Tennessee to offer $200 million relief for businesses

Staff Photo by Robin Rudd/ Downtown Chattanooga is seen in this view looking south along Broad Street from a parking garage. RiverCity Co. is hiring consultants to help study ways to energize the riverfront from Fourth Street to the River, including Hawk Hill. The area was photographed on December 5, 2019.

More than 28,000 stores, restaurants, salons and other small businesses hurt by the coronavirus in Tennessee will qualify for a new business relief program the state is launching with a portion of its federal stimulus funds.

Gov. Bill Lee said the $200 million program, which is being paid for from part of the federal funds Tennessee received through the CARES ((Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security) Act, will offer direct aid to qualified small businesses in the hardest hit hospitality, retail and service industries.

The Tennessee Department of Revenue, which is administering the new program, is yet to announce details about the aid package. But Gov. Lee and state lawmakers agreed to set a side the money and target the funds for particular businesses affected by business shutdowns, lower sales and lost business over the past three months.

"The COVID-19 pandemic has created immense economic pain across our state and especially among small businesses that faced temporary closure," Lee said in an announcement of the new program. "As we responsibly steward our federal stimulus money we have worked to quickly prioritize our small businesses and I thank the work of the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group for their partnership in this."

The Tennessee Business Relief Program amounts awarded will be based on the annual gross sales of the business and state officials said more than 73% of those businesses earning annual gross sales of $500,000 or less. More details will be posted on the Department of Revenue's website in the coming days.

"Our small businesses drive our local and statewide economies, and their success is critical to our continued, swift economic recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic," said Tennessee House Speaker Cameron Sexton, R-Crossville.

The following types of small businesses are eligible under the program:

* Barber shops

* Beauty shops

* Nail salons

* Tattoo parlors, spas, and other personal care services

* Gyms and fitness centers

* Restaurants

* Bars

* Hotels and other travel accommodations

* Theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers and similar facilities

* Museums, zoos, and other similar attractions

* Amusement parks

* Bowling centers and arcades

* Marinas

* Amusement, sports and recreational industries

* Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events

* Agents and managers of artists, athletes, and entertainer

* Independent artists, writers, and performers

In addition, the following small businesses are eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25%, as shown on their April sales tax returns, which were filed in May.

* Furniture stores

* Home furnishing stores

* Clothing stores

* Shoe stores

* Jewelry, luggage, and leather goods stores

* Sporting goods, hobby, and musical instrument stores

* Book stores

* Department stores

* Office supply, stationery and gift stores

* Used merchandise stores

* Other miscellaneous stores