Loans may help with recovery from winter
Small-business loans from the US government helped homeowners and businesses recover after tornadoes struck Massachusetts last year. Now, companies reeling from the loss of business from this winter’s unusually heavy snows may be able to tap that kind of aid. The disaster loans from the Small Business Administration are among the key sources of help sought by Governor Charlie Baker. Baker also seeks federal reimbursements to offset the costs to municipalities and the state for snow removal and damage to public infrastructure. SBA loans could provide relief not only for physical damages, such as from failing roofs and frozen pipes, but also for financial losses triggered when snowbound employees could not get to work.
Natural gas rates fall, electric prices hold
Eversource Energy, the utility that supplies natural gas to much of Central and Eastern Massachusetts, proposed cutting customers’ gas bills an average of $20 a month for March and April. The company, formerly known as NStar and Northeast Utilities, said it has sought Department of Public Utilities approval to adjust rates downward for its 300,000 gas customers, based on lower-than-expected costs. There will be no immediate relief for electricity customers, however. Electricity rates — which jumped as much as 37 percent — were based on projections that prices in wholesale markets would surge toward last winter’s record levels.
Insurers post operating losses
Massachusetts’ biggest nonprofit health plans lost millions of dollars on operations last year as they covered expensive new drugs and faced costs associated with rolling out the federal Affordable Care Act. The biggest loss came at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, which reported an operating loss of $119 million, up from a $17 million loss the year before. Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, the second-biggest insurer in Massachusetts, also cited health care reform costs in reporting an operating loss of $18 million, a reversal from a profit of $1 million in 2013. Tufts Health Plan was the sole big insurer to report an operating profit, earning $7 million, up from $4 million the year before. All major health plans ended 2014 with net gains, though, because of income from investments or other sources.
1 million in Mass. affected by hack
Hackers accessed personal information of nearly 1 million Massachusetts consumers during a recent data breach at Anthem Inc., the national health insurance company said. Anthem said 967,000 people living in Massachusetts were affected. They include current and former members of Anthem, as well as members of Blue Cross and Blue Shield plans who used their insurance in a state where Anthem operated over the last decade.
Symbol of perseverance after bombing to close
Aram Boghosian for The Boston Globe
Patrons left Forum on Saturday during its last day in business.
The Forum restaurant on Boylston Street was so close to the Boston Marathon bombings that shrapnel blasted through its windows, lodging in furniture and the ceiling. In those tragic moments and months that followed, the restaurant became a symbol of perseverance and resilience. But on Tuesday, the owner said Forum would close Sunday, unable to overcome a very ordinary business problem — a rent hike. The restaurant’s landlord raised “rent this year by nearly three times our current rate,” according to a statement by Euz Azevedo, the president of Boston Nightlife Ventures, which owns Forum. But the landlord, Boston real estate developer Paul Roiff, said the rent increase will be much smaller and the restaurant was warned years ago that it was coming.
TJX joins other retailers in boosting pay
TJX Cos. said it would increase the minimum hourly wage of employees in 2,500 stores to $9, following other US retailers raising the pay for workers at the lowest end of the pay scale. TJX, which is based in Framingham and operates T.J. Maxx and Marshalls stores in 49 states, follows Walmart and Gap in boosting pay well above the federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour. The minimum wage in Massachusetts rose to $9 an hour Jan. 1.
FCC backs ‘net neutrality’
A sharply divided Federal Communications Commission voted itself sweeping powers to regulate the business practices of the nation’s Internet service providers in a bid to ensure “net neutrality.” Net neutrality is the idea that all kinds of Internet data traffic should be handled in a nondiscriminatory fashion. For instance, the broadband provider Comcast Corp. should not be able to block or slow video streams from the popular Netflix video service in order to give Comcast’s own video offerings an advantage. The vote was a victory for activists who have lobbied for years for tough regulations. But it was denounced by critics who say it’s an unnecessary imposition of federal power that will stifle investment and innovation. The new regulations probably will be challenged in court.
Boston 2024 fund-raising limited to New England
The Boston business leaders working to raise $75 million to finance a bid for the 2024 Summer Games face an obstacle: a geographic boundary drawn at the New York state line. As part of an agreement between the Boston 2024 Partnership and the US Olympic Committee, the Boston group has agreed not to proactively seek donors outside of New England, while the USOC will stay out of the region as it hunts for contributors to support the country’s athletes and related sports programs. There is some flexibility, however. Corporate donors outside of New England can contribute to Boston 2024 if the gifts are approved by the US committee.
Uno goes back to roots — all 2,300 calories of them
John Tlumacki/Globe Staff
Uno Pizzeria and Grill, the pizza restaurant chain that switched years ago to a menu emphasizing healthy food, is returning to its cheesy roots. In 2008, the West Roxbury company embraced the title, bestowed by Health magazine, of the healthiest restaurant chain in America. Now Uno’s traditional fare — including its 2,300-calorie Chicago Classic individual pizza — is back near the front of the menu. “It’s about going back to what made the brand great to begin with,” said Dee Hadley, chief marketing officer.
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