Editor’s note: The following is part of Startland News’ ongoing coverage of the impact of Coronavirus (COVID-19) on Kansas City’s entrepreneur community, as well as how innovation is helping to drive a new normal in the ecosystem. Click here to follow related stories as they develop.
Critical mistakes in the first round of government aid for small businesses has left independent contractors suffering, said Lauren Euston.
“We were the last to be allowed to apply and the money was already gone,” Euston, an independent stylist and owner of MOSS Salon Studios, said of equity issues built into the Paycheck Protection Program that saw companies like Ruth’s Chris Steakhouse cash $20 million checks while Euston’s Kansas City small business — a coworking space for the beauty industry — didn’t receive a dime.
“I’m outraged. I think it says a lot about where our country prioritizes subsidies, bailouts and what types of businesses they want to support,” she said in response, specifically, to the $10 million in relief received — and later returned — by the Shake Shack fast food chain.
“I worked really hard to dive into every article I could find and gave information to my renters. … I was pretty optimistic,” she recalled of the application process and the way it quickly went south.
“We had a lot of the same problems that other people had, which was the website crashing … and it wasn’t until April 10 that independent contractors would be able to apply,” she said of the nearly $349 million government fund, which was ultimately drained within 13 days of its April 3 launch.
While the government navigates conversations to add more funding to the relief pot, Euston isn’t holding her breath, she said. Instead, she’s frozen in fear — wishing she could support her friends and tenants, but unable to help even herself.
“I haven’t gotten any unemployment yet and it’s been a month since I’ve stopped working,” she said, noting she and her husband — who also works as an independent contractor — recently received their $1,200 stimulus checks and are grateful for the extra cash.
The money, however, won’t make up for the losses MOSS Salon Studios has endured since the onset of the pandemic or for the emotional toll it’s taken on Euston and the friends and tenants who have become her family, she added.
“I want to be perfectly clear, I have had people move out of their studios in the night because of the fear that they are experiencing,” she said, her voice breaking.
“These people are scared. They don’t have any income. They don’t know how long it’s going to last and it’s been really devastating for them.”
Click here to read more about Euston’s vision for MOSS Salon Studios.
It’s expected that stylists will be some of the last people to return to work when the health crisis has passed, Euston noted.
The industry is not specifically cited in White House guidelines for the Opening Up America Again plan, announced by President Trump and his council to reopen the U.S. economy.
Click here to view the three phase plan that explores restoring operations across the country.
With salons closed, Euston hopes consumers will be willing to support their stylists in ways similar to those they’ve shown bars and restaurants, she said.
“I care more about people than businesses,” Euston said. “You can buy products, book appointments for later, build up their Google reviews and any other positive [impacts] you can make.”
While other businesses have benefited from the ability to pivot, beauty businesses can’t and they need all the support they can get, Euston continued.
“There’s nothing that we can skim off to make our businesses run more efficiently. There’s not a lot of room [to make changes] and be OK,” she said. ‘We need support from our government in getting us microloans that are forgiven.”
Beyond financial support for the impacted industry, Euston hopes a culture of compassion will rise up around affected workers.
“I would encourage empathy and people to really put themselves in other people’s shoes. Consider what this looks like for us,” she said.
“More importantly, I read something that meant a lot to me the other day, about staying home as an act of love,” Euston said. “And I think as we suffer financially as an industry, we are doing it as a massive act of love.”
Editor’s Note: The U.S. Senate passed an additional $480 billion funding bill, Tuesday that would provide more funding for small business relief, Coronavirus (COVID-19) testing and support for hospitals impacted by the onslaught of the pandemic. The U.S. House is expected to vote on the measure Thursday.
This story is possible thanks to support from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a private, nonpartisan foundation that works together with communities in education and entrepreneurship to create uncommon solutions and empower people to shape their futures and be successful.
For more information, visit www.kauffman.org and connect at www.twitter.com/kauffmanfdn and www.facebook.com/kauffmanfdn