COVID Complicates Contracting – and Communicating
DOVER-FOXCROFT – Steven Lovejoy does home repairs and maintenance, roofing, painting, snow removal, mowing and pretty much everything else except actually building structures. “I leave that to other people,” he said.
The majority of Lovejoy’s clients are elderly folks who can no longer complete these types of tasks. They rely on his help, and his companionship. Recently, an elderly client wanted to visit with Lovejoy, as she often had in the past. “She wasn’t worried, but I was,” he said. “I have people I do work for in the wintertime that want me to come in to have coffee and talk. They really didn’t like the fact that we couldn’t chit chat, because they don’t see a lot of people. When I shovel for them, I check on them. It’s frustrating for them [now].”
An older lady who lives next door often visits with Lovejoy. “She’s a very sweet lady and I’ve done a lot of work for her,” he said. “She stopped by one day and said, ‘I haven’t had the chance to talk to you all winter and it’s bothering me. How are you and how is your wife (who runs a daycare experiencing its own impacts from virus-related shutdowns)?’ I talked to her outside for about 20 minutes and that made her feel a lot better.”
Lovejoy stays in touch with many customers by phone and has been checking their welfare and sharing information about a volunteer group willing to go pick up groceries for elders and at-risk people, as well as those self-quarantining after returning to Maine from away. [343-3018 or email info@CentralHallCommons.org]
In addition to keeping clients safe, Lovejoy has to think about coworkers. Most projects are done with help from Roger Baird. “I work with somebody most of the time, and he’s right there all the time so we’ve got to make sure we’re wearing some type of mask,” Lovejoy said. “That makes it hard to communicate sometimes, through the mask, so you back up six feet, talk, and then go back to what you’re doing.”
Contractors are already thinking constantly of safety measures on the job, Lovejoy said. “You’re using ladders or equipment such as saws. And now we’ve got to practice the health side of it. When I go talk to a customer, I’ve got to stop and make sure I do the protocols, social distancing. It weighs on your mind all the time,” he said.
At first, Lovejoy’s business took a “big financial hit,” as clients cancelled interior work slated for late winter and spring. “The second this COVID-19 came out, all my inside work stopped. It hurt, it really did,” he said. “The COVID did not help at all. Even my mother- and father-in-law; I was supposed to do work for them and that got stopped.” His mother-in-law works in healthcare, so the decision was made not to do anything in their home “until this calms down.”
As other businesses closed due to the virus, their snow removal and interior projects were also put on hold. And of course, for people out of work due to virus-related closures, the budget called for more DIY projects rather than hiring a contractor.
For a time, it was a waiting game, Lovejoy said, to see if exterior jobs would come his way or if he should start seeking projects. “My phone has rung,” he said. “I have plenty of work to do outside and I’m very thankful for that. There are small roofs, and getting set up for painting, repairing decks from winter. There is a lot of work out there. We’ve just got to take it one step at a time, and make sure we accommodate everyone’s needs, from picking up supplies at the store to talking with customers over the phone or by text, until we get by this.”
The uncertainty is difficult, as well. “The biggest thing for Roger and I is the unknown of what’s going on how, how long this is going to be, and how everyone is going to feel about it all, how long people will have to stay out of work, and what we can and can’t do,” he said. “It’s been a challenge all the way around. Some of it’s okay; some was very stressful until I knew how I was supposed to approach it and make sure everything is safe – it’s understanding to take your time and not rush in certain things. If you rush too fast, that’s how somebody gets hurt.”
Patience is key, he said. “If people can be patient with all of this, we will get by it. I’d rather be safe than sorry. This too shall pass.”If readers need assistance with outside jobs now, or inside projects once safety guidelines allow, Lovejoy may be reached at 343-0412.