On April 28, the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty filed an amicus brief to the Wisconsin Supreme Court in Legislature v. Palm, the original action challenging the extension of the ‘Safer at Home’ order. WILL’s amicus was on behalf of a group of small business owners. Here are two of their stories.
All Businesses Are Essential For People’s Livelihoods
“If people on TV and the media can get their hair done, then why can’t my clients?” said Lacey, owner of Shear XCellence hair salon in Grafton, Wisconsin.
Lacey is a mother of three and left the salon where she rented her booth just about a year ago to work at home out of her basement hair studio. That is before the “Stay at Home” order was issued on March 25. Since then, she has been deemed a “non-essential” business and has not seen any clients.
“I would like to get back to work and I don’t feel like there is any reason why I shouldn’t be able to,” said Lacey. “Especially because I am socially distancing even more than a store.”
Not only does Shear XCellence have a separate entrance from her home, but she only sees one client at a time and has no overlap between haircuts. “I already wear gloves when I’m coloring hair,” she joked.
As a hair dresser, even prior to COVID, Lacey was accustomed to sanitizing her station and products between clients, and she is willing to take those measures a step further if it means she can reopen her doors. “I’m already sanitizing the doors, there are wipes out, there is hand sanitizer, I have antibacterial soap,” she said. “And I can request that people coming in wear masks.”
Lacey has been aggravated that she can go to places like Target, Home Depot and Wal-Mart where she is surrounded by people she doesn’t know, but she can’t open even with social distancing standards in place. “There’s no reason why I shouldn’t be able to take them in the privacy of my own home when it’s me and that other person,” she said.
Why are other businesses considered “essential” and hers is not? For Lacey this distinction isn’t entirely fair.
“It’s been really hard. I need to be able to pay my bills. I need to be able to pay my health insurance,” she said. “People’s jobs are essential for their livelihood, it doesn’t matter what business you’re in.”
As a small business owner, Lacey understands that businesses can only withstand this for so long before they go under. “I don’t want small businesses to close because of this. There are already two places in Cedarburg that had to close their doors,” she said. Which is why Lacey is signing onto this brief. “My hope is that people can actually get back to work and not lose their house, not lose their health insurance.”
We Need to Right This Economic Ship
“It’s almost like they are moving the goal posts. They said they were doing this to flatten the curve, the curve is flattened and yet they are not allowing businesses to open back up,” said Erin Decker of Double Decker Automotive in Pleasant Prairie, Wisconsin.
Decker’s business is considered “essential” so they are still open. However, since the “Stay at Home” order, their business has dropped by 50% and so they are open two hours less per day, Monday through Saturday.
Erin and her husband Mike have owned the business since 2006 and they have never experienced a dip like this. “Each of our employees works about 10 hours less per week,” Decker said. Including Erin and Mike, they have six full-time employees and two part-time. During normal times their employees are also able to work overtime most weeks.
Decker said her employees have been “great” and working to help each other out during this time. “We have a couple employees who really need a decent sized pay check,” she said. “And a couple of our other employees have said if you need to send someone home, send me home because I don’t need as much money as the other employees.”
While Decker is so grateful that they have been able to be open, it hasn’t been easy. “Basically we are just staying above water, but if this continues we could fall behind,” she said. “We are just covering the bills that are required right now.”
However, Decker is more concerned for other businesses that have had to close altogether for the time being. “As a small business owner myself, I don’t know how we would be able to pay rent and stuff like that if we were closed,” she said. “My rent is over $9,000 per month.”
Decker knows that when businesses reopen, it likely won’t be business as usual right away. But she thinks that most people understand that.
“I’m not saying I’m expecting them to open up like we were open on February 1st — social distancing, not as many customers. I would think that most people that want businesses to open up, want a soft opening kind of thing,” Decker said. “But we need to turn this around and right the ship. We need to make sure that our unemployment doesn’t go higher and people don’t lose their businesses forever.”
Cori Petersen is a writer and research analyst at the Wisconsin Institute for Law & Liberty.