The details of Charlie Baker’s reopening plan for Massachusetts businesses will start to emerge Monday. By all accounts, however, any restart of the economy will be measured and necessarily slow. As the changes roll out, state officials must continue their work to help companies reduce expenses and retain workers wherever they can.
“What they really need to understand about these small businesses on Main Street is that they are literally at the end of the rope,” Jon Hurst, president of the Massachusetts Retailers Association, told members of the North Shore Chamber of Commerce last week.
“We surveyed our members and literally 30% of them came back and said if they are not open and servicing their customers in the month of May, they were either somewhat or extremely likely to fail.”
The Small Business Administration’s Payroll Protection Plan loans have been slow to roll out, and in many cases have unwanted strings attached.
The shutdown has also decimated taxi companies, limousine services other companies that rely on fleets of vehicles. Extending the pandemic-related rebates insurers are giving to individual policyholders to commercial clients would go a long way toward easing some of the financial pain those businesses are feeling.
Attorney General Maura Healey is pushing state insurance regulators to do just that.
“Without a reduction, Massachusetts businesses will be overpaying for this insurance at a time when many are already in difficult economic circumstances as a result of the national emergency,” Glenn Kaplan, chief of the attorney general’s Insurance and Financial Services Division, wrote in a letter to state Insurance Commissioner Gary Anderson.
Many insurers have offered 15% rebates to individual policy holders, as driving mileage and accidents have fallen by about 50% since the pandemic shuttered malls, restaurants and office buildings across the state.
Those rate reductions have come on an “ad-hoc basis,” Kaplan said, adding that the state insurance commission must compel insurers to match their rates to the current driving risk.
“It is important that we do all we can to assist policyholders during the pandemic and ensure that the cost of their insurance reflects the true risk of loss,” Kaplan said in his letter. Several other states, including New Jersey and California, have already directed insurers to bring their rates into line.
It’s time for Massachusetts to follow suit.