Home stay orders have transformed everyday life so thoroughly that many companies have had to adapt in a creative and surprising way, even in sectors where disaster is not imminent.
Workers and employers in a variety of under-the-radar industries across the country told POLITICO how they fight or manage to change.
Orders that stay at home have made many aspects of a private investigator’s job difficult.
Since almost everyone is at home during the day, surveillance can be recognized more easily. Many court records are not digitized. You cannot send a subpoena personally. And then there are the telephone or zoom interviews.
“I’m looking at a two-dimensional screenshot of a person. I can’t see what they’re doing with their hands. I can’t see whether they’re going to scratch the neck or look to the side,” said Jerry Hardesty, an investigator in Brighton, Michigan. “Reading body language is critical when trying to evaluate the person you are speaking to.”
Hardesty, president of the Michigan Council of Professional Investigators, sees about 90 percent fewer deals than usual.
About half of his organization’s members, like Hardesty, are retired law enforcement or federal agents who have some financial cushion. But many others are small businesses that have difficulty paying employees or keeping up with expensive database fees.
Shane Paterson, an Elvis impersonator in Las Vegas, had his last booking at a big wedding reception on March 14th. Then – as for most entertainers he knows – the work was dry.
“Everything’s gone. Just like a dandelion in the wind, just blown away,” he said. “We’re all broke.”
Paterson’s typical appearances range from intimate vow renewals to film sets, but most of his work takes place at congresses or fairs – the kind of large gatherings that were among the first to be canceled due to fears of coronavirus.
A New Zealander by birth who has a Ph.D. Paterson studied ecology at the University of Georgia and knows that in his second career he traded security for freedom. But many Vegas entertainers had only recently emerged from the continued success of the Great Recession.
Now it’s back to navigating an overloaded unemployment record system. “We all suffer to the same extent,” he said.
The pandemic was the second consecutive crisis that hit Nashville. Elisheba Israel Mrozik’s tattoo shop and community arts hub One Drop Ink, Tennessee’s first black woman-owned tattoo shop, had just reopened after a devastating tornado hit the city in early March. A week later, the corona virus had to be locked to close it again.
Mrozik hopes that she also has enough resources to weather this storm. One Drop Ink applies for the Paycheck Protection Program and other small business loans. She believes her customer base and reputation will help the company recover after the closure.
But she’s not ready to endanger people’s health through home visits, as some tattooists do. And Mrozik fears that other tattooists with less business acumen or less understanding landlords – the artists are usually independent contractors with a tattoo shop and not employees – could get into big trouble.
After all, “we need people to come in and get services,” she said. “The nature of our business is the invasion of personal space.”
Manufacturer of sports equipment
For Bison, a sporting goods manufacturer in Lincoln, Neb., The state’s refusal to issue an order at home means that employees are still working.
However, the company sells most of its equipment – mainly team sports goals and nets – to educational and professional institutions. When schools and sports leagues were closed, order intake in Bison fell 50 to 60 percent in the second half of March, said founder and CEO Nick Cusick.
Even if things improve in the summer and fall, Cusick said he is concerned about long-term ripple effects as lower tax revenues force the belt to tighten: “I have to think that pent-up demand will not offset the reality that budgets are getting tighter becomes.”
Bison was in good financial shape to eliminate overtime, but otherwise he managed to keep his roughly 100 employees running, Cusick said. However, the prospect of another month in the current order intake has concentrated on using the loan programs of the Small Business Administration.
In addition, the reduction of working hours or the workforce may have to come into play. “We are keeping our fingers crossed that this will not happen,” he said.
Sex doll companies
Some forces have influenced the fate of New York-based sex doll company Silicon Wives in recent months.
The peak of the virus in China in January and February hit the Silicon Wives supply chain, said founder and owner Bryan Gill. But that’s normal now. And online traffic has increased as the company’s mostly western male customer base is stuck at home. However, due to tighter paperbacks, he was unable to record an increase in sales. “They would think they would look for a release sometime,” said Gill.
Gill hopes the upcoming stimulus payouts could change this. “We usually see a little boost when people get their tax returns,” he said. “Maybe with that $ 1,200 … maybe we would see some people spend it on it. I am sure that is not what you intended. “
Robert Owens typically spends his days in Palestine, Texas, traveling to people’s homes – or to hospitals or prisons – as a mobile notary.
But like many notaries, Owens is now linked to his home for fear of the corona virus. He currently only runs remote online notaries with zoom and a notarial web platform. Owens hopes to do about 75 percent of his attestations this way.
However, many lenders and title companies are still in the process of activating their online functions. “Basically, I’m just sitting here and turning my thumbs and waiting for it to start so I can get busy and work again,” he said.
Other notaries in precarious financial positions take out loans and seek help from relatives. “For the most part, they just hope and pray that this will be over soon,” he said.
Jessica Abernathy, president of the National Association of Professional Pet Sitters, says the coronavirus blocking has “virtually wiped out” the industry.
Her Chicago store, which usually takes 100 walks daily, had dropped to three a day in early April. Most of their normal customers are already at home with their pets.
Some animal care companies have already laid off workers or on leave. Abernathy’s nonprofit is trying to help members by engaging experts who lead webinars on health insurance, layoffs, anxiety, and more.
“We hurt,” she said. But “we’re joining together as a group of individuals to find ways to do this.”