Lawmakers consider safe ways to allow salons to re-open as stylists go 1 month without pay

Minnesota hairstylists have been unable to work since mid-March. That means no paycheck and many of them are independent contractors, which means no unemployment payments either.

The salons have been dark since March 16. For so many, it means absolutely no income but there is hope in terms of unemployment money and reopening.

For stylists like Leigh Nelson, a single mother of four, it’s been devastating. She hasn’t had a paycheck in a month.

"It leaves us all in a sense of stress and just uncertainty," she explained.

Like a lot of stylists, she’s an independent contractor and not eligible for unemployment. But she still has to put food on the table and pay bills.

"I had money saved for taxes that were due and I’ve had to use most of that money in order to pay my daily expenses," Nelson explained.

The new coronavirus aid package does provide funding to pay people like Leigh. The problem is the state is waiting for guidelines from the federal government on how to release that money. That should happen in the next couple of weeks.

"I know, it’s a weird message," said DEED Commissioner Steve Groves. "Apply and you’ll be denied. But the alternative is to wait and then there’s a flood of people when they become eligible. I think we’ll be in a better place if we do that."

But while they wait, state Representative Dave Baker is trying to get stylists and barbers back behind the chair, soon. He believes there is a safe way to do it.

For instance, salons and barber shops would close waiting rooms. Instead, stylists should text the client when ready. Face masks should be worn by everyone in the salon as well.
No children would be allowed in the salon either. Chairs would be eight feet apart and if that takes up too much space, maybe work shifts are adjusted to accommodate everyone.

"I think this is the best option for us right now, show the governor what we can do," said Baker. "Here’s what we think will work really, really well, if you have a better idea tell us but we have to get to work."

Baker is hoping the governor will listen and sign an executive order to make it happen by May 1.

“People are going to self-manage because now we know what it’s like to sit home for weeks on end and they don’t want to see this happen,” Baker added.

Now Baker also suggests the way to police this is to have the salons register and agree to whatever the guidelines are. If they fail to comply, they get shut down. Again, he thinks most will just be happy to be back at work.