My daughter offered to write an article about the COVID-19 and its impact on her life. She is a self-employed Chiropractor, so she is directly affected by this Pandemic. Small businesses and entrepreneurs will be impacted by this harshly. She is also at risk due to asthma and lung issues. I offer this for your consideration.
COVID-19 From the Self-Employed and Small Business Perspective
Work from home if you can! No sick notes needed! Waived week long waiting period for E.I. applications! Relief funding for those unable to work due to closures! The Canadian Government is stepping in to pledge 1 billion dollars to help with the repercussions of the current COVID-19 crisis. I am self-employed as a chiropractor and my business will be affected by COVID-19, even if I don’t contract the virus. Somewhere down the line, there may be some relief funding specifically for small businesses and the self-employed, but I am not holding my breath that it will be any time soon.
Currently in Ottawa, we have 10 confirmed cases. Schools, libraries, museums, and city recreation complexes, are all closed as of March 16th and will stay closed until at least the beginning of April. Private health clinics have not been given any guidance (as of March 15th) on whether to stay open or close. Hourly, we are checking multiple sources and updating our policies based on our best judgement of what is safe for our clinic but also protects our livelihood.
Social distancing is effective, no argument on that one. I fully support trying to “flatten the curve”, and as an individual who would most likely end up very sick if she contracted this virus, I am happy to limit my social outings. However, being within a metre of other people is a part of my job. Touching people is my job. I sit in a difficult situation trying to balance having an income, and protecting mine and my patients’ (sub customer/ client/ consumer for other small businesses) health.
As a health care practitioner, I have always washed my hands between patients, my equipment and room has always been cleaned according to health regulations. Lately, I’ve upped my game, as much as possible, to keep my patients safe and my businesses going. I can’t get hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes are at a premium and I am continually being asked if it’s safe to come to our clinic. Even if we do stay open, there is no guarantee patients will feel safe and comfortable coming to the office to be treated.
Financially, I feel lucky to have parents who have tolerated me living in their house since I graduated 18 months ago. I don’t have a mortgage or children. I also don’t have a spouse with benefits or a salaried income. I do have a load of student debt and am grateful for the Bank of Canada’s recent interest rate cuts. As an independent contractor I get paid based on the number of patients I treat. Full stop. Not salaried, no benefits, no E.I.. Working from home is not an option. Small businesses will feel the hurt from this situation for the next 6 months to 1 year. We are stressed. Yes, an emergency fund is vital. Most financial folks say 3-6 months worth of expenses is what you should have put away. There are people much more qualified than I am to comment on that factor.
Now that I have sufficiently indulged in standing on my soapbox and yelling my problems at the internet, here are some tips to continue to support small businesses if you are healthy, not self-isolating and able:
- That local coffee shop you frequent on the weekend or before work, continue to go if you are healthy and not at risk. Get some of their beans/ tea leaves/ product to use in your own home. Buy a gift card to boost their income and help them float until things return to normal.
- See if take-out or delivery is an option for your favourite local restaurant.
- Keep your appointments with your health care professional/ hair-dresser/ personal trainer/ etc etc. If you are not able to keep your appointment, reschedule for a few weeks time rather than flat out cancelling.
- If your gym/ yoga studio/ health clinic of choice has closed as a result of COVID-19, make a mental promise to yourself to go back, put a reminder in your calendar a month from now to get yourself back into your routine.
- Stress has you online shopping? Need to buy gifts for a birthday? Choose a Canadian small business that has an online store.
- Ask if there is an opportunity online or phone interaction with professionals that have that capability like your accountant or nutritionist.
- Monitor information channels that are giving accurate information on the current state of affairs rather than relying on social media or other social channels that tend to spark fear and panic.
- Educate yourself on the actual symptoms of COVID-19, and how the spread can be prevented. I am not writing this from a health care practitioner point of view, so I won’t give any advice.
- Save your advice on financial planning in case of an emergency for 6 months from now. The last thing a person in my position wants to hear is advice, however well meaning, on how they could have prevented getting into this awful position. Once we are recovering, that is the time to offer help on that subject.
- Be Kind. We are all trying to make our way through this situation the best we can. Being angry, greedy or selfish will get you no further in life than being kind, patient and fair.
So before you start investing in toilet paper stocks, complaining you have to deal with your kids for 3 weeks, hoarding hand sanitizer or making jokes about the person sneezing in a coffee shop, think of the people in your life who are self-employed. Reach out, ask them how you can help support them, stop the spread of misinformation, and wash your damn hands.