Chattanooga business owners got a lifeline from pandemic aid, but remain cautious

Photography by Mark Gilliland / Dustin Martin with a customer at Edit Salon.

Business owners who relied on Paycheck Protection Program funds to keep going during the pandemic say the forgivable federal loans carried them through the crisis, but the lessons of the last two years have changed the way they think about the future.

"The business is good, PPP got us though, but I'm worried for what comes next, much more worried than I would have been in the past," says Bev Eitner, the owner of Play Dog Excellent in Red Bank. "Any illusion that I was in charge has been shattered."

Through two rounds of Paycheck Protection Program loans, more than $13 billion went to Tennessee businesses, with an average loan size of $56,700. The program wrapped up at the end of May 2021, and the forgiveness process is well under way.