Georgia COVID-19 State Update

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 reopening protocols modifying practice procedures, to distance learning altering the student experience. ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP have summarized below how COVID-19 has impacted the regulations and laws in the state of Georgia, and we encourage you to look at the economic assistance information outlined at the bottom of this email, which addresses financial aid, unemployment benefits, and other programs.

Practice Restrictions and Reopening 

Georgia Governor Brian P. Kemp announced on April 2, 2020, Executive Order, which ordered Georgians to shelter in place and limit social interaction to prevent the spread or infection of COVID-19. Estheticians, hair designers, and massage therapists were ordered to cease in-person services and shutter their businesses through April 13, 2020. Governor Kemp later issued Executive Order, thereby extending the shelter in place order through April 30, 2020.

On April 20, 2020, Governor Kemp announced Executive Order, marking the beginning of a gradual process to reopen the state. Estheticians, hair designers, and massage therapists will be allowed to reopen their doors April 24, 2020. These businesses are required to follow Minimum Basic Operations, which limits them to perform the minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of a business, to provide services, to manage inventory, to ensure security, and to process payroll and employee benefits. These businesses must also adhere to strict measures to mitigate the spread of COVID-19. 

ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP update members daily regarding state orders, practice prohibition, and reopening processes. View Georgia updates here for massage therapists and here for cosmetologists. The most current information regarding what is happening in Georgia can be found on the Georgia Department of Public Health webpage. Please also be sure to check with your local city or county to see if they have closure or reopening orders that are stricter than the state orders.

Practice Modifications and Protocol Guidelines 

Per Governor Kemp's Executive Order, estheticians, hair designers, and massage therapists must implement strict measures when returning to work. This includes, but is not limited to, making personal protective equipment (PPE) available to all workers, increasing physical space between worksites by at least six feet, suspending the use of pin pads or electronic signature capture, discouraging workers from sharing equipment or tools, permitting breaks and meals outside, requiring and screening for sick workers, and providing hand-sanitizing or washing stations at appropriate places. In addition, not more than 10 people shall be allowed to gather at a location if there is not six feet between them. Staggering shifts is also required and telework is encouraged.

ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP understand there is a fine line between getting back to work and earning an income, and protecting the safety of you and your clients. We will be issuing more specific guidance in the near future, but with Georgia's early reopening deadline, here is some general guidance. For those thinking about going back to work, we are recommending to states and our members that face masks be utilized in treatment rooms to help prevent the spread of COVID-19. For massage therapists, we encourage that both the therapist and the client wear a face covering. Our estheticians and cosmetologists should also be wearing face masks.

Following stringent sanitation protocols between each client is critical. Use EPA-certified disinfectants on all surfaces, doorknobs, chairs, etc., that a client might have touched. Change all linens, fleece blankets, and perhaps your clothes between each client. Use gloves where practical. Stagger client appointments or text them when they can come in so there is no more than one client at a time in common areas.

And, be transparent—in your reminder phone call, on your intake form, even when clients arrive for their appointment—ask them: Have you had a fever in the last 24 hours of 100°F or above? Do you now, or have you recently had, any respiratory or flu symptoms, sore throat, or shortness of breath? Have you been in contact with anyone in the last 14 days who has been diagnosed with COVID-19 or has coronavirus-type symptoms? If they answer yes, then ask them to reschedule, without penalty. We want you to be able to work. We also want you to stay safe and healthy.

Massage and Cosmetology Schools 

On March 13, 2020, the Georgia State Board of Cosmetology and Barbers voted to allow all Board-licensed and -approved schools to teach the theory portion of the curriculum via online education. The Board specified that schools may use nationally recognized programs such as Milady or Pivot Point to provide distance learning and webinars, among other platforms. NOTE: The practical portion of the curriculum must still be taught inside the school.

Governor Kemp announced on March 17, 2020, Executive Order that ordered the closure of all elementary, secondary, and post-secondary public schools as a necessary precaution to protect students and teachers.

In an April 20, 2020, press release, Governor Kemp addressed the schooling issue and stated that "barbers, cosmetologists, hair designers, nail care artists, estheticians, their respective schools, and massage therapists [may] reopen their doors this Friday, April 24, 2020. Unlike other businesses, these entities have been unable to manage inventory, deal with payroll, and take care of administrative items while we shelter in place." Schools should continue to use distance learning through the end of the emergency, which may be as soon as May 14, 2020, as the requirement that no more than 10 people can gather with at least six feet between them cannot be met in a hands-on school setting.

Economic Assistance 

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 and cosmetologists—workers who have not historically been eligible for unemployment compensation. Georgia allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $365 per week; however, not everyone will qualify for this amount. In addition, the federal government will be issuing $600 per week via the CARES Act. To help provide extra relief during this crisis, benefits have been expanded in Georgia to 39 weeks. The federal benefit of $600 is retroactive to March 29, 2020.

As of Wednesday, April 22, 2020, Georgia is offering the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides unemployment benefits to those not ordinarily eligible for them. This includes individuals who are self-employed, gig workers, and 1099 independent contractors. These individuals must be determined ineligible for state benefits before being evaluated for federal PUA benefits. The Georgia Department of Labor's website offers a step-by-step process for applying for unemployment. In a nutshell, one needs to apply for regular state unemployment first. If they were not eligible to receive regular unemployment, they can apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Unemployment benefits are reportable as taxable information. Conversations with state personnel indicate that for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance, if you have not filed taxes in 2018 or 2019, file whatever you have—receipts, bank accounts, pay stubs, square account records—to show your income. In addition, those who are both self-employed and have a second job as an employee who receives a W-2 can only apply for unemployment benefits for one of those jobs. Unemployment evaluates W-2 wages first, and that is what your unemployment benefits will be based on unless you made less than $2,500 on your W-2s since January 1, 2019. The bottom line is that if you have both employee information and self-employment information, you will likely receive unemployment benefits based on your W-2 wages, plus the $600 from the federal government (in either case) through July 31, 2020.

The CARES Act provides funding for two Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and programs: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Advance (EIDL). As of April 16, 2020, funding for both programs was depleted. However, as of April 23, 2020, Congress and the administration came to an agreement and added funds to both the PPP ($310 billion) and EIDL ($60 billion) programs. The application process has not yet reopened, but if you intend to apply for either of these programs, now is the time to assemble the required paperwork and contact a potential bank lender as soon as possible. NOTE: If you already applied for an EIDL loan, be patient. Applications that were received prior to the funding running out are just now being processed.

One soft reminder: The onboarding of all programs, from federal relief programs to unemployment benefits for the self-employed, has proven to be much slower than was initially thought and planned, and there have been glitches in almost every federal and state program. 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. Also, refer to ABMP's Financial Benefits Update blog post that outlines info on the available financial aid 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.

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