Covid-19 shutdown. Thoughts after 1 month.

April 14,2020

Well today marks 4 weeks since I went into “quarantine”. My last official work day was Friday March 13, 2020. On March 15 the announcement was made that the local schools would be closing due to the health threat. At first I was a little excited. I had been feeling very worn out from the day to day operations and desperately wanted a break. Little did I know that we were in for the long haul. I was currently working on 2 bathroom remodels when this all went down. One I had been planning for months, and the other was kind of an emergency job related to a leaky shower at my longtime friend and plumber’s sister’s house. The planned bathroom we had just set the shower base and started hanging drywall. The other bathroom had just been completely gutted. I can’t explain the level of anxiety it gives me knowing that I have two large projects just sitting unfinished. Both of which would be nearing completion by now.

After the first week of quarantine and hearing the news I started sensing that this might be a bit of a long-term thing. There began talks of stimulus packages, loans for small businesses and unemployment insurance extended to those who normally did not qualify, such as myself. All this was very unnerving. Due to the fact that a majority of my work is inside peoples homes I knew that I couldn’t continue working for a while.

So I started making phone calls. Mortgage company, banks, insurance companies, utility companies. Everyone I payed on a monthly basis was contacted to see how they were planning to handle this. I made the hard decision to start shutting things down. Without income there’s no money to pay the truck loan or the insurance for it. State Farm let me put my vehicles in “withdrawn from use” to save money. I was ahead on my loan payments for my truck so I suspended auto pay. Business insurance was paid up through the end of May so I will let that ride until then and re-assess. This is all terrifying as a small business owner. I was forced to make some very difficult decisions.

Then came the unemployment. The day they finalized that I would be able to qualify I went online and signed up. It told me I needed to call to verify some information. Over the next week I called close to 200 times! I got through only a handful of times and it would have me punch in my information and then it would tell me I need to call back, and disconnect. How frustrating. So I called the Bank about the PPP loan/grants that they released on the day they released them. The banks didn’t have any solid information but then gave me what they had. I called my accountant who then referred me to another loan called an EIDL which I applied for in minutes. They couldn’t help me with the PPP loan though and sent me back to the bank. The bank still didn’t have any real helpful information but finally sent me to a website to input my information, which I did and I am hoping to hear back.

As of today I have gotten one callback from unemployment saying my information is in the system and they will contact me if they need anything else. PPP has not gotten back to me. A company regarding helping with utility bills has not gotten back to me. EIDL has not gotten back to me. Trying not to hold my breath and just expect the worst. I suppose that way if I receive anything it will be better than I expected.

In these very difficult times I have found some silver linings. I have gotten some projects done on my own house. I have been able to put some more time into my YouTube channel where I teach people my craft. I have started taking online classes for my Real Estate License. I have cooked more meals. I have reached out to more friends and family. It feels like I’m busier now than when I was working. The days are flying by and melding into each other. Today is Tuesday but it doesn’t feel like a Tuesday. Looking forward to having some normalcy back.

Over the last few weeks I have had some clients reach out and offer me work, both interior and exterior work. They have all said they would keep their distance but I have many reasons why I’ve declined. I will list those below.

  1. First and foremost I want to be safe. For my own safety. For my family. For my clients.
  2. As previously stated I pulled the insurance off my vehicles. The only vehicle I can legally drive right now is my girlfriend’s car.
  3. I have asthma and have the potential for this virus to cause serious harm to me if I contract it. I’m waiting for things to settle down and have the stay at home order’s lifted before returning to work. I do not feel that a bathroom remodel or some rot repair that has been there for years is “essential”. This is peak season for allergies. I have had really bad allergies my entire life which also triggers my asthma. I try to stay indoors as much as possible in the spring because it has a serious negative effect on my health and I am trying to keep my immune system healthy right now.
  4. Even if there is social distancing in place, being in business requires me to subject myself to many other people and places. Lumberyards and hardware stores to get materials. Gas stations to fill up the truck. I need to get the snow tires off my vehicles. If I’m driving around I will need other maintenance. My shop is located at my parents house so I would be potentially subjecting them to anything I might be carrying or vise versa. Banks to deposit checks. Etc. You see, as soon as I open back up, the possibilities of transferring this horrible virus increase exponentially.
  5. I have a wait list that is over 2 years long. When someone new calls I kindly turn down the work unless they are truly willing to wait a long time. Having two large jobs in limbo right now, as soon as this stay at home ban is lifted and it is safe to return to work, they are my top priority. In the interim I plan to go through my list in order and start contacting people to see if any of these jobs can be done with minimal exposure to anyone.
  6. Which brings me to another point about going back to work. If I am working outside, oftentimes a tool will trip a breaker. This requires me to go into the house and find the panel and switch the breaker back on. Some people I work for don’t have a clue how to do that. Or what if I have to use the bathroom? I have to go home. What if I need a gallon of paint they have stored in their crawlspace among the other 25 gallons and they don’t have a clue which one it is. Or wash a paint brush and they have an old house that doesn’t have an outside spiggot, or it doesn’t work. There are so many variables on any given jobsite that it is impossible to predict them all.

I am sharing all this information because this is the stuff that has made all these decisions incredibly difficult. There is no easy answer. I don’t like letting people down. I also don’t want to be the reason someone catches this thing. So for now, I will continue taking the precautions that are in place and I will return to business when it is safe to do so. I thank everyone who has reached out and offered me work and as I said I will be planning to get out and start some projects that I think can be done safely as soon as the time is right.

If you would like to do anything to support me, the only thing I ask is to continue to watch my videos. Subscribe to my YouTube channel. Maybe give them a share or two. I’m trying to get all my knowledge out there to the world because honestly there is way more work than I can ever handle. I turn down 10 times the amount of work than I take on. The whole reason I started this channel was to help people feel confident in tackling some of these projects on their own. That’s all I want to do is help people. I wish you all good health and safety out there.

Stay Positive,

Nick