Pennsylvania COVID-19 State Update for Massage Therapists

There have been many changes in the cosmetology industry and community 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 licensing regulations and laws in the state of Pennsylvania. We encourage you to pay special attention to the CARES Act outlined at the bottom of this email, which addresses financial aid and unemployment benefits and programs.

Prohibition of Practice

Pennsylvania Governor Tom Wolf issued an Executive Order that ordered all non-life-sustaining businesses in Pennsylvania to close their physical locations on March 19, 2020, through April 30, 2020, in an effort to help slow the spread of COVID-19. A detailed chart of life-sustaining businesses is available here.

Pursuant to this list of "life-sustaining businesses," massage therapy is not listed, but we assume it would fall under "Offices of Other Health Practitioners." This chart outlines that these businesses are permitted to open, but that elective procedures are prohibited. As we are experiencing around the country, the best way to stay safe and healthy is to remain at home and severely limit interaction with others. As per CDC guidelines, we must follow social distancing protocols and keep at least six feet between one another if we must interact. It is ABMP's recommendation that massage therapists continue to shutter their practices to minimize the health risk of the therapist, their clientele, and their families.

ABMP updates our 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 Pennsylvania updates here. In addition, the most current information regarding Pennsylvania can be found on the Pennsylvania Department of State 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.

License Renewals

Governor Wolf granted the Department of State's request on March 22, 2020, to temporarily suspend restrictions on distance learning for continuing education requirements for licensed massage therapists. Under normal circumstances, only a percentage of CE hours can be competed online; however, due to COVID-19 and strict social distancing protocols, the governor is permitting licensees to complete all of their CE online during the pandemic. 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

The Governor also granted the Department of State's request to temporary suspend the State Board of Massage Therapy's regulations and statutory provisions related to CPR certification. For the duration of the pandemic, the Board will consider any CPR certification that was current on March 17, 2020, still in effect through December 31, 2020. For anyone needing new CPR certification during the pandemic as a condition of initial licensure, reactivation, or renewal, the Board will waive the regulatory requirement that the certification be obtained via hands-on methods. The Board will accept completion of online CPR certification. NOTE: 2021 renewals will be required to use board-approved providers of hands-on CPR certification training.

Massage Therapy Schools

The State Board of Massage Therapy announced on March 22, 2020, that of the 600 hours of required instruction for licensure as a massage therapist, up 125 hours may be completed through distance education due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Distance learning will be accepted in the following curriculum areas: 100 hours in anatomy, physiology, kinesiology, and pathology (including training in the human immunodeficiency virus and related risks); and 25 hours in professional ethics, and business and law related to massage therapy. NOTE: distance education will not satisfy hands-on requirements.

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.

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 cosmetologists—workers who have not historically been eligible for unemployment compensation.

The onboarding process 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, and we encourage you to keep checking back for unemployment updates and information regarding loans you are trying to obtain through the Small Business Administration (SBA).  

Click here to learn how to apply for unemployment benefits in Pennsylvania

Pennsylvania allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $572 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 Pennsylvania to 39 weeks.

There are glitches in almost every state. For the self-employed, we have heard that one must first apply for regular unemployment and be denied before they can apply for pandemic unemployment. Most states are continuing to wait for guidance from the federal government—only a few are already online with unemployment benefits for the self-employed. As such, if you apply, be patient and work with the state to prove your claim.

While states across the country are slowly starting to amend requirements to look for work while unemployed and to bring unemployment benefits for the self-employed onboard, our recent review of the Pennsylvania state unemployment website shows that they have not yet updated the process for COVID-19 claims for the self-employed. The best advice we've heard on this issue is to check the state unemployment page frequently.

In addition to unemployment benefits, the Small Business Administration (SBA) has two financial relief options you may also consider: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). Refer to ABMP's Financial Benefits blog post that outlines the info on these programs to help you make an informed decision on which one is best for you and your situation. The blog 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 unemployment application process by emailing us at We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.