Amid Holiday Rush, Small Business Owners And Workers Worry About Their Futures

For Jocelyn Doan, the owner of Glam Hair and Nails salon near Elk Grove, the…

For Jocelyn Doan, the owner of Glam Hair and Nails salon near Elk Grove, the pandemic and its shutdowns have been chaotic.

“They keep us shut down and open, shut down and open, and so we cannot work, but the rent we have to pay every month, full,” Doan said.

Like many nail salons, hair salons and barbershops, her shop was closed from March to June, and then she was allowed to open in June for a few weeks before being shut down again. Most recently, she says she was open from September to early November but only allowed to service customers outdoors.

Doan was able to secure a federal loan earlier in the year, but the money has long been used to pay rent. Her landlords have been understanding and allowed her to pay just half, but she said she now owes about $20,000 in back pay and is concerned

“I really want to keep the business, but I’m so worried because this is all I invested for my retirement, they’re all put in here,” Doan said.

California’s latest stay-at-home order is now forcing some owners and workers — especially those who are people of color — to either adapt or move on.

A recent study by the UC Berkeley Labor Center shows that jobs most likely to be impacted by pandemic closures — like hospitality service industry workers and jobs in the personal care industry — are disproportionately done by people of color.

Stephanie Hunter Ray owns Exquisite U hair salon in Arden-Arcade and said the pandemic has been worse on her business than she expected.

“It’s been crazy,” Hunter Ray said. “It has literally been up and down, once we are open and we get to going again, they shut us right back down.”

Since the summer, she’s had to let go of four employees, and she’s shifted her salon’s focus to being more of a boutique store. Now, she sells beauty products, hair products, accessories and clothes. She said she’s been promoting her salon’s new items on social media, but even with this shift, business has been slow. She got a federal loan for $3,000 but she said, like Doan, that money has long been spent on rent.

And as the owner of a salon for 15 years, she said she feels trapped.

“When you’ve been in the game for as long as I have, and I’m not young, what else am I going to do? I can’t go back to school again to start a whole new career,” she said. “I have to just figure it out and roll with what I have, because at this point in the game, I don’t have time to start over.”

For Mario Cueva, a barber who works at West Coast Barbers, a shop in Woodland, he said this shutdown is the third time this year he’ll have to stop working.

“Besides the holidays, people still gotta pay their rent. People got car payments, people got kids. You know, it’s hard to do when you ain’t got a job, you ain’t got money coming in,” he said. 

A new study done by the UC Berkeley Labor Center said the impact of government shutdowns on people of color is significant.

“Workers of color have disproportionately applied for and are receiving unemployment insurance benefits here in California,” Sarah Thomason of the UC Berkeley Labor Center said.  “Service workers who have seen the highest job losses are disproportionately people of color and they’re also low wage.”

Reports by the California Policy Lab and the Labor Center show that over 80{a25bda0f8ab6dac90e68079d6f038584ef6ac53f1f4621de3ad526e35cd6c0d6} of African American workers have applied for unemployment in some form since the pandemic began. A demographic breakdown showed that 55{a25bda0f8ab6dac90e68079d6f038584ef6ac53f1f4621de3ad526e35cd6c0d6} of the state’s working Latinx population and 48{a25bda0f8ab6dac90e68079d6f038584ef6ac53f1f4621de3ad526e35cd6c0d6} of the state’s working African American population worked in frontline jobs.

Thomason of the Labor Center adds that, in addition to those being out of work not having income, the latest coronavirus surge will once again put these vulnerable workers in a tough situation.

“As the cases start to rise again, these same workers, if they are still employed, are potentially more at risk for contracting the virus. So they’re kind of getting hit from both perspectives, economically and with the health risks,” she said.

Additional reporting by Chris Nichols

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