There have been many changes in the massage therapy industry and community in response to COVID-19 (coronavirus), from executive orders affecting businesses, to emergency rulemaking altering renewal processes, 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 California, and we encourage you to also look at the information regarding the CARES Act outlined at the bottom of this email, which addresses financial aid and unemployment benefits and other programs.
California Governor Gavin Newsome issued Executive Order N-33-20 (https://covid19.ca.gov/img/N-33-20.pdf ) on March 19, 2020, which ordered everyone in California to stay at home and shutter their businesses. Exempt were essential employees and businesses. The state health officer defined “essential critical infrastructure workers” (https://covid19.ca.gov/img/EssentialCriticalInfrastructureWorkers.pdf) on March 22, 2020. Massage therapists are not specifically mentioned in this document and it does not appear they are considered essential health-care providers.
CAMTC issued a statement (https://www.camtc.org/updates-about-coronavirus-covid-19/) on March 16, 2020, “strongly recommending that certificate holders and schools immediately stop providing hands-on services.” On April 5, 2020, CAMTC issued a second statement (https://www.camtc.org/) urging massage therapists to follow the shelter-in-place order and stated “[i]f CAMTC receives notice that CAMTC Certificate Holders are continuing to provide massage services while the Stay at Home Order is in place, we will report these businesses and individuals to the local law enforcement authorities with whom we collaborate statewide, and we will take steps to potentially revoke their CAMTC Certification. . ..”
California has a voluntary certification system in place. There is no state-wide licensure and not all massage therapists in California need to be certified through CAMTC. If you are a CAMTC-certified massage therapist you should take heed of their April 5, 2020, statement that you may have your certification revoked if you are practicing. For those who are not CAMTC-certified, the shelter-in-place order likely also applies to you.
In addition, many California cities have local requirements for massage therapists and have likely issued executive orders. As such, we encourage you to review your local communities’ websites for guidance on whether you are allowed to practice during this pandemic. ABMP encourages massage therapists to halt all services to protect the safety of yourself, your clients, your families, and your communities.
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 California updates here (https://www.abmp.com/updates/news/information-abmp-members-state-shutdow... ). In addition, the most current information can be found on the California COVID-19 website (https://covid19.ca.gov/). 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.
Certification Renewals and Other Issues
On March 21, 2020, CAMTC suspended late fees through June 23, 2020. (https://www.camtc.org/) ABMP has not seen other changes to certification applications or renewals at this point. If your certification is up for renewal, we encourage you to move ahead with the renewal.
Massage Therapy Schools
CAMTC worked proactively to provide assistance to massage therapy schools and their students. On March 12, 2020, they issued a Contingency Plan for Schools (https://www.camtc.org/media/1801/camtc-coronavirus-contingency-plan-for-...). They are allowing for schools to modify and accelerate hours to help students make up for missed hours, so long as the hours do not exceed 40 hours in seven days or 10 hours in one day. CAMTC is temporarily accepting online classes and interactive distance learning for lecture-based classes. Hands-on classes cannot be taught online. In addition, CAMTC will consider up to 125 of hours of completed college or university hours for anatomy, physiology, health, hygiene, and business classes.
Finally, for students who applied for CAMTC certification in anticipation of completing their programs soon, their applications will remain active for a year after they applied, during which time they can hopefully complete their education.
NOTE: CAMTC requires written notice if your school must close due to COVID-19, including the start date and projected end date of closure. If you are employing any other of these options, please notify Joe Bob Smith.
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 massage therapists—workers who have not historically been eligible for unemployment compensation.
California allows for unemployment benefits up to a maximum of $450 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, through the CARES Act. To help provide extra relief during this crisis, benefits have been expanded in California to 39 weeks.
The onboarding 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. Keep checking back for unemployment updates and for information regarding any loans you are trying to obtain through the Small Business Administration (SBA).
The CARES Act provided funding for two SBA loans and programs. The Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL) (https://www.sba.gov/disaster-assistance/coronavirus-covid-19) is still available, but the applications are taking a while to process and the process is moving rather slowly. We’ve also heard they are starting to run low on available funds as of April 15, 2020. The Paycheck Protection Program was available to cover payroll, utilities, and rent. As of today, April 16, 2020, no loan applications will be accepted, as funds are currently depleted. If you are interested in applying for the program, we encourage you to get your paperwork together and work with a bank to find out what they require, if and when the PPP is reopened. We have heard that Congress and the administration are working to add funds to this program. Refer to ABMP’s Financial Benefits blog post (https://www.abmp.com/updates/news/financial-benefits-update) that outlines the info on these programs to help you make informed decisions. This blog also 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.
Yesterday, Governor Newsome announced that Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (https://www.gov.ca.gov/2020/04/15/governor-newsom-announces-new-initiati...) will be available for self-employed and gig workers by April 28, 2020. It was recommended earlier that individuals apply even if self-employed. If you have applied as a self-employed individual, please let us know the status and if you are receiving benefits yet. At this point, it may be prudent to wait until the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance opens on April 28. Go to the EDD webpage to stay on top of unemployment issues (https://www.edd.ca.gov/unemployment/).
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. We appreciate your membership. Stay safe and well.