Beauty and barbershops have been the backbone for entrepreneurship in the Black community for decades. As the pandemic disproportionately effects black communities across the country, African Americans in the hair care business say stay-at-home orders and social distancing mandates are devastating their livelihood and communities.

Black barbers and beauticians are among the now 38.6 million unemployed in the U.S. Despite aid provided through the Payroll Protection Program and unemployment benefits for gig workers and freelancers, many hair care professionals say they have yet to receive any financial assistance. Several states have begun to reopen salons, but with the future of social distancing guidelines uncertain, hair stylists worry their industry will continue to suffer irreparable damage.

In 2017, African American consumers spent $473 million in a $4.2 billion hair care industry, according to Nielsen. In 2018, the black hair care market was valued at $2.5 billion.

In an interview with ABC News, Whitney Spencer, owner of Crown Salon Studio in Little Rock, Arkansas, called the process of applying for loans and unemployment “confusing, slow and unreliable.” “This pandemic is crippling to us African American stylists who were built to hustle,” she said.

STATES

Missouri, which has seen a 7.9% jump in COVID-19 cases over the past week, is asking hundreds of people who attended Memorial Day festivities in the Ozarks to self-isolate for the next two weeks. The request comes after photos and videos of huge crowds partying in pools went viral online. Many of the partygoers did not wear masks. [READ MORE]

A hair salon in North Carolina is denying service to employees at a Tyson plant in the area due to the coronavirus outbreak at the facility earlier this month. The action by SmartCuts salon in Wilkesboro has received criticism from employees at the facility who are upset that they are being denied service because they were “at work trying to put food on your tables.”

POLITICS AND BUSINESS

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell reiterated today that there will likely be another stimulus bill in the “next month or so.” He stressed that the bill will not mirror the $3 trillion bill that recently passed and added that his goal is to provide liability protections for employers.

In a letter to Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue, Reps. Marcia Fudge, Jim Costa, and Stacey Plaskett asked for more details to be released on how $1.2 billion in contracts for the United States Department of Agriculture’s “Farmers to Families Food Box” program were awarded earlier this month. The lawmakers expressed that contracts awarded to more than 200 entities have little to no experience in agriculture or food distribution and have little capacity to meet the obligations of their award.

Republican and Democratic election officials in several states are preparing to expand voting access just in time for the June 2 elections, touted as the single biggest day of voting during the pandemic. Trump, who has claimed mail-in voting opens the door for fraud, has called out two battleground states, Michigan and Nevada, both of which are working to make it easier to obtain an absentee or mail-in ballot. He has also threatened to deny federal funding to those states over what he says are “illegal” tactics.

Almost 99,000 people have died in the US from coronavirus, according to data from Johns Hopkins University. There are almost 1.6 million confirmed cases, the highest number globally.

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