A hair stylist choosing between her livelihood and flattening the curve
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As calls for social distancing increase around the nation, independent contractors are being forced to make tough choices. Ashley Nelson, a hair stylist in Boise, Idaho, and one of the 10 people we’re profiling in our series, United States of Work, recently chose to stop taking appointments even while the salon she works in stayed open.
“It was a really tough decision to make,” she told Marketplace host Kai Ryssdal. “There wasn’t anything mandated by the state or the governor or anything, but I was just seeing my fellow colleagues and friends across the country doing what they had to do to take care of the community around them. So I just had to take it into my own hands.”
Ashley announced her decision on Instagram. “I watched people bring their kids in for appointments, I heard the phone ringing with people trying to book new appointments, and others’ clients trying to ‘fill gaps’ for us by sending their kids into the salon,” she wrote in the caption. “It hit me, that we’re the problem. I’M THE PROBLEM. As a hairstylist, I was drawing people out into the public and not helping the issue!”
Ashley is an independent contractor. She leases a chair at a salon. That means she doesn’t have vacation time or sick leave to cash out and can’t collect unemployment benefits while she’s not working.
She said she has the means to pay her bills while out of work but knows that’s not the case for every stylist. “I mean, if you’re a mom or if you’re worrying about paying for your rent so you have a home to go to, but then you have to pay for the workspace that you’re not actually able to go to and make money? That’s where it gets a little bit difficult for people that work for themselves,” she said.
Soon after Ashley announced her personal decision to stop taking appointments, the salon she worked at closed its doors.
COVID-19 Economy FAQs
Are states ready to roll out COVID-19 vaccines?
Claire Hannan, executive director of the nonprofit Association of Immunization Managers, which represents state health officials, said states have been making good progress in their preparations. And we could have several vaccines pretty soon. But states still need more funding, she said. Hannan doesn’t think a lack of additional funding would hold up distribution initially, but it could cause problems down the road. “It’s really worrisome that Congress may not pass funding or that there’s information circulating saying that states don’t need additional funding,” she said.
How is the service industry dealing with the return of coronavirus restrictions?
Without another round of something like the Paycheck Protection Program, which kept a lot of businesses afloat during the pandemic’s early stages, the outlook is bleak for places like restaurants. Some in the San Francisco Bay Area, for example, only got one week of indoor dining back before cases rose and restrictions went back into effect. Restaurant owners are revamping their business models in an effort to survive while waiting to see if they’ll be able to get more aid.
How are hospitals handling the nationwide surge in COVID-19 cases?
As the pandemic surges and more medical professionals themselves are coming down with COVID, nearly 1 in 5 hospitals in the country report having a critical shortage of staff, according to data from the Department of Health and Human Services. One of the knock-on effects of staff shortages is that people who have other medical needs are being asked to wait.
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