BuzzFeed News has reporters on five continents who can bring you trusted stories about the impact of the business Coronavirus. So that these messages stay free, become a member and subscribe to our newsletter, Outbreak today.
Margeaux Hamrock has found herself in an unfamiliar situation since the Californian hairdressing salon that she and her brother ran almost two months ago.
With no income or unemployment benefits and minimal government support, Hamrock, 31, has relied on gift certificates and donations from clients and friends to cover their rent, pay bills, and groceries during the day Coronavirus Pandemic.
“They completely closed the gap for me,” Hamrock, co-owner of Salon Wire in Long Beach, told BuzzFeed News. “But at some point you want that to stop too. I don’t think it’s my customers’ responsibility to make sure I have a roof over my head by not shedding their hair.”
Now, having struggled to get loans and unemployment benefits to keep themselves and their business afloat, the Hamrocks and other personal care workers across the country have come together as part of a new advocacy group called the Beauty Coalition to urge heads of state and federal to save the beauty industry as they grapple with the challenges and risks of going back to work.
“I want you to see the beauty industry as a real industry worth saving,” said Mercedes Ortiz-Olivieri, a Washington, DC salon owner and coalition member.
In the weeks since they were there forced to stop work, Many stylists have struggled to obtain loans and become unemployed because of their unconventional business models and overwhelmed social service websites, which saw unprecedented demand during the crisis.
Hamrock said she received the $ 1,200 Stimulus Check, which is available to all Americans earning up to $ 75,000 a year under the CARES Act, as well as a Small Business Administration Scholarship of 1,000 US dollars was made available for the salon. But that’s it.
“That’s a fraction of a month’s overhead,” Hamrock said, referring to the SBA grant.
Hamrock has applied for California’s new pandemic relief program for business owners and independent contractors like herself who do not qualify for normal unemployment but have not yet received money for it.
“I have, as you can imagine, sought all possible avenues around that [Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan] or any of the low-rate loans that the lenders offer them, “she said,” but … we neither received a response nor did we qualify for any of them. “
Kate Kent, a Milwaukee salon owner, applied PPP, the small business loan program funded by the CARES Actand other grant and loan programs.
So far, 39-year-old Kent, who is self-employed and employs 14 other stylists, has only received a $ 10,000 small business grant that she saves to pay her stylists every time they reopen, when that’s only a fraction of the payroll of one Month is. She questioned whether the PPP program is currently of much use to salons, as borrowers have to spend 75% of the money on payroll and keep staff on payroll for eight weeks in order for the loans to go out.
“It still feels a little unclear how we are going to use these funds appropriately and still be forgiven,” said Kent. “Taking out a loan with really unclear terms that could potentially be really damaging to my business in the future is just really worrying.”
The reopening during the pandemic means fewer stylists are working at the same time and fewer customers can be served each day. Salons overhead costs will also rise due to the added cost of sourcing masks and other supplies they need to keep the workplace as safe as possible.
“By these guidelines for people to work by, you can’t be nearly as productive as you need to be to even cover your overheads, let alone make a profit so you can get on with your life,” said Hamrock.
As they shared their frustration with others in the industry, Hamrock and her brother Chris found that they weren’t the only ones nervous about returning to their salons without reliable access to financial assistance to help cover reopening costs and anticipated loss of revenue cover up.
So on April 29, Ortiz-Olivieri, the DC salon owner, organized
“I realized that I was having the same conversation with several different salon owners about security protocols and business practices,” said Ortiz-Olivieri, 43 put in positions where they literally choose between being safe and paying their bills. “
On that call, the Hamrocks mentioned they were working on it a petition calling for a government bailout the industry, which resulted in the conversation shifting to what action they could take together to advocate for the industry. The Beauty Coalition emerged from these discussions.
As of Wednesday, around 16,000 people had signed the petition asking for support for workers in states that are now allowing salons to reopen and for those in jurisdictions where they may not be allowed to return to work for months, whether or not Employees themselves may or may not want to go back to work.
Either way, barbers and salon owners say they need government help to survive.
“It’s not that we don’t want to go back to work, do people’s hair,” Hamrock told BuzzFeed News. “We’re not looking for handouts. We’re working very hard at what we’re doing and are looking for a rescue package.”
While officials in more than a dozen states have allowed salons to reopen, executives in other states like California and New York have stated that it is not safe to have haircuts, manicures, and other personal services until the number of new COVIDs. resuming -19 cases drop drastically in these companies due to the proximity between customers and employees.
In states where salons are likely to remain closed longer, hairdressers face months of loss of income and could lose their business if they cannot cover their rent and other ongoing expenses.
“I don’t think we should be forced to choose whether to risk our health to feed our families, or to stay safe and lose our business, because the reality is that most salons have months with no income can’t survive, “said Alyssa Jones, a salon owner in San Diego, told BuzzFeed News. “It’s just not sustainable to survive without additional help or a rental freeze.”
For workers who feel it is too early to open salons but are in states where officials have allowed them to go back to work, may not have a large selection resist.
After Beau Bollinger asked Texas Governor Greg Abbott to move personal service providers into the later reopening stages, he said he may have to open his hair salon in Dallas anyway.
“I can’t go to my landlord and say, ‘Hey, I can’t pay rent because we’re not allowed to open.’ Now I have to go to my landlord and say, ‘Hey, we can’t pay rent because I feel like it’s not safe for us to be open,’ and that’s a whole different conversation, “said Bollinger, 37, across from BuzzFeed News. “I try to find the best way and the best time to do it so that we don’t lose our business and the health and well-being of our employees and our customers are preserved.”
In addition to providing financial support, Bollinger said he would like government officials to step in to help small business owners and their commercial landlords manage their leases during the economic downturn.
“We fail and the landlords fail too because they don’t have tenants now and it’s not like we have a booming economy where people are rushing to rent new space and dialog about what works for everyone involved,” said he.
Barbers who spoke to BuzzFeed News about the bailout said they weren’t sure how much money they’ll need to bail out their businesses, but said they would like their industry to get more government attention to ensure they can qualify and have access to any financial support that is available.
“It’s really hard to say that I need this to survive. I really don’t know,” said Ortiz-Olivieri. “We would need help to cover our PPE expenses and our overheads and losses as we are working at a very reduced volume and capacity.”
However, some doubt that government officials will even consider the idea, despite protesters using the haircuts as a political plea to reopen their local economy.
A salon owner was in Texas last week ordered locked up after she refused to temporarily close her business during the home stay order, acts that the judge who sentenced her described as “selfish”. In response, owner Shelley Luther, who was eventually released after Abbott intervened, said she was keeping her parlor open to support her family.
In interviews on the situation, Luther admitted receiving a PPP loan shortly before her arrest, but said she did didn’t know how to spend itas the stylists who work in their salon are not their employees.
Ortiz-Olivieri said it was easy for people to empathize with someone trying to get back to work to pay their bills, but some in the industry make it seem like reopening is the only way Forward: “If people got the support they should, they wouldn’t be in a hurry to go back to work to pay their bills.”
If anything, the petition got hairdressers to come together and stand up for their industry, which gives them hope to be stronger on the other side.
“While this is a really crappy situation and looks a little ugly for the next several months, I’m very confident that through the dialogue and through these conversations, through some of the work that the Beauty Coalition is doing … our industry will become come out better than when we started, “said Bollinger.