CARES Act Information and Analysis for Massage Therapists and Bodyworkers

March 27, 2020

At 11:30 a.m. MT, it was announced that Congress completed its approval of 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 President has committed to signing the bill. Congress had been working feverishly for more than a week to develop the eventual 880-page bill.

Your ABMP staff has been fully engaged, educating Congress about the nature of your work, the structure of your profession, and how relief needed to be tailored to be effective for you. We prepared the following analysis for you just hours after the legislation emerged from the US Senate Thursday morning.

The full text of the bill will be further analyzed by experts over the next days and weeks. The CARES Act marks the third and largest piece of COVID-19 relief legislation developed by Congress in the past two weeks. Even more COVID-related legislation may be on the horizon.

Early Cash Transfers to Individuals

A core element of the CARES Act is payments in the next few weeks of $1,200 for many adults and additional $500 payments per child. Because each adult’s/family’s income and situation varies, we suggest you continue reading to the bottom of this letter, where you will find a link to The Washington Post’s calculator to determine if you are eligible and, if so, how large a check you can anticipate.

Expanded Eligibility for Unemployment Benefits

The United States has an unemployment insurance compensation system with responsibilities split between the federal and state governments. Individuals relate to the system at the state level. While the federal government dictates general parameters and contributes part of the system costs, states have flexibility as to payment amounts and day-to-day administration of the program.

A massage therapist, esthetician, hair stylist, or nail professional who works full-time for an employer, such as La Costa Spa or Hand & Stone, and is laid off has been eligible to file with their state for unemployment compensation. The amount of such compensation typically is some fraction of that individual’s recent compensation, no unemployment compensation is paid for the initial week after filing, and each state has limits on the duration of payments. Part-time employees and self-employed individuals in the above four professions have not historically been eligible for unemployment compensation.

However, in response to the devastating elimination of people’s ability to work at these professions because of coronavirus restrictions, the CARES Act has temporarily loosened some of those restrictions. The enhanced benefits run through June 30, 2020. The CARES Act appears a bit inconsistent as to the start of expanded eligibility: at one place it says February 15, 2020; elsewhere, it is when each individual state enters into a contract with the US Department of Labor (which likely will be within days of this posting).

As is always the case with unemployment benefits, they cease when an individual finds new employment or is able to return to previous work. The new act is vague about what constitutes a return to work (A full client load? Seeing two clients?). Each state may have perspective on this matter.

Under the CARES Act, unemployment insurance benefits will temporarily be available to “an eligible self-employed individual” . . . “an individual who regularly carries on any trade or business” within the meaning of a specified section of the Internal Revenue Code of 1986. It appears that this expanded eligibility applies to individuals who work “part-time,” a government definition that would cover a large proportion of massage therapists, estheticians, hair stylists, and nail professionals.

You have to take the initiative to apply for unemployment insurance. If your state unemployment insurance agency determines you are eligible, you will receive weekly two amounts:

  • the amount the state calculates under existing rules, which will be some fraction of your recent earned income from your trade or profession; and
  • an additional $600 per week, constituting special coronavirus relief, courtesy of the federal government.

States have a choice whether to lump these two amounts together in a single check or to issue two checks.

In addition, under the current unemployment system, approved applicants receive no payment for the first week of eligibility. The CARES Act waives this provision. The federal government will be reimbursing states to enable them to begin unemployment payments right away.

The unemployment system requires recipients to be “actively seeking work.” One has to register with the state, actively search for employment commensurate with one’s particular skills and capabilities, and keep a record of such job search efforts. However, the CARES Act commands the states to “provide flexibility in meeting such requirements in case of individuals unable to search for work because of COVID-19, including because of illness, quarantine, or movement restriction.”         

To learn how to apply for benefits in your state and to learn how your state is addressing COVID-19 closures and layoffs, go to

Small Business Administration (SBA) Disaster Loans

As of March 26, 2020, small businesses are allowed to apply for a long-term, low-interest Economic Injury Disaster Loan. As these are loans, they will need to be paid back.

If you are operating as a sole proprietor, you are eligible for a small business loan “during the covered period,” which is now through June 30, 2020. You may apply for an SBA loan here.

