Florida COVID-19 State Update for Massage Therapists

There have been many changes in the massage therapy and cosmetology industries and communities in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus), from executive orders affecting businesses, to distance learning modifying the student experience. ABMP has summarized below how COVID-19 has impacted the regulations and laws in the state of Florida, and we encourage you to also look at the information regarding the CARES Act outlined at the bottom of this email, which addresses financial aid and unemployment benefits and other programs.

Prohibition of Practice

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis issued a stay-at-home Executive Order on April 1, 2020, requiring Floridians to limit their personal interactions outside the home effective Friday, April 3, 2020, through April 30, 2020, unless extended by a subsequent order. The Governor issued an itemized list of essential services, and health and wellness services such as massage therapy services are not included. It is our interpretation that practitioners in Florida must therefore shutter their businesses during this pandemic as social distancing protocols cannot be maintained, and their services are not at this point considered essential. We worked to clarify with the state the status of massage therapists in Florida but received no responses to emails.

ABMP updates members daily regarding COVID-19 and how it's impacting businesses, and legislative and regulatory changes. Check in with us to stay in the know about Florida updates here. In addition, the most current information for Florida can be found on Florida's COVID-19 disaster website. Please also be sure to check with your local city or county to see if they have closure orders that are stricter than the state orders.

Education Requirements for Board Approved Massage Schools

The Florida Board of Massage Therapy determined that faculty and students have an increased likelihood of exposure to COVID-19 if they continue in-person coursework. To help ensure they are not unnecessarily putting themselves at risk during this pandemic, the Board permitted by emergency rule on March 19, 2020, the following hours to be taught by distance learning:

  • 150 hours of Anatomy and Physiology
  • 25 hours of Massage Theory and History
  • 15 hours of Business
  • 3 hours of Theory and Practice of Hydrotherapy
  • 10 hours of Florida Laws and Rules
  • 4 hours of Professional Ethics
  • 3 hours of HIV/AIDS
  • 2 hours of Prevention of Medical Errors

In addition, Pearson VUE, the provider of the MBLEx, has closed testing centers. View the statement issued by the Federation of State Massage Therapy Boards to learn more.

License Renewals

Many states are coming online at this point to discuss how to handle license renewals. Some states allow for some, if not all, continuing education requirements to be completed online, and others are allowing licensees to renew three months later or by the end of the year. We have not yet received guidance from Florida. If you hear of anything, please let us know by emailing gr@abmp.com. In the meantime, we will continue to monitor this.

The CARES Act 

On March 27, 2020, it was announced that Congress approved the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), a $2 trillion deal to provide economic relief to those most affected by COVID-19. The CARES act expands unemployment to part-time employees and self-employed massage therapists—workers who have not historically been eligible for unemployment compensation.

Florida allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $275 per week; however, not everyone will qualify for this amount. In addition, the federal government will be issuing $600 per week through July 31, 2020, via the CARES Act. To help provide extra relief during this crisis, benefits have been expanded in Florida to 39 weeks.

The onboarding of everything announced in the CARES Act is much slower than was initially thought and planned. The overwhelming numbers of applicants and government agencies that are trying to come up with new processes are slowing systems down that were not ready for the sheer volume of people contacting them. As a result, please be patient; they are all trying. Keep checking back for unemployment updates and for information regarding any loans you are trying to obtain through the Small Business Administration (SBA).

The CARES Act provided funding for two SBA loans and programs. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) is still available, but the applications are taking a while to process and the process is moving rather slowly. We've heard they are starting to run low on available funds as of April 15, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was available to cover payroll, utilities, and rent. As of today, April 16, 2020, no loan applications will be accepted, as funds are currently depleted. If you are still interested in applying for the PPP, we encourage you to get your paperwork together and contact a potential lender, as we have heard that Congress and the administration are working to add funds to this program. Refer to ABMP's Financial Benefits blog post that outlines info on these programs to help you make informed decisions. The blog also has information about tax credits, tax deadline extensions, and health insurance. NOTE: the blog post is a work in progress and is modified when new information is obtained.

We understand that states are now onboarding Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This is a program coming down from the federal government that would provide unemployment benefits for the self-employed or independent contractors. We encourage you to watch the Florida unemployment page for notice of this program. In the meantime, Florida finally suspended the need to apply for work as a condition for receiving unemployment from March 15, 2020, through May 2, 2020. We suspect this may be extended once the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program comes online.

Additionally, on April 2, 2020, Governor DeSantis issued a Mortgage Foreclosure and Eviction Relief Executive Order. Homeowners and tenants have a 45-day suspension from the date of the executive order to help relieve the financial strain caused by COVID-19. NOTE: Individuals still have an obligation to make their mortgage payments and rents; they have just been granted a temporary suspension.

Please let us know if you hear of any updates to the closure orders or if you have information about the unemployment application process by emailing us at gr@abmp.com. We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.

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