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 Tennessee, from executive orders affecting business closures, to reopening protocols modifying practice procedures, to financial programs developed to aid the unemployed.
Practice Restrictions and Reopening
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced on March 30, 2020, Executive Order No 21, which ordered businesses that perform close-contact personal services to close their doors to members of the public. Close-contact personal services include barbering, hair, waxing, threading, nail, spa, and massage therapy services. Also on March 30, 2020, Governor Lee signed Executive Order No 22, ordering a safer at home mandate for all Tennesseans to limit the spread of COVID-19. This order was effective through April 14, 2020, however, Executive Order No 27 was issued April 13, 2020, thereby extending the safer at home order until April 30, 2020.
On April 20, 2020, Governor Lee announced in a press release the safer at home order will expire April 30, 2020, and the majority of businesses in 89 counties will be permitted to reopen May 1, 2020. On April 24, 2020, the Governor had a press conference to describe what the opening will look like. At this press conference it was noted that "close-contact personal services like barbershops, salons, tattoo shops, and massage parlors could reopen later in May." We are working with the governor's office to address what the new normal looks like for our members in Tennessee and are addressing the improper use of language (i.e., "massage parlors") as well.
ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP update members daily regarding state orders, practice prohibition, and reopening processes. View Tennessee updates here for massage therapists and here for cosmetologists. The most current information regarding COVID-19 and what is happening in Tennessee can be found on Governor Lee's webpage. Please be sure to check with your local city or county to see if they have reopening orders that are stricter than 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 Tennessee easing its restrictions on the safer at home 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 business, we have assembled a comprehensive series of back to practice guidelines packed with ideas and precautions. We encourage you to start with the summary, which provides a good synopsis; and should you want to dig in deeper, there are seven other sections of valuable information. 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 statewide safer at home order and are returning to work. And, although Tennessee 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.
Tennessee 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 via the CARES Act, retroactive to March 29, 2020, through July 31, 2020. Benefits have been expanded in Tennessee to 39 weeks.
States are onboarding Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. This program provides unemployment benefits for the self-employed or independent contractors. 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. We encourage you to watch the Tennessee Department of Labor & Workforce Development page for notice of this program. While the Governor stated that he will implement the program, we do not see that it is available yet in Tennessee.
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. As of April 27, the application process for both programs are open again. Now is the time to apply if you intend to apply for either program: assemble the required paperwork and contact a potential bank or lender (including some credit unions, PayPal, Quicken, Intuit, or Square) as soon as possible. We heard today that there are already so many applications in the pipeline that funds are expected to be depleted soon.
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.
One soft 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, there are so many applications that the funds are being rapidly depleted. Congress, so far, has continued to add funds, but the situation remains fluid and changes almost daily. Again, refer to ABMP's Financial Benefits Update blog post to stay up to date.
We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.