If you are set up as a partnership, limited partnership, limited liability entity, or a corporation, you may apply for an SBA loan here.

To learn more about SBA Disaster Loans, visit

More Helpful Resources

Stay tuned for updates and potential future legislative action alerts via email and at Below you will find targeted information and recommended resources for determining how this legislation affects you and proactive steps you can take for financial relief.

Use this calculator to determine how much you will receive in early cash transfer payments.

The Washington Post: “Calculate How Much You’ll Get from the $1,200 (or More) Coronavirus Checks” 

Read this article for information on financial strategies and relief, including unemployment insurance, paid leave, federal student loans, federal tax requirements, mortgage and rent deferment, and working with utility providers.

The New York Times: “Your Money: A Hub for Help During the Coronavirus Crisis” 

Warm regards,

Les Sweeney





I clicked on the link to 'calculate' and got the Washington Post page with an article, cannot find a 'calculator' anywhere



Hi Connie, in the time between writing this update and posting it, the Washington Post changed the location of the calculator on their website. The new link is here:

And it has been updated in the post.

I work in a Chiropractic office in North Carolina, we are in a stay at home order now. I am still working, but only as a chiropractor assistant at the moment because I can't do any massage's per our state's order at the moment. I got paid extra to do massage and my pay was cut due to coronavirus. Do you know if there is a way to receive unemployment from pay cut and the compensation I normally receive from doing massage's? Also I am self employed on the side and can't do that as well. Thanks in advance.

I have applied for unemployment. However, after further research on the Covid19 FAQ's here is what I encountered as a self employed,sole proprietor:
If you are self-employed, an independent contractor, or gig worker and are unable to work or have had your hours reduced due to COVID-19, you may be eligible for Unemployment Insurance (UI) benefits under a few different scenarios:

1. You chose to contribute to UI Elective Coverage and paid the required contributions to be considered potentially eligible for benefits.
2. Your past employer made contributions on your behalf over the past 5 to 18 months.
3. You may have been misclassified as an independent contractor instead of an employee.
If you are self employed, the option of contributing to UI Elective Coverage is not even available unless you are an employer too. It does not look promising

Trustpilot Reviews


Texas to Review Massage Rules—Submit Your Comments by May 30

The Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation is reviewing the Massage Therapy Administrative Rules to determine whether they should be readopted, revised, or discontinued. You can submit comments on the rules or suggest changes by May 30, 2022.


Noriko Smith: Finding Life Through Oncology Massage

Noriko Smith, massage therapist and winner of ABMP's Massage is for EveryBody essay contest.

Noriko Smith was one of the winners of ABMP’s Massage is for EveryBody 2021 contest, and we wanted to share more of her story, which exemplifies the inclusive values of this campaign. Please join us in celebrating Noriko!


Read the May / June 2022 Issue of Massage & Bodywork Magazine

The May/June 2022 issue of ABMP's Massage & Bodywork magazine is available at ABMP members get a print subscription as part of membership, and the digital edition is available online and free to the profession.

In this issue, we explore pelvic tilt and spinal compensation, improving bodywork through breath, and how listening to your clients is a superpower. We also discuss SI joint dysfunction, overuse injuries, and much more!⁠

Cupping Canada Inc. and Mobile Massage Mastery GIVEAWAY: Value over $2,022!

Cupping Canada Inc. and Mobile Massage Mastery GIVEAWAY—value over $2,022!

3 lucky participants will win shared prizes:

• 16 CE live online Evidence Informed Clinical Cupping course from Cupping Canada & Cupping USA (NCBTMB approved & Canadian approvals) - valued at $405 CAD

• Online course starter kit, tie dye silicone drinking glass & silicone straw kit from Cupping Canada and Cupping USA - valued at $120 CAD

2022 ABMP CE Summit Course: Updating our Hands-On Approach

Learn about the properties of fascia and hands-on techniques for working with fascia in the leg. Join Til Luchau and Whitney Lowe for this engaging course that explores the composition and roles of fascia and collagen and demonstrates several myofascial hands-on techniques focused on the fascia in the leg and the sartorius, gracilis, semitendinosus, and pes anserinus muscles.

Please note: We have recently updated our Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. Learn more...