NAIOP Massachusetts Updates on COVID-19 + CRE
On March 10, 2020 Governor Baker declared a State of Emergency urging private sector employers, where possible, to limit or eliminate non-essential travel and larger meetings. To ensure member health and safety, all NAIOP in-person events will be rescheduled or held virtually until further notice. NAIOP Massachusetts would like to serve as a resource on issues affecting the CRE industry. We are in constant contact with state officials on this issue and we are actively working to find solutions that address both the long and short-term impacts of this crisis. Have an idea you would like to share or a challenge that needs to be addressed in response to this crisis? Contact NAIOP’s CEO Tamara Small or Vice President of Policy & Public Affairs Anastasia Nicolaou.
We will continue to update this site to provide the most recent and up to date information.
Mask Wearing Guidelines and Requirements
Effective April 30, the face coverings order will be relaxed for some outdoor settings -face coverings will only be required outside in public when it is not possible to socially distance, and at other times required by sector-specific guidance.
Face coverings will still be required at all times in indoor public places. Face coverings will also continue to be required at all times at events, whether held indoors or outdoors and whether held in a public space or private home, except for when eating or drinking.
At smaller gatherings in private homes, face coverings are recommended but not required. The $300 fine as an enforcement mechanism will be eliminated.
Travel Restrictions and Requirements
As of Monday, March 22, all visitors entering Massachusetts, including returning residents, are advised to quarantine for 10 days upon their arrival. Travelers in the following categories are exempt from this quarantine advisory:
- Travelers who have received a negative COVID-19 result on a test administered not more than 72 hours prior to their arrival in Massachusetts. Travelers may also test out of the quarantine advisory after arrival in Massachusetts, as long as they quarantine until receiving a negative test result.
- Anyone who is entering Massachusetts for fewer than 24 hours
- Anyone who is returning to Massachusetts after being out of the State for fewer than 24 hours
- Workers who enter Massachusetts to perform critical infrastructure functions (as specified by the Federal Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency) during required commuting to or from work and while at work.
- Travelers who are fully vaccinated (i.e. who have received two doses of either the Moderna or Pfizer COVID-19 vaccines OR who have received a single dose of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine, 14 days or more ago) and who do not have symptoms.
For all details relating to travel in and out of Massachusetts, please click here.
On January 25, 2021, the Massachusetts Department of Public Health updated the Safer-At-Home Advisory. Provisions include, but are not limited to:
- People over the age of 65 and people who have underlying health conditions – who are at high risk for COVID-19 – should continue to stay home except for essential errands such as going to the grocery store and to attend to healthcare needs
- All residents are advised to leave home only for healthcare, worship and permitted work, shopping, and activities
- When going to the pharmacy ask if you can fill your prescriptions for 90 days if possible; for some medications this is not allowed. If you are at high-risk, try to use a mail-order service
- All residents are REQUIRED to wear face masks or cloth face coverings in all public places, indoors, even where they are able to maintain 6 feet of distance from others.
Gathering and Business Capacity Limits - As of May 4, 2021
The following is statewide guidance released by the Baker-Polito Administration. To review the City of Boston's slightly altered timeline for reopening, please visit www.boston.gov/reopening.
On Monday, May 10, the following will go into effect:
- Capacity for large venues such as indoor and outdoor stadiums, arenas and ball parks will increase to 25%
- Amusement parks, theme parks and outdoor water parks will be permitted to operate at 50% after submitting safety plans to the Department of Public Health.
- Road races and other large, outdoor organized amateur or professional group athletic events will be permitted to take place with staggered starts after submitting safety plans to a local board of health or the DPH.
- Youth and adult amateur sports tournaments will be allowed for moderate and high risk sports.
- Singing will also be permitted indoors with strict distancing requirements at performance venues, restaurants, event venues and other businesses.
On Saturday, May 29, the following will go into effect:
- Subject to public health and vaccination data, gathering limits will increase to 200 people indoors and 250 people outdoors for event venues, public settings and private settings.
- Subject to public health and vaccination data, additional Phase 4, Step 2 industries will be permitted to open including:
- Street festivals, parades and agricultural festivals, at 50% of their previous capacity and after submitting safety plans to the local board of health.
