Hello All. I hope that this challenging and unique time finds you and your loved ones healthy and safe.

During these past two weeks, the AMTA National and CT representatives have been diligently working to get information, clarification, and understanding, as well as a plan forward. Unfortunately, as information from the top keeps changing and each state is responding as best they can, our guidelines are under constant revision, which makes this all quite difficult. 

Thursday, 18 March 2020, you should have received an email from AMTA National Government Relations Office, entitled: ‘Support Economic Relief For Massage Therapists & Other Small Businesses Affected by COVID-19’ asking you to please participate in an ENGAGE letter to your National Senators and Representatives.  Please do so.  Please include a sentence about the personal impact on your life and business.

Additionally, contacting your state level Senators and Representatives, as well as Governor Lamont, is also helpful. Feel free to send a keeping to the fact that you are a micro-business owner, or a self-employed or Independent Contractor, and how your business and life are impacted.  At this time, the voices of those in micro-business and self-employed (1099 vs W2) are becoming lost and not heard by the legislators.  I am only one voice, and although I am tenacious and persistent, letters from constituents mean far more than from a single representative.

To find email/contact for your legislators, please go to: https://www.cga.ct.gov and scroll to the bottom, where you see a box that says ‘Find Your Legislators’. Type in the requested information (Town, Street Name and Address Number) and then click ‘Find’.  You will then be taken to a new page that has your State and National Legislators listed. To create email, merely click on the blue “Title” (second column) and you will have a blank email to type and send.  You may copy and paste text into these, so that you may send the same email to more than one if you choose.

As for HOW we can find money or backing at this time? A few options exist … And please know that as more information comes forward, I shall continue to share.

  1. I am an employee and receive a W2 at one or more places where I perform massage.
    1. Great News! You qualify for unemployment under the lessened rules and should apply ASAP. Expect a long wait via phone, as they are getting in one day the equivalent of a couple weeks of calls, but you can receive unemployment while you are not employed and not seeing clients.  You do NOT need to be actively seeking employment if you are laid-off or furloughed due to COVID-19 response.
  2. I own a small wellness center/salon/day spa/office and employ massage therapists (or other close-contact practitioners).
      1. Please direct your employees to contact the DOL and apply for unemployment ASAP. They are eligible from the time that you closed to taking appointments
      2. Additionally, the House and Senate passed the Bill at Federal Level that will cover two weeks per employee for sick time paid. This is to be paid by the business and IRS will handle as a credit. This is for businesses with less than 500 employees.  Therefore, if someone needs time off? This should be PAID; contact your CPA for advise on the details of this as I could not get these as of today.
  1. As a micro- or small-business owner, how am I to cover the operating costs while we have no income?
    See the SBA’s Disaster Relief loan program.  CT was one of the very first states to obtain this benefit and Governor Lamont is encouraging everyone to apply who is able. This will cover fixed operating costs of the business (payroll, rent, debt, health insurance and utilities). https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance is the link for the SBA loan.
  2. I take a draw to pay myself. I am an IC or self-employed (assume as single member LLC, or not, at this time). How can I find funding to help me?
    Unfortunately, we need more noise to be heard! At this time, we are being lumped in as small business and that is not accurate. Complete the ENGAGE letter from National.
    1. Send letters (as outlined above) to your State Reps.
    2. Contact your local leadership (town/city).
    3. If you are a member, reach out to your Chamber and see if they have contacts, info or are petitioning the state for their membership.
    4. Right now? Sit tight. The State is hoping to roll out a ‘bridge loan’ program early next week (One of the Economic Commission members is aiming for Monday, 23 March 2020). This is intended as a short-term help for businesses within the state.  0-1% loan interest is expected; 12-18 months for repayment; intention is to cover 3 months of operating expenses.  I am still working to get calcification if your draw is covered as an operating expense for this loan option.
  1. As an IC/self-employed business owner, why can i NOT apply for unemployment?
    This benefit is a tax/charge that employers pay directly to the state.  As you have not paid into the pot, you are not entitled to these funds.
  1. I am fearful of my utilities at home getting shut-off. What am I supposed to do?
    CT has been very proactive in this regard and are still working on these ‘operating expenses’ for households. Student loan payments may ask for forgiveness if CHESLA (through the state) and get 2-6 months without additional fees or penalties applied; The Emergency Order means no utility shut-offs; No evictions will be pursued; Banks are being ASKED to please honor that families are in dire straits and offer some forgiveness or provision.
    Gov Lamont suggested on case-by-case basis to reach out to your lenders, lease holders, mortgage company, etc and ask about options.  At this time, treat as an individual situation as any directive forgiving late fees or penalties would come from Federal Government and that does not seem forthcoming as of this conference call.
    Additionally, contact your cell provider, internet provider and credit cards and ask about options while you are without income temporarily.
  1. What defines ‘essential’ and ‘non-essential’?
    Governor Lamont stated that each business needs to determine who is needed to keep things moving in the economy and who is not. And he cannot make that as a broad determination.
    But he did state, if you can stay home? STAY HOME.
    If you can work remotely, please do. But if you are doing a job that is not essential to the ID and treatment of COVID-19, the running of utilities, the supply and retail of food, medicine or gasoline or the production of necessary items for the public? Please close. Especially if you are front-facing and interact with the public. As he closed restaurants and bars, he is not opposed to making the hard choices and enforcing as needed.  As I type this, the announcement came that salons are now closed. I assume that will include massage and esthetics as well. 

And now, the good news? Gov Lamont did seem really amazed that PA closed all restaurants AND alcohol sales on the very same day! He has allowed for the restaurants that are selling food to also sell alcohol to-go for pick-up/take-away.  They are looking at allowances for delivery services as well.  So there is that wee bit of sunshine! 

In all seriousness, this is an unprecedented and scary time for us as we worry for our families, our businesses and our clients.  I understand how awful we feel that we cannot assist or relieve the tensions and stress.  I know we miss doing what we all love.  Know that our clients (and everyone they know), will be lined up around the block once we can again return to our hands-on, healing work. 

Please reach out to me if we can assist you in resources or finding information.  Please let us know if you have information that would help other LMTs. Now, shut off the electronics, take a deep breath outside and send a little gratitude that you are gifted with what brings you calm and peace in this moment.

We are strong.  We are unified.  We will see the other side of this.

~ Nikki Arel, GR Chair, and the AMTA-CT Board