difficult for life sciences companies. In fact, labs are among the worst greenhouse-gas offenders threatening the health of the planet. The BBJ looked at the energy demands for the life science facilities in a must read cover story.
  • MassHousing has suspended developer Geoff Engler from applying for any further affordable housing projects after alleging Engler lied on an application for a 40B project in Wellesley. Engler allegedly did not disclose the Wellesley project’s ties to Dean Behrend, principal of Riverview Crossing, LLC, which was also banned from applying for any more 40B projects. The Salem News had the story.
  • Wellesley fav Truly’s will be expanding its ice cream and yogurt shop later this year, taking over the adjacent space on Grove Street currently occupied by the boutique salon Atelier. Atelier isn’t going away either, they’re moving to a larger location at Linden Square. (Swellesley Report)
  • Finagle A Bagel has closed its Test Kitchen on Rowe Street in Newton's Auburndale neighborhood last month, while apparently choosing to focus on its wholesale business. At its peak, the chain, founded in 1991, had 21 outlets in the Boston area, according to Universal Hub. It’s now down to two retail locations: Boylston Street in Copley Square and at Mass. General.
Watertown postpones event honoring Mike Driscoll
The Jan. 29 event honoring Watertown’s retiring City Manager Michael J. Driscoll has been postponed due to the COVID concerns.
When Driscoll retires at the end of this month, he will have served Watertown for a remarkable 45 years, including the past 29 years as Watertown's City Manager. A rescheduled date will be announced later.
Meanwhile, there will be a community forum Jan. 12 at 6 p.m. to solicit public input for the next city manager (Attend via zoom here.)
You can provide input for the city manager search process by participating in this survey or sending email to
You won't meet too many people whose first three days on the job were more eventful
One year ago today, a 32-year-old former Newton City Councilor put his hand on a Bible and was sworn in as a member of the 117th U.S. Congress.
Two days later Jake Auchincloss stood on broken glass and watched many his new colleagues attempt to negate the results of a presidential election.
Join me tomorrow (Weds.) at 4 p.m. for a conversation with our congressman from the 4th District. I'll ask Auchincloss about his first days and first year in office, but also talk about the future and take your questions. Scroll down to RSVP. 
That’s today’s Need to Knows unless you need to know why your Blackberry isn’t working this morning.

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