- Bars, beer gardens, breweries, wineries and distilleries, will be subject to restaurant rules with seated service only, a 90 minute limit and no dance floors.
- Subject to public health and vaccination data, the restaurant guidance will be updated to eliminate the requirement that food be served with alcohol and to increase the maximum table size to 10.
On Sunday, August 1, subject to public health and vaccination data, remaining industries will be permitted to open including:
- Dance clubs, and nightclubs
- Saunas, hot-tubs, steam rooms at fitness centers, health clubs and other facilities
- Indoor water parks
- Ball pits
All industry restrictions will be lifted at that time, and capacity will increase to 100% for all industries, with businesses encouraged to continue following best practices. The gathering limit will be rescinded.
Depending on vaccine distribution and public health data, the Administration may consider re-evaluating the August 1st date.
The Department of Public Health will also continue to issue guidance as needed, including guidance to still require masks indoors.
For the most up-to-date guidance, requirements and information on the Commonwealth’s COVID-19 response, please visit: mass.gov/reopening.
Updated Hospital Guidance
In order to preserve bed capacity, on December 21 it was also announced that effective 12:01am on December 26, all hospitals must postpone or cancel all non-essential in-patient elective invasive procedures, unless postponement would lead to high-risk or significant clinical decline of an individuals health. Additionally, hospitals are advised not to schedule new in-patient non-essential elective procedures until further notice by the Department of Public Health. Ambulatory, outpatient treatment, and preventive procedures (such as mammograms or cancer screenings) are not impacted. In-patient and emergency services are also not affected by this order.
The Stop the Spread initiative is a data-driven focused effort to reduce the prevalence of COVID-19 in communities that are above the state average in total cases, positive test rate, and have experienced a decline in testing levels since April. All residents of these 16 communities, including asymptomatic individuals, are urged to use these sites to get tested. While these sites are being launched in these communities, they are open to all residents of the Commonwealth. To find a testing site near you, please visit: https://www.mass.gov/covid-19-testing.
Reopening the Massachusetts Economy - Additional Resources
On May 18, the Baker-Polito Administration and the Reopening Advisory Board released their plan for reopening the Massachusetts Economy. NAIOP presented to the Board in early May with recommendations on issues affecting CRE. Please visit mass.gov/reopening to review the full report, general business guidance, sector guidance, mandatory employer and worker posters, mandatory safety standards for workplaces, and FAQs on the 4-Phase Reopening Plan. In order to reopen, all businesses must develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19.Phases could last longer or be reverted to depending upon public-health data. A full list of industry opening dates by phase is now available and will be updated. As of March 1, 2021 statewide, Massachusetts was in Phase III, Step 2.
On Tuesday, December 8, Governor Baker issued an updated order that lowered the maximum of diners per table from 10 diners to 6 diners. Maximum dining time is now limited to 90 minutes.
On Monday, November 2, Governor Baker issued an updated order requiring that restaurants must stop alcohol sales and be closed for table service by 9:30 p.m., although takeout service will be allowed to continue.
Restaurant rules have been updated to state that alcoholic beverages may only be served for on-site consumption if accompanied by orders for food prepared on-site. The administration will be taking measures to ensure that bars masquerading as restaurants will be closed.
Mandatory Self-Certification for Reopening Businesses
In order to reopen, a business must develop a written COVID-19 Control Plan outlining how its workplace will prevent the spread of COVID-19. Required Materials are located on mass.gov/reopening, and include:
- COVID-19 control plan: Businesses may complete a template to fulfill this requirement. This plan does not need to be submitted to a state agency for approval, but must be retained on the premises of the business and be provided in the event of an inspection. Click here to access a template COVID-19 control plan.
- Compliance attestation poster: Businesses are required to sign a poster, attesting that they have completed a COVID-19 control plan, and post it in an area within the business premises that is visible to employees and visitors. Click here to download the poster.
- Other posters: Businesses are required to post signs and posters describing the rules for maintaining social distancing, hygiene protocols, cleaning, and disinfecting. These include an Employer Poster and a Worker Poster.
