Arbitrary schedule hinders successful return of Main Street
His Excellency Charles D. Baker 6/10/2020
Governor of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts
State House, Room 360
Boston, MA 02133
Dear Governor Baker:
My name is Christopher Carlozzi and I am the state director for the National Federation of Independent Business in Massachusetts. Our members are both essential and non-essential businesses who are involved in all types of industries, including manufacturing, retail, wholesale, service, and agriculture. On behalf of the thousands of small and independent business owners NFIB represents, I would like to raise several concerns regarding the reopening of the state economy.
Creating phases within phases. When Phase 2 was announced on June 6th most businesses expected a comprehensive list of industries allowed to reopen within a period of four phases. Instead, business owners discovered some industries like retail shops, hotels, and outdoor dining restaurants could open, while other businesses like nail salons, tattoo shops, and tanning salons were designated for Phase 2, Part 2. This modification to the report was an unexpected development and the subdividing of phases will lead to an unnecessarily lengthy reopening.
Indoor dining. It is important to highlight Massachusetts’ reopening began later than neighboring states and at a far slower pace, especially for restaurants. Now, as states like Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut move to indoor dining, Massachusetts restaurants are still limited to outdoor food consumption only. We ask that indoor dining (at reduced capacity) begin immediately, as outdoor dining is not a sustainable option for many restaurants. Too many dining spots have already been forced to close their doors permanently and the state must act quickly to prevent future closures.
Unannounced phase modifications. On Monday, June 8th Massachusetts bar owners went to sleep thinking they were allowed to open in Phase 3. Unbeknownst to those business owners, their industry was shifted to Phase 4 overnight without any announcement or notification. Small businesses thrive on predictability, so postponing their reopening makes them far more susceptible to permanent closure. Moving the goalposts for small businesses as they prepare to reopen is patently unfair after months of dutifully obeying the state’s shutdown order.
Including gyms and fitness clubs in Phase 3. In the early days of the pandemic the administration stressed the importance of maintaining physical fitness. Gym and fitness club owners have expressed their dissatisfaction with being included in Phase 4 alongside movie theaters and other entertainment-related industries. When NFIB testified before the Reopening Advisory Board we brought the owner of a Massachusetts gym who provided a nearly 20-page document on how her business planned to safely reopen. It is a disservice to the residents of the Commonwealth to deny them the ability to deal with the stress and anxiety of this pandemic in a healthy way through their local gyms and fitness centers. Other states have recognized the importance of physical fitness and to date, Rhode Island, New Hampshire, Vermont and Connecticut are all allowing gyms to operate. Even New Jersey, a state that had far more COVID-19 cases than Massachusetts, is allowing gyms to operate in stage 2 of their reopening.
Under the current conditions, many small businesses listed in later phases will be unable to endure for much longer. Their funds are dwindling at a rapid pace, as loan money was never intended to last for such an extended period of time. If some of these industries are not allowed to operate soon, their doors will close for good and the negative economic impact on the state becomes irreversible.
Christopher R. Carlozzi
NFIB’s Massachusetts State Director
cc: Lt. Governor Karyn Polito
Secretary Mike Kennealy, Executive Office of Housing and Economic Development
Ms. Kristen Lepore, Chief of Staff, Office of the Governor
Senate President Karen Spilka
House Speaker Robert DeLeo
Senate Minority Leader Bruce Tarr
House Minority Leader Brad Jones