MECHANICSVILLE, Va. -- As case counts and hospitalizations for COVID-19 continue to sharply increase across Central Virginia, many small business owners, who are already dealing with dramatic changes to their business models, are waiting to see what comes next.
Tammy Record, owner of Cutz for Guys, a hair salon targeted towards mostly male clients, said bolstering sanitation practices they already had in place to mitigate spread of the virus was just one of the many adjustments they made to their operations.
“At first, I thought there is no way we’re going to be able to cut anybody’s hair with a mask on. After we started doing it, it’s just easy. You just have to reinvent yourself; you have to figure it out; you have to keep going,” Record said.
Since reopening their locations in May, after state officials eased restrictions, cleaning practices coupled with a bit of luck has led to a successful few months from a safety perspective, according to Record.
“We have done almost 40,000 clients and not one of our staff has gotten COVID, so whatever we are doing is keeping people safe, clients and stylists,” she said.
That fact is butted up to another one, just after lunchtime on Monday, many of the seats at Cutz for Guys Mechanicsville location were empty. Record said before the pandemic, they saw much higher traffic throughout the week.
“Our customers have been very loyal, very good to us,” she said. “Right now, we’re doing fine, we’re doing okay. But we don’t know what January and February is going to bring and that’s the scary thing. As cases rise, people get scared, and they don’t come in for haircuts, understandably so.”
Like many small businesses across the country, Cutz for Guys received a Paycheck Protection Plan (PPP) small business loan to keep their doors open after the initial closures. Congress is currently debating another COVID-19 relief package that would include more funding for that popular program and others.
“Doing nothing is wholly unacceptable. That’s frankly where we have been for months and months and months,” said Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-Henrico), who is a part of a bipartisan group in Congress pushing for passage of the new relief bill.
The framework of the $908 billion package calls for funding to extend additional unemployment benefits set to expire soon, money for housing and eviction assistance, assistance for state and local governments, and another round of PPP funding and small business funding.
Spanberger calls the package “targeted relief.”
“How do we get from here to March. With a mindset, of course, planning far beyond that, but we know where we are right now, we know the immediate needs on the ground right now. Let’s address that,” Spanberger said. “We spent the entire summer listening to folks in the House and the Senate, Democrats and Republicans, just fighting over numbers... What I’ve heard from people is unemployment is important, PPP is important. 'I’m afraid I’m going to lose my house. I don’t know how I’m going to put food on the table.'"
The bill does not include an additional round of $1,200 stimulus checks that were sent out to individuals making below $75,000 each year, like the ones sent out earlier in the year.
Spanberger said the economy needs another round of stimulus in the form of cash to qualified citizens; however, she said it became clear in early negotiations including checks to individuals would not pass muster with enough lawmakers to get the bill to President Trump’s desk.
“Put billions toward food assistance programs, billions towards eviction and rental assistance programs, providing that type of relief that could be pushed out close too immediately, was the priority.” she said. “I will continue working for those stimulus checks because I do think the economy does need and will need in the future additional stimulus. As for this right now, Frankly, through the process of negotiating, the process was focused on actual deliverable relief.”
No timetable has been set for consideration of the package, but Spanberger said she hopes that happens “as soon as possible.”
Record said her business received a round of PPP funding during the summer, which helped keep their doors open, payroll fulfilled, and health insurance plans paid.
“An unbelievable way to save our company because the rent is still due, the health insurance still needed to be paid, and there was no money coming in,” she said.
For now, with the COVID data deteriorating, a year of adjustment and uncertainly continues for Record.
“We’re an underdog anyway, so we just have to figure it out and keep going,” she said. “It’s scary, but I know we’re going to be okay. I mean, I know we're going to be okay, but I do know that other salons are not going to be okay.”
Record said it would be helpful if Congress allows small businesses who received PPP loans to write off taxes on their business expense from the loan. Hundreds of business groups have called for such a move, according to reports.