Office Space Reopening
Click here to review the most up-to-date office standards.
On May 28, Mayor Marty Walsh announced a new framework for all office spaces located within Boston. This framework is in place as an operational recommendation to be used as a reference in line with Federal and State-wide mandates. These operational recommendations apply to operations during Phase 1 of the Commonwealth’s phased reopening plan, and are subject to revision and modification during subsequent phases or as necessitated by public health considerations.
The Baker-Polito Administration and the Mayor's Office have made it very clear that they hope employees who can work from home continue to do so throughout this recovery in order to limit potential exposure and allow for a successful and resilient reopening.
MassDEP Releases New Guidance Addressing Stagnant Water in Buildings
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many buildings and facilities have had little or no water flowing through the pipes or fixtures for an extended period of time. In response, the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (MassDEP) has released guidance addressing the issue of stagnant water in buildings, recommending that building owners and property managers take steps to protect public health by minimizing water stagnation during these closures. The Guidance includes but is not limited to the maintenance of the hot water and water treatment systems in the building, regular flushing of the building’s plumbing system, and a recommendation to consider developing a water management program for building water systems and all devices that use water.
Governor Baker Eviction Diversion Initiative
On July 20, Governor Baker extended the pause on evictions and foreclosures for 60-days through the authority granted to the governor by Chapter 65 of the Acts of 2020, An Act providing for a moratorium on evictions and foreclosures during the COVID-19 Emergency. The legislation, signed on April 20, institutes moratoriums on non-emergency evictions of residents and small businesses in the Commonwealth. This moratorium expired on October 17, 2020. NAIOP recognized the importance of helping small businesses who have been impacted by this crisis and we were happy to see that the final bill included language that serves small businesses and commercial landlords across the Commonwealth in these uncertain times. We are grateful to the many members who provided technical expertise on this issue.
Mayor Walsh Announces Housing Stability Pledge
In early October 2020, Mayor Walsh announced the creation of the Housing Stability Pledge for landlords. The Pledge, aimed to deter residential evictions during the COVID-19 pandemic, requires landlords to abide by the current CDC Eviction Order; engage with tenants to create a payment plan; accept rental assistance where available; and make rent adjustments for Section 8/MRVP families who are falling behind on their rent. This is an opt-in program for residential landlords located within the City of Boston.
An Act to Guarantee Housing Stability During the COVID-19 Emergency and Recovery
On June 30, Representative Mike Connolly and Senator Patricia Jehlen filed H.4878/S. 2831 An Act to Guarantee Housing Stability During the COVID-19 Emergency. This bill is an attempt to enact a sweeping eviction moratorium that would have negative ripple effects throughout the entire economy for years to come. This moratorium would last twelve-months from the end of the March 10 state of emergency. Such an action would cripple real estate, creating extensive short- and long-term impacts on the housing market. Not only is a twelve-month extension an arbitrary and onerous length of time, but, seeing as we are still under a state of emergency, it could be extended far longer than intended. For example, if the state of emergency remains in place until January 2021, the moratorium would not expire until January 2022.
Additionally, this bill would impose rent cancellation and rent control, unfairly expose good faith property owners to 93A damages, and seal records of all renters, not just those impacted by COVID-19. These provisions, and others, will damage every property owner in Massachusetts, further exacerbate the state’s housing crisis, and significantly disincentivize development, the state’s best hope to spur economic recovery.
NAIOP was pleased that this legislation was not included in the House's Economic Development Bill. Further, while it has been refiled for the 2021/22 Legislative Session, no further action was taken on this proposal during the end of the 2019/20 session.
Construction Restart, Moratoriums & Guidance
On May 18, Governor Baker announced that effective immediately all construction (including office, retail, etc.) will be allowed to proceed if the appropriate documentation and safety standards and guidance are in place (in addition to any local requirements or restrictions). In addition to the mandatory safety standards for all industries announced on May 11 regarding social distancing, hygiene, staffing and operations, and sanitization, the Baker-Polito Administration released construction-specific mandatory safety standards and guidance. The requirements must be in place before reopening a site. The construction-specific requirements and guidance allows cities and towns to require additional site-specific risk analysis and safety plans.
