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Nearly a dozen business support groups in Chattanooga have joined together to aid small-business owners and startups with assistance in navigating the current financial and regulatory environment in the midst of the COVID-19 virus outbreak.

The Small Business Assistance Hotline (423-206-2565) was launched this week in Chattanooga to provide real-time advice, counsel and professional expertise to small businesses seeking financial, human resources, banking, credit and business assistance as a result of the economic upheaval from the coronavirus.

"There are a lot of companies in our community that may not have relationships with the many business groups and support services we have here so we wanted to open our arms to these businesses during this critical time and let them know that they can call on us as they think about a new normal and what that may mean for their business," said Christy Gillenwater, president and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce, one of the sponsors of the new service for small businesses.

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Staff photo by Tim Barber / Christy Gillenwater, President and CEO of the Chattanooga Area Chamber of Commerce

The hotline may be reached Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. After hours calls will be returned the next business day.

EPB is supporting the hotline services. Other partners include the Tennessee Small Business Development Center, Co.Lab, LAUNCH Chattanooga, the Service Corps of Retired Executives (SCORE), Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Chattanooga, Compania / La Paz Chattanooga, Community Foundation of Greater Chattanooga and Urban League of Greater Chattanooga.

In addition to the hotline for small buisnesses, the Innovation District of Chattanooga recently created an interactive database of resources and a daily newsletter to help startup businesses and entrepreneurs navigate the information and assistance available to them.

"It was clear that while there was a lot of information and resources, it was overwhelming and hard to sort," said Mary Stargel, program director for the Innovation District of Chattanooga. "We got together with partners and created tools that all our organizations could point people to."

The Innovation District, managed by The Enterprise Center, partnered with several other organizations to create an online database for small businesses that includes hundreds of resources. The database, found at ChaBusiness.com, guides each user through the process of finding the most relevant information for their specific needs. The tool is designed not just for small business owners, but for artists, freelancers, nonprofits, and others.

"Having a central location where I can find all the resources available is very convenient," said Roberto Venegas, owner of Cheese Dip Mexican Grill and Bliones advertising agency