PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — For the past 5 years, Crystal Field has been running Pinn Salon on Southeast Division. Esthetician Harley True runs a shop in Northwest Portland performing facials and other beauty treatments.
Now that Multnomah County will enter Phase 1 on Friday, salons will feel pressured to open regardless of whether or not they feel safe because of fear of losing clients to a salon down the street or financially failing because they’d no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits.
Here are their stories.
Crystal Field was out of the country as coronavirus started becoming a serious threat in the US. When she returned to Portland, she closed her Pinn Salon March 18 — just a matter of days before Governor Brown made it mandatory.
“It was that fast,” she said. “But we didn’t think we’d be closed that long.”
As closures continued — reopening wasn’t on the horizon anymore. So Field had to scramble to try and get financial resources to keep her small business a float and take care of her employees as well.
“They are my responsibility and I don’t know how all business owners feel, but I take it very seriously,” she said.
From trying to navigate the Paycheck Protection Program and Small Business Administration loans and unemployment amid the pandemic, she said that took all her time and energy. As KOIN 6 News has consistently reported, there’s been serious issues with getting financial resources to the right people, or getting unemployment benefits at all.
“I really do want to first say, I will, by no means, try to imagine what Kate Brown has on her plate,” Field said. “I’m sure it is just so expansive that I will never be able to comprehend. However, I think that maybe she isn’t small business savvy because we’ve needed communication. We’ve needed some sort of guidance, some sort of direction and there’s been nothing.”
She sees a strong drive for people to return to work.
” But I think to me, the reason why so many people are pushing for hands on professionals to go back to work is because we financially have to, which means it’s not a choice.”
She said a lot of hair stylists don’t think it’s safe to do haircuts right now. Standing over different people for hours a day, touching their hair, and not capable of allowing physical distancing.
Field doesn’t think that hands-on professionals should be included in the Phase 1 reopening. For safety, she believes it’s best for salons like her own to be in Phase 2.
“I just feel like we really should not be the canaries in the coal mine. Nobody should be.”
She’s aware that while other counties are opening across the Tri-County area, its likely clients are going to go there for now. But she doesn’t see them continuing making the drive to Clackamas and Washington County.
Now that Multnomah County enters Phase 1 salons will feel pressured to open regardless of whether or not they feel safe because of fear of losing clients to a salon down the street or financially failing because they’d no longer be eligible for unemployment benefits, which she says are minimal for self-employed individuals as it is.
The pressure to reopen, she said is “a Catch-22. The whole thing is a conundrum.”
Plus, she won’t be able to operate at full capacity when they are allowed to reopen.
“We’re coming back to work at a deficit and then we’re going to run at a deficit. Um, it’s just, there’s so many factors that are involved, um, that just make it really, really, really difficult.”
In order to be ready for anything, she’s invested in high tech and approved sanitation gear to clean brushes — phones and surfaces. Yet she says her intimate salon won’t be able to run at full capacity based off social distancing and OSHA guidelines.
More than anything Field longs for a little bit of normalcy, and getting back to doing what she does best, connecting with the community.
“I would like to tell our clients is like, we really, really, really, really miss you. And we really miss what we do. This is more than just doing hair.”
Esthetician Harley True
He didn’t qualify for financial support from the CARES Act, nor did he ever hear back from the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance program.
True feels comfortable reopening with safety protocols in place. His biggest fear is that Multnomah County will reopen for a short time only to be closed down again is the COVID-19 cases spike.
“I financially support my parents who are both old and disabled. They’re not even able to provide for themselves if they wanted to, so if I’m not able to work, they’re simply not eating.”
When talking to people in his industry about reopening, there’s conflicting opinions.
“A lot of my colleagues are ready to get back to work, but their staff doesn’t want to come back to work so it’s just what is going to be the most comfortable thing for everyone,” True said. “You can’t reopen a clinician if you have 15 practitioners but only 3 of them want to come back to work.”
At this point, with the divisiveness surrounding the issue along with the uncertainty of reopening, he’s at a loss of words.
“To me it feels like its been one long day since they shut us down on March 23,” he said. “It’s been one never-ending day. It’s like, when is this nightmare going to end and things get back to normal?”
The phases for reopening and sector-specific guidance for the Governor’s framework for building a safe and strong Oregon were developed and refined over time with input from stakeholders. Personal services businesses will continue to be in Phase 1 moving forward, however, they must follow strict health and safety guidelines to reopen. (These FAQs for personal services businesses may also be helpful.)
“The current growth of COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Oregon is cause for concern. This week’s statewide “yellow light” is a reminder that COVID-19 continues to spread in rural and urban communities across the state. The public needs to take this seriously and prevent infections by wearing face coverings, practicing physical distancing, and washing hands.” — Charles Boyle, Deputy Communications Director for Gov. Brown
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