On May 5, the City of Boston announced it will be taking an incremental approach to broadening the allowable categories of construction. As of May 26, all construction projects may re-commence construction in adherence to safety plans.
At no time will the City of Boston permit any construction beyond what is allowed by the Commonwealth. DPW and ISD will continue to monitor and enforce the COVID-19 Safety Plans for Construction. In accordance with the signed affidavit, contractors acknowledge and agree that non-compliance with any requirements may result in suspension of termination of work in progress of revocation of the City’s permit for such work.
On April 20, The City of Boston announced new protocols for essential construction work. All essential construction sites must now submit a COVID-19 Safety Plan and a COVID-19 Safety Affidavit. To help develop the COVID-19 Safety Plan, the City has provided a Safety Plan Worksheet (available here) for guidance. The COVID-19 Safety Affidavit, (available here) attests that the contractor has created, provided to the City, and will implement its COVID-19 Safety Plan. It follows the same requirements as the Safety Plan. Failure to adhere to the policy may result in approval to work being revoked.
Cambridge Construction Timeline Announced
On June 22, Cambridge updated its construction timeline. Construction activities within the City resumed in a four-phase approach. As of June 29, 2021, all construction activities had resumed in Cambridge.
Somerville Stands by Longer Construction Phase-In
In May, the City of Somerville announced an anticipated schedule for the reopening of construction sites despite the State's reopening plan. The timeline is focused on critical projects thru 2021. As of August 6, Somerville was currently in Phase Two of their reopening plan.
- Phase One – May 18, 2020 Start: The first phase will focus on highly critical projects and contractors who have been working successfully under COVID-management plans on sites outside of Somerville. This phase primarily includes large municipal and utility projects.
- Phase Two – June 1, 2020 Start: The second phase will focus on critical projects with contractors who have less experience with COVID-management plans. This phase primarily includes additional municipal and utility projects as well as private construction.
- Phase Three – July through September 2020 Start: The third phase of construction will focus on highly critical projects currently in the design and bidding phase with anticipated construction starts in the late summer or early fall.
- Phase Four – Start To-Be-Determined (may be deferred to 2021): Additional municipal projects remain under review.
To restart projects, all contractors must submit a Jobsite Hazard Analysis and prepare a Site Specific Safety Plan (example here) with a particular focus on COVID safety in accordance with state and federal guidelines on COVID spread prevention. Once safety plans are approved, projects will be allowed to restart.
SJC Releases Updated Order Regarding Court Operations
On July 29, the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court (SJC) issued an updated order outlining public access to court houses and court facilities. All persons entering a court house or court facility must wear a mask and will be subject to a screening process.
On June 24, the SJC issued an order further staying certain hearings and trials and limiting court house access until at least July 13, 2020. In addition, the order affirmed that there will be no further extensions of deadlines or civil statutes of limitations beyond June 30, 2020, "unless there is a new surge in COVID-19 cases in the Commonwealth and the SJC determines a new or extended tolling period is needed) and that appeal periods on local permits will begin to run on July 1, 2020.
To access all updates relating to the Judiciary's COVID-19 response please visit: https://www.mass.gov/resource/court-system-response-to-covid-19
State Permit Tolling and Administrative Appeals
Importantly, this updated order addressed NAIOP's significant concerns with the previous order's appeals language. In the updated order, any individual whose right to appeal would have expired between March 10, 2020 and July 1, 2020 shall have until August 10, 2020 to proceed with their appeal. Any person whose right to appeal expires after July 1, 2020 will be held to the regular or statutory deadline, or by August 10, 2020, whichever is later.
NAIOP advocated strongly for this Executive Order given the extraordinary impact of the previous order on projects throughout the Commonwealth, and we were pleased to see our concerns addressed in the final language.
On Tuesday, May 26, the Department of Administrative Law Appeals, the agency responsible for due process adjudicatory hearings for other Massachusetts state administrative agencies, announced that in addition to electronic filings, it is once again allowing in-person filing as long as public health protocols are followed.
