Ricochet COVID Symposium: Housecleaning Business In Freefall

 

[Editor’s Note: This is part of a series of contributions from our members and friends about the hidden costs of the COVID crisis. You can read more about our symposium and how to contribute here. The following is a submission by the woman whose crew cleaned our Editor Bethany Mandel’s house before she moved in in April.]

COVID-19 has been a disaster not only for my personal life but also for my business. When I first started to hear about the pandemic on the news I did not imagine that it would have such a negative effect on our economy, health, and personal relationships.

Like many Americans, my family, employees and I are sad, depressed, worried, and feeling hopeless because we can’t be with family. I’m not able to spend time with my two daughters, family, or my grandchildren. It is heartbreaking but we know it’s also necessary. We have been taking precautions to minimize the spread of COVID-19 in the hope for us to all be able to get together again soon.

My business has suffered the most during these times. I have been in business for 15 years and never have I had such a downfall in business. My company, Clean Like New, is a commercial and residential cleaning business. We keep homes clean and do work in homes that many of our clients don’t have the time for. The majority of my clientele is residential. I have clients that we do jobs for in their homes weekly or twice a week.

Due to the pandemic, I haven’t been able to do any work in my clients’ homes since the second week of March, almost two months.

Since everyone is working from home and kids are going to school online we cannot clean their houses. I cannot risk exposure to clients or us to go in and do the cleaning. This has significantly decreased our incomes and turned off potential new clients as well.

We also specialize in cleaning homes that are for sale. Thanks to the realtors we have been able to continue some cleaning business in empty homes. Unfortunately, this is only about 1 of home per week, as opposed to our regular cleaning homes. During normal times we clean anywhere between 15 to 20 homes a week, sometimes more. This means we are about 60 jobs down a month, which means about 60 payments down a month.

I cannot afford to pay my employees and offer them work because there’s hardly any work. It’s critical for them to work because like all of us they put food on the table for their families, have rent to pay, and bills that need to get paid as well.

Recovering from this downfall will be tough. I have sent emails and text to our clients offering our services since we had been home all the time. The answer is ‘We will wait for maybe the middle of June.” In the meantime, I run the risk of losing helpers due to their financial struggles that COVID-19 has brought upon all of us.

I believe that it might take two or three years to recover some from the downfall my business has taken. Many sacrifices and heavy budgeting will need to be done in order to get the business back on track. We are hopeful that once the state opens back up and things are safe we can continue to operate in a safe manner. We expect people to need deep cleanings in their homes after being inside for so long.

I applied for the PPP help from the SBA. In the first round, the said there was no more money left.  In the second round,
they said I need it to sign the papers. I went through all the process and requested $14,000 to be able to cover my employees’ salaries for about two months.  And after finishing the process… Surprise! My loan was approved for $996.00, a payment of $249.00 per week.

Please don’t take me wrong to me that it’s a lot of money, especially in these hard times, but I think is pretty upsetting after knowing what I requested and we didn’t get even a quarter of what I requested (and needed).
I think the PPP plan is only to make the news so people can think is working and helping small businesses, but on the contrary, it is helping big businesses.  We are left behind.

I did accept the loan because I’m sure I can pay my girls with that money. My team can buy some food for their families.
In the meantime, we will continue to follow protocols and wish health upon the world.

– Lesbia Portela

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  1. Clifford A. Brown Contributor
    Clifford A. Brown
    @CliffordBrown

    The challenge with the PPP is getting the monthly average employee cost documented correctly. If you are using QuickBooks, this information is now automatically generated. Are these employees paid on a W-2 or on some form of 1099? The later is a bit tougher to get right in the system, to my observation.

    You are supposed to get 2.5 X your documented average monthly employee expense. That is structured to cover 8 weeks of pay/tax/benefits (which you must document paying — that is the 2X) plus utilities and such expenses (that is the 0.5). 

    The failure to have an appeals system and to troubleshoot cases like this is a terrible failing and makes my argument for private rent/mortgage/car/truck payment forgiveness that is turned into an immediate quarterly 100% refundable tax credit all the more obvious an answer in this next round. It is outrageous that no one on the R or D side is addressing this massive burden on those who can least afford it. 

    Indeed, you will notice that .5 of average monthly employee expenses is unlikely to cover business leases/mortgages. So, the small businesses are owed full compensation for this taking by the federal and state governments.

    Riding hobby horses like jobs programs or pay roll tax holidays is a failure to maintain real touch with those who the Republicans must get to come out to vote in November. 

     

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  2. Miffed White Male Member
    Miffed White Male
    @MiffedWhiteMale

    We had our carpet guy in to clean our carpets just yesterday.  He said things were slow, but he was doing ok – not as many people moving, so less work from apartment complexes.

    He’s expecting that as the lockdown ends, he’ll be getting a spurt of business as people with kids finally get out of the house and want to clean up the messes their kids have been making for the past two months.

     

     

    • #2