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 emergency rulemaking altering renewal timeliness, to distance learning modifying the student experience. ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP have summarized below how COVID-19 has impacted the licensing regulations and laws in the state of Illinois, 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
Illinois Governor J. B. Pritzker issued Executive Order No. 8 on March 9, 2020, declaring all counties in the State of Illinois as a disaster area in response to the outbreak of COVID-19. As a precautionary measure to preserve public health and safety and to ensure the capability of the health-care system, Governor Pritzker issued a strict stay-at-home order, outlining social distancing requirements and essential business operations. Spas, salons, barber shops, and similar facilities were deemed nonessential and ordered to shutter their businesses. Massage therapy was not explicitly mentioned; however, as you cannot maintain the required social distancing protocols during a massage service, it is ABMP's recommendation that massage therapists halt their business practices for the safety of themselves, clients, families, and communities.
ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP update 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 Illinois updates here for massage therapists and here for cosmetologists. The most current information regarding what is happening in Illinois can be found on the Illinois Department of Public Health COVID-19 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.
The Illinois Department of Financial and Professional Regulation (IDFPR) announced on March 18, 2020, several proactive measures to help professional licensees facing the challenges presented by the COVID-19 pandemic. Any professional licenses issued by the department with renewal dates between March 1, 2020, through and including July 31, 2020, will be granted an automatic extension to renew to September 30, 2020. This includes licensed barbers, cosmetologists, estheticians, hair braiders, massage therapists, and nail technicians.
In addition, these licensees will have until September 30, 2020, to complete their continuing education requirements. IDFPR is permitting online and distance learning CE courses in lieu of live attendance classes. NOTE: ABMP members have access to 200+ hours of free CE in the ABMP Education Center, and ABMP Certified members have access to additional hours of CE through the World Massage Conference library of courses. Let us help you fulfill your CE requirements by checking out our Education Center at www.abmp.com/ce.
Massage and Cosmetology Schools
IDFPR is committed to protecting the health and safety of students and teachers. The following provisions have been made for massage therapy and cosmetology students graduating on or before July 31, 2020.
Beginning March 17, 2020, through and including July 31, 2020, all massage therapy schools are permitted to offer online instruction for lecture-based, non-hands-on courses. NOTE: 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.
All cosmetology schools licensed under Article IIID of the Barber, Cosmetology, Esthetics, Hair Braiding, and Nail Technology Act are permitted to teach online above the current 10% hour limitation. However, this is limited to theory courses only.
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 and cosmetologists—workers who have not historically been eligible for unemployment compensation. Illinois allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $471 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 Illinois 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 16, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) was available to cover payroll, utilities, and rent. As of 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 (PUA). This is a program that is being created out of an existing federal statute and being retooled for this pandemic. Once Illinois adopts this program, unemployment benefits will be available for the self-employed or independent contractors. We encourage you to watch the Illinois Department of Employment Security's website (IDES) for notice of this program. In addition, review the helpful and informative FAQs compiled by the IDES regarding this program.
There are glitches in almost every state regarding unemployment. For the self-employed, in some cases we have heard that one must first apply for regular unemployment and be denied before they can apply for pandemic unemployment. In others, we are hearing that one should wait until the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is online in your state. Right now, continue to watch the IDES and be ready to apply when this becomes available. As this week draws to an end, more and more states have come online and we hope this will be the case in Illinois soon. For everyone else applying for unemployment, we are hearing around the country that applications are being approved, but the money doesn't drop for up to a month in some states. So, if you are approved, hang in there.
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 email@example.com. We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.