Before the COVID 19 “Safer at Home” order Roger Borges and Mine Ekenler of Legacy House Cleaning in Milwaukee, WI had 35 employees. The order came out in March. Legacy’s business immediately drop by 75%. The drop was client driven. Some just did not want anyone in their home, some felt they could get by without their regular cleaning, and some could no longer afford to have the cleaning, because they too had lost their employment. He also had customers that felt cleaning was important to help stop the spread of the virus or were handicapped and could not clean for themselves so they wanted their cleaning to continue. Roger offered his employees the option of continuing to work or take a voluntary layoff and collect unemployment. The 15 employs who stayed continued to clean, but took extra precautions. Roger certainly felt he was operating within the law because Section 13 (N) of the “Safer At Home” order listed Critical Trades and included the following language, “other service providers who provide services that are necessary to maintaining the safety, sanitation and essential operations of residences.” By the way, Roger and Mine have PhD’s in Microbiology and Biochemistry. However, when the Safer At Home order was renewed on April 16, things changed. The Govenor’s Office issued a matrix of FAQ’s regarding essential and non-essential businesses. This was not a law or executive order, simply the interpretation of someone in the Govenor’s office. The matrix clearly listed “Residential Cleaning” as non-essential. Two days later Roger received a fateful call from the Dane County Health Department. He was non-essential and must close immediately. His only recourse was to file for an exemption with the Wisconsin Economic Development Corporation. In the meantime, he would have to layoff the 15 employees who wanted to keep working.
Roger has filed the appropriate paper work with WEDC, and received the usual automated reply. That was over 48 hours ago and he has received no other communication from the department. One of his loyal customers added an endorsement to Legacy’s request for exemption. “I am the mother of a child who, at the age of 10, was diagnosed with a rare immune disorder. Kelly is now 51 years old and is completely bedridden. I refuse to accept the fact that my child cannot enjoy even the simplest part of living if she cannot have the peace of mind to live in a clean, sanitary house! She’s had everything else taken away from her life and I refuse to let my daughter live in conditions that may hasten her death. Legacy Cleaning Service makes it possible to live like a normal person.”
We got word this week that their appeal was declined so Legacy is still closed for now. Have a COVID-19 story you would like to share with us. Send it to Ernie Hartong, firstname.lastname@example.org