On Thursday, March 26, Governor Baker issued an Executive Order to suspend relevant permitting deadlines and extend out the validity of state permits. It applies to a wide range of state approvals and clarifies that all approvals shall toll during the State of Emergency. It shall remain in effect until rescinded or until the state of emergency is terminated, whichever happens first.
Municipal Permits Tolled
On November 12, Governor Baker signed An Act Making Appropriations for Fiscal Year 2020 to Provide for Supplementing Certain Existing Appropriations and for Certain Other Activities and Projects. Included in section 34 of this supplemental budget is the Baker-Polito Administration's language to end all municipal hearing delays as allowed by Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020 on December 1, 2020.
The passage and signature of this language is a direct result of NAIOP's advocacy.
In April, NAIOP, together with the Massachusetts Municipal Association and the Home Builders and Remodelers Association of Massachusetts, worked to pass Chapter 53 of the Acts of 2020, An Act to Address Challenges Faced by Municipalities and State Authorities Resulting from COVID-19, in order to alleviate challenges faced by municipalities as a result of the COVID-19 public health emergency. The legislation provided permit granting bodies with the authority they needed to conduct meetings and public hearings remotely.
As the COVID-19 crisis continued, it became clear that due to some municipalities' reticence to implement remote hearings, certain administrative provisions allowed by the original legislation required amendment to ensure that projects across the state were able to move forward. As an interim action, NAIOP was instrumental in the issuance of official guidance for municipalities by the Department of Housing and Community Development (DHCD). The guidance urged municipalities to conduct remote hearings on all applications for permits or approvals related to housing production, and reinforced that all remote hearings should be implemented in a fair manner for all types of housing, in particular referencing 40B projects.
DPU Begins Energy Relief Plan for Commercial and Industrial Customers
On June 26, the Massachusetts Department of Public Utilities (DPU) approved the commencement of a program designed to assist companies that have fallen into arrears on gas or electricity payments during the COVID-19 pandemic. Full implementation of the program will begin after the March 10 State of Emergency is lifted and current customer protections expire.
The Customer Outreach Plan will consist of four phases. You can read the full order by clicking here. Any company having trouble paying their electric or gas bills due to COVID-19 should contact their distribution company for further information.
In March, 2021, the Massachusetts Legislature announced an Unemployment Insurance Relief Package agreement. There are five key components to this package, and NAIOP will continue to monitor this legislative package as it continues to move through Beacon Hill.
- Rate Freeze
There will be no rate increases in the UI rate schedule for 2021 and 2022. Therefore, the rate will remain at Schedule E for the next two years.
- Borrowing authorization
The agreement allows for state borrowing, secured by a temporary employer assessment, to ensure the solvency of the UI trust fund and extend the time for repayment.
- PPP tax deductibility
In addition to UI relief, Massachusetts has agreed to conform to the current Internal Revenue Code in order to exclude forgiven PPP loans from gross income for small businesses organized as pass-through entities.
- COVID-19 paid leave wraparound with federal program
In order to make certain that all employees have access to paid leave if they are unable to work because they get infected with the coronavirus, are ordered to quarantine, or need to take time off to get the vaccine, the state will ensure employees have access to paid leave and employers are reimbursed for such costs.
- Tax Relief for Certain Individuals and Penalty
Unemployed workers whose income falls below 200 percent of the poverty line will not have to pay taxes on the UI benefits and penalties will be waived for missed tax payments on UI benefits received in 2020 in recognition of the fact that some people may have been unaware of the taxability of these benefits.
On May 26, 2020 Governor Baker signed into law Chapter 81 of the Acts of 2020, An Act Providing Additional Support to Those Affected by the Novel Coronavirus Through the Unemployment Insurance System. The legislation, aimed at providing employer and beneficiary protections, prevents layoffs related to the COVID-19 pandemic from negatively impacting an employer’s future unemployment insurance contributions; extends the unemployment benefit period from 26 weeks to 30 weeks for any week in which claims exceed 100,000; eliminates the 50% cap for the dependency allotment providing additional benefits to low-income families; and provides a 120-day grace period for non-profits who self-insure for unemployment claims to make their contributions.
