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Risingunemployment ratespersist asCy-Fair getsback tobusiness BY DANICA SMITHWICK
up and hope for the best. Instead, we will put measures in place that will help businesses open while also containing the virus and keeping Texans safe.” Reopeningsafely Since mid-March, only “essential” sectors of the economy—such as energy, government, health care, transportation and nancial services—had been opera- tional until May 1. While Abbott encouraged Texans to support the “nonessential” entities opening in early May, his executive order also said they should continue to minimize social gatherings and in-per- son contact except when necessary. Taylor Landin, senior vice president of public policy for the Greater Hous- ton Partnership, said business leaders agree reopening should be gradual and deliberate to prevent future business interruptions. “The shock to the system that closing has would—if having to be absorbed a second time—would have real severe impacts for those businesses,” Landin said in an April 30 webinar. Many Cy-Fair businesses were able to continue operating throughout March and April, such as Sicola’s Florist, which has three locations in northwest Hous- ton. Despite having to temporarily close its retail stores, co-owner Shawna Sicola Thaler said the business was able to ll orders for curbside pickup and delivery throughout the pandemic. “I had to cut like half of my sta, and then the sta I did have split days shifts,” she said. “It was really, really scary at rst, and then we started getting more orders through Easter and it started picking up because I think a lot of others were closing.” Sicola’s storefronts reopened May 1, and Thaler said she was able to bring backmost of her sta, although business was still slow. She said she is thankful the business has been able to continue oper- ating to some extent because it would otherwise be suering much more. “We do have our protocols for wearing masks, gloves; we have our Plexiglass screens up,” Thaler said. “We don’t know what to expect. It’s one of those day-by- day kinds of things. A lot of people don’t want to get out, and we understand.” Abbott announced May 5 salons would be able to open May 8, catching many by surprise as he previously said April 27 they would not be permitted to open until at least May 18. For Charlene Ortiz, who has rented a space at the Salons at Rock Creek on
“They gave a number that you could call in and discuss it with someone, and I called for weeks. Every single day I would call right on the dot at 7 in the morning, and I would call over 100 times,” Widger said. “It was nothing but either a busy signal or a recording that said ‘Due to the high call volume because of the COVID pandemic, we’re unable to take your call at this time.’” More than 20,000 Cy-Fair residents led initial claims for unemployment insurance benets from March 18-April 18, according to the TWC. About 23% of these claims were ineligible for assistance. Economy experts predict high levels of new claims each week will continue, but state ocials are making eorts to get some Texans back to work. Gov. Greg Abbott announced April 27 restaurants, retailers, movie theaters
and malls could open May 1 with 25% occupancy restrictions. Should Texas continue to report a decreasing rate of new cases, Abbott is expected to allow these businesses to increase occupancy to 50% and expand the list of businesses permitted to operate around May 18. Four days into the reopening process, Abbott announced salons and barber shops could open May 8. Additionally, gyms, exercise facilities and oce- based businesses were slated to open at 25% capacity May 18, but no reopening timeline for bars had been released as of press time. Abbott encouraged safe distancing practices and recommended wearing a face covering when in public as busi- nesses reopen. “It’s a fact: It’s hard to get rid of this virus because it is so contagious,” he said April 27. “So we’re not just going to open
Cy-Fair resident Michelle Widger has worked as a full-time customer service manager for a Dallas-based trade show company for three years. When the coronavirus pandemic hit in mid-March and restrictions were placed on large gatherings, these shows were canceled for the foreseeable future. The single mother of four said she and her family have only taken care of necessities such as food, gas and util- ities during this time, and her savings intended for retirement and purchasing a home one day are dwindling. Widger said she attempted to apply for unemployment as soon as possible, but the process took more than a week because the Texas Workforce Commis- sion was bogged down with requests. The claimwas denied shortly after going through. Harris County
May 1 marked the beginning of Gov. Greg Abbott’s Phase 1 of the state’s reopening of select businesses.
The chart below depicts the number of unemployment insurance claims led in Harris
Retailers, restaurants, movie theaters, malls, museums and libraries may reopen at up to 25% capacity. Places of worship may remain open while practicing distancing. Outdoor sports including up to four people may take place. Nursing facilities remain closed to visitors. Swimming pools, bars, gyms, salons, massage establishments, interactive amusement venues, and tattoo and piercing studios remain closed.
County weekly in 2020 compared to the same time frame in 2019.
Cosmetology salons, barbershops, hair salons, nail salons and tanning salons are able to open using safety precautions.
Gyms, nonessential manufacturers and businesses located in oce buildings can open at up to 25% capacity. Entities that opened May 1 can expand to 50% capacity.
SOURCES: TEXAS WORKFORCE COMMISSION, GOV. GREG ABBOTT’S OFFICECOMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER
COMMUNITY IMPACT NEWSPAPER • COMMUNITYIMPACT.COM
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