photo of nail salon by Twingo via Wikimedia Creative Commons
Vietnamese American nail salon workers are wondering how they can make a living as their salons remain closed during the pandemic, reports CalMatters.
In California, many businesses have been allowed to resume activity under reopening guidelines. In areas with higher COVID-19 transmission rates, however, nail salons are unable to reopen indoors.
Operating outdoors is not an option for many owners, who worry about moving equipment outdoors, risking exposure, and poor air quality due to wildfires, according to NBC. Others lack the space or a permit to move outdoors.
The inability of nail salons to reopen is particularly concerning for Vietnamese Americans, who make up 70 percent of nail salon workers in California.
“There’s not one Vietnamese American that doesn’t have a family member or close friends working at a nail salon,” said Tam Nguyen, a co-founder of Nailing it For America. “This is an immigrant, refugee population that’s going to get disproportionately affected.”
Nail salon advocates like Nguyen have noted that other businesses, such as hotels and casinos, have been approved to reopen indoors. Hair salons were also included in the reopening plans while nail salons were neglected, confusing workers in the industry.
“It was very puzzling and very hurtful,” Nguyen said.
Many nail salon workers are left unable to make a living wage, especially after the expiration of the CARES Act.
Kathy Pham, a nail salon worker who has been unemployed for over five months, says her unemployment benefits have dropped to about $100 per week.
“Right now, I can’t do anything,” she said.
Amid health concerns during the pandemic, nail salon owners and workers are unsure when they might be able to go back to work.
“The industry won’t look like before,” added Pham.
“I ask myself every morning: How can we survive?” Tony Nguyen, program coordinator for the California Healthy Nail Salon Collaborative, told CalMatters. “We don’t have an answer.”
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