There have been many changes in the massage therapy and cosmetology professions and communities in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus). ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP have summarized below how COVID-19 has impacted Alaska, from executive orders affecting business closures, to reopening protocols modifying practice procedures, to financial programs developed to aid the unemployed.
Practice Restrictions and Reopening
Alaska Governor Mike Dunleavy announced on March 23, 2020, Health Mandate 009 (https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/03232020-SOA-COVID-19-...) ordering all personal care services to cease operations, including hair salons, day spas and esthetics locations, nail salons, barbershops, and massage therapy locations.
On April 22, 2020, Governor Dunleavy issued Health Mandate 016 (https://covid19.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/COVID-MANDATE-016-...), the first in a series intended to reopen Alaska responsibly to lessen the public health and economic impacts of COVID-19 across the state. The Mandate provides guidance for the phased reopening of the state of Alaska and establishes conditions for Phase I. Per the Mandate, hair salons and hairdressers, day spas and estheticians, nail salons and manicurists, and barbershops and barbers fall under “personal care services” that may reopen. Phase I offers strict reopening guidelines for personal care service providers who may resume practice as of April 24, 2020, if they meet the following requirements (https://gov.alaska.gov/wp-content/uploads/sites/2/0425-COVID-MANDATE-016...).
Massage therapy is not included in the personal care services allowed to reopen in Phase I. We are working with the Board of Massage Therapists, the Governor’s office, and the Department of Health and Social Services to find out when massage therapists may return to practice. Those who perform alternative modalities such as reiki, Rolfing, and acupressure may return to work as of April 24, 2020.
ABMP, ASCP, AHP, and ANP update members daily regarding state orders, practice prohibition, and reopening processes. View Alaska updates here for massage therapists (https://www.abmp.com/updates/news/information-abmp-members-state-shutdow...) and here for estheticians and cosmetologists (https://www.ascpskincare.com/updates/blog-posts/state-updates-regarding-...). The most current information regarding COVID-19 and what is happening in Alaska can be found on the State of Alaska COVID-19 (Coronavirus) Information website (https://covid19.alaska.gov/). Please check with your local city or county to see if they have reopening orders stricter than Alaska state orders. With some states giving authority to local governments regarding work authorization, your liability insurance is only valid if you are in compliance with whichever regulations are the most restrictive—state or local. If you are not authorized to work per state or regional orders, and you are working, you are not in compliance with your state or local regulations and therefore your insurance would not be valid.
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. Because governments are reopening does not mean you have to return to work. 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 Alaska easing its restrictions on the stay-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 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 (https://www.abmp.com/back-to-practice/summary), here for estheticians (www.ascpskincare.com/back-to-practice/summary), and here for cosmetologists (www.associatedhairprofessionals.com/back-to-practice/summary), 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 stay-at-home order and are returning to work. And, although Alaska 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.
Alaska allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $370 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 Alaska to 39 weeks.
Alaska 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, and others) who are unable to work as a direct result of the coronavirus public health emergency. If you were paid as an employee at a job and earned more than $2,500 in that position since January 1, 2019, your unemployment will be based on that job. PUA only applies if you have no W-2 employment. 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. Applicants must first apply for regular unemployment insurance prior to filing for PUA. Both applications can be filed online by going to my.alaska.gov and clicking on “Unemployment.”
Also available are two Small Business Administration (SBA) loans and programs: the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) (https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/loans/coronavirus-relief-options/pa...) and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan and Loan Advance (EIDL) (https://www.sba.gov/page/disaster-loan-applications#section-header-2). 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 searching online for 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 (https://www.abmp.com/updates/news/financial-benefits-update).
We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.