Last month, Ashleigh Williams should have been celebrating the opening of her new hair salon in Friendswood. Instead, she was forced to close her salon to comply with state orders meant to reduce the spread of coronavirus, and put employees on standby.
Facing the indefinite prospect of limited income, Williams applied for unemployment help instead.
“I applied for unemployment and got denied because they don’t have it set up for people who are self-employed,” Williams said.
Hundreds of thousands of hairstylists and other people working in beauty-related jobs across the county, state and nation have been out of work due to orders for non-essential businesses to close.
In Texas, many self-employed people who initially applied for unemployment were denied before the federal government extended benefits to self-employed people, including those who own their own businesses, and in Texas, those benefits reached the state this week, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
Some people might have gotten denied initially for benefits because the state won't give out unemployment to people who are self-employed, but they should not qualify for federal benefits, according to the Texas Workforce Commission.
But many people, such as Williams, report facing challenges actually getting the benefits.
Williams invested about $100,000 in her new business, Posh Salon, 5035 FM 2351 in Friendswood, she said.
Williams is optimistic she’ll be able to open one day but wishes there were better safeguards in place for the self-employed in times like these, she said.
“If you’re going to force somebody to close their doors for business, you should have something in place,” Williams said.
Some county small business owners and independent contractors have been approved for benefits and others have had bad experiences, Galveston County Director of Economic Development Dane Carlson said.
"It seems like, if they were on the ball right right when everything closed down, and applied early they might have been denied because the system wasn’t yet in place to handle cases like theirs,” Carlson said. “If so, they should apply again.”
Salon Naturale, 1720 West FM 646 Road in League City, closed March 24, owner Hanh Nguyen said.
Normally, the salon sees between 800 and 900 clients a month, she said.
“We are a commission-based salon,” Nguyen said. “If our employees are not working, they’re not getting any proper paycheck.”
It’s frustrating, but safety comes first, she said. Some salon workers are making house visits to clients, but Nguyen doesn’t want to risk it, she said.
For Tantalize Tanning Salon, 2218 61st St. in Galveston, spring normally is the busiest time of year, owner Brett Morris said.
Salons and beauty businesses will reopen, but to an economy in which millions have lost jobs and disposable income likely will be scarce, Morris said.
“We’ll reopen,” Morris said. “My bigger concern is six months from now. Car notes are going to get tight. I’m sure credit cards will get maxed out.”
Even when the economy reopens, people are likely to worry about tanning services, which include tanning beds and spray tans, as fears of coronavirus linger, he said.
But people get attached to their beauty treatments, said Debbie Borque, owner of Pretty Peeperz, a lash extension service, 2218 61st St. in Galveston.
“I definitely will be back in business,” Borque said. “It sort of derails some plans for this year because I had planned on getting additional training to provide new services.”
To earn some extra money, Borque is driving for a food-delivery service, she said.
For Von Striga Art Parlor tattooing, 1021 61st St. in Galveston, it will be a matter of when they’re allowed to reopen, co-owner Summer Gorder said.
As it stands, Gorder is confident her business can survive and return, she said. But if government-forced closures go through the summer, things will be harder, she said.
“I don’t know that we’d be able to survive that,” Gorder said.
Gorder doesn’t expect tattoo parlors will be deemed one of the essential businesses that can reopen right away, she said.
Gorder is still hopeful but getting concerned, she said.
“At the beginning, I wasn’t too concerned yet,” she said. “I saw all these funding opportunities. I’m getting more and more nervous about it.”