There have been many changes in the massage therapy and cosmetology industries and communities in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP have summarized below how COVID-19 has impacted Mississippi, from executive orders affecting business closures, to reopening protocols modifying practice procedures, to financial programs developed to aid the unemployed.
Practice Restrictions and Reopening
Mississippi Governor Tate Reeves announced on March 31, 2020, Executive Order No. 1465, which ordered all nonessential businesses to cease operations for the duration of the shelter in place order.
On April 24, 2020, Governor Reeves issued Executive Order No. 1477, marking the beginning of a gradual process to reopen the state. Per the order, health-care professionals and health-care facilities may resume "non-emergent, elective medical procedures." The Mississippi State Board of Massage Therapy announced on April 27, 2020, that massage therapists may resume practice April 28, 2020. Practitioners must adhere to protocol advisories from the Mississippi Department of Health, the Centers for Disease Control, and any other state or local ordinances that are in effect. Protocol advisories can be found in the linked document.
Spas, salons, barbershops, and all other personal care and grooming facilities remain closed to the public under Executive Order No. 1477. However, these businesses may continue minimum operations, limited to retail sales by drive-through, curbside, and/or delivery services. Executive Order No. 1477 expires May 11, 2020, and we will update you when we receive notice of any changes.
ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP update members daily regarding state orders, practice prohibition, and reopening processes. View Mississippi updates here for massage therapists and here for estheticians and cosmetologists. The most current information regarding COVID-19 and what is happening in Mississippi can be found on the Mississippi Coronavirus Government website. Please check with your local city or county to see if they have reopening orders stricter than Mississippi state orders.
Practice Modifications and Protocol Guidelines
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. Government permission to work should not be the sole factor in your decision to return to practice. For those members planning to get back to work or seriously contemplating doing so, what follows is a hierarchy of ideas and precautions we strongly encourage you to consider for yourself, your practice, and your clients. With the state of Mississippi easing its restrictions on the shelter in place order, many members are seeking advice as they prepare to return to work, and there are many unknowns: Will my clients rebook? Will they feel safe? Where can I go for guidance?
For those reopening their businesses, we have assembled a comprehensive series of back to practice guidelines packed with ideas and precautions. We encourage you to start with the summary here for massage therapists, here for estheticians, and here for cosmetologists, which provides a good synopsis. We address how to prepare and sanitize your treatment rooms, safe client-practitioner interaction, in-session protection protocols, post-session sanitation and best practices, and business tips from marketing to cancellation policies. We hope the guidelines prove to be informative and helpful, and that they lessen the uneasiness during this uncertain time.
Whether you plan to return to work or not, we encourage you to review the financial benefit packages outlined below. Unemployment benefits are retroactive, so you may be eligible for financial assistance if you were out of work during the shelter in place order and are returning to work. And, although Mississippi has begun a gradual reopening process, you may still be eligible for unemployment benefits if you are unable to work due to risk of exposure to COVID-19, and do not yet wish to return to practice.
Mississippi allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $235 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, retroactive to March 29, 2020, through July 31, 2020. Benefits have been expanded in Mississippi to 39 weeks.
Mississippi is offering the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which provides payment to workers not traditionally eligible for unemployment benefits (self-employed, gig workers, 1099 independent contractors, workers with limited work history, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. Typically, these individuals must be determined ineligible for state benefits before being evaluated for federal PUA benefits. You can begin the application process at the Mississippi Department of Employment Security. PUA benefits are equal to half of the state's average weekly unemployment benefits. For example, if you were eligible to receive $300 per week under regular unemployment, your PUA benefits would be $150 per week.
Also available are two Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and programs: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Loan Advance (EIDL). As of April 16, 2020, funding for both programs was depleted, but has since been refunded. The application process for both programs reopened April 27, 2020. Now is the time to apply for either program: assemble the required paperwork and contact a potential bank or lender (also consider some credit unions, PayPal, Quicken, Intuit, or Square) as soon as possible. We have heard that there are already so many applications in the pipeline that funds are expected to be depleted soon.
One reminder: The onboarding of all programs has proven to be much slower than was initially thought, and there have been glitches in almost every federal and state program. The overwhelming number of applicants and government agencies that are coming up with new processes are slowing systems down that were not ready for the volume of people contacting them.
In addition, many states' economic development programs or small business programs have additional loans and assistance available locally—research what you have in your state by Googling these programs. Find out more about your financial assistance programs, tax credits, tax deadline extensions, health insurance options, and Medicaid in ABMP's Financial Benefits Update blog post.
We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.