On Wednesday, March 18, 2020 Governor Baker signed (S 2599), which will allow workers to begin immediately collecting unemployment benefits. The Executive Office of Labor and Workforce Development will also file emergency regulations allowing employees affected by the coronavirus to collect unemployment if their workplace shuts down with plans to reopen within four weeks.
MEPA Operations Revisions
On Monday, April 27 Governor Baker signed An Act Providing for Virtual Notarization to Address Challenges Related to COVID-19. This important legislation takes immediate effect – with an automatic repeal taking place three business days after the termination of the Governor’s March 10, 2020 declared State of Emergency.
The bill authorizes the use of electronic video conferencing in an affirmation, acknowledgement, or other notarial act performed by notaries public appointed in the Commonwealth.
- Nothing in this legislation changes the requirement that the closing of a transaction involving a mortgage or other conveyance of title to real estate may only be conducted by an attorney duly admitted to practice law in the Commonwealth, or a paralegal under the direct supervision of such an attorney.
Property Tax Update
The City of Cambridge announced it is extending the due date for Second Half Real Estate and Property Tax bills until June 1, 2020. In addition, interest and other penalties on late payments made on Excise Tax and water/sewer bills with due dates after March 10, 2020 will be waived if payments are made before June 30, 2020. It is our understanding that this applies to both residential and commercial.
The City of Boston has extended the due date for property tax bills in Boston until June 1st to give residents more flexibility during the ongoing public health crisis caused by COVID-19. This applies to both residential and commercial properties.
Executive Orders & Guidance Issued Affecting Housing
A number of Executive Orders and guidance documents, were adopted the week of March 23.
- March 25 - Department of Housing and Community Development guidance to owners of state aided low-income housing
- March 25 - Department of Housing and Community Development guidance to affordable housing operators
- March 25 - Division of Banks message to industry regarding mortgage loan borrowers impacted by COVID-19
Changes to Open Meeting Law
Land Court Issues Guidance for Remote Approvals
Extension of Professional Licensure:
BBRS Issues Guidance for Building Inspectors:
Statement from Eversource on Services During COVID-19
Massachusetts residents are urged to use 2-1-1 for information, resources, and referrals regarding COVID-19. Operators are staffing this hotline 24/7 and translators are available in multiple languages. Residents with questions can dial 2-1-1 from any landline or cellphone or use the live chat option on the Mass 2-1-1 website.
In addition, please check out the following resources, which are frequently updated, for information on this rapidly changing situation:
U.S. Senate Approves nearly $2 Trillion Stimulus Bill - Awaiting Final Approval from the U.S. House of Representatives
- Authorize direct stimulus payments of $1,400 to individuals
- Dependents of all ages stand to be eligible for those payments - previous packages have only included those under 17.
- The payments start phasing out for individuals with adjusted gross incomes of more than $75,000, and those making more than $80,000 would not receive anything. Calculations are based on 2019 tax returns.
- Federal unemployment checks would extend to September 6, 2021 at a $300/week rate. If approved by March 14, it would renew the weekly $300 federal unemployment checks without a gap in funding.
- Funding to help reopen schools during COVID-19
- Extend the Federal Residential Eviction and Foreclosure Moratorium until September 20, 2021.
CDC Releases Order Relating to Residential Evictions
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has published an order determining that evictions of residential tenants could be detrimental to public health control measures to slow the spread of COVID-19.
This order only applies to residential evictions, not commercial properties. It was reissued on January 31, 2021 and will remain in effect, unless modified for rescinded through March 31, 2021.
How You Can Help
PPE Procurement and Donation Program
Ongoing Blood Shortage & Need for Blood Donation Sites
Additionally, communities of color face unique health challenges in Boston and beyond. The American Red Cross of Massachusetts has a critical need for African American blood donors to support sickle cell patients during the COVID-19 outbreak. If you are able to donate please sign up.
To schedule a new blood drive contact Bill Forsyth at (617) 699-3808.
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).
COVID-19 Massachusetts Relief Fund
Boston Equity COVID-19 Emergency Fund
Heading Home COVID-19 Relief Fund
Post updated March 9, 2021 at 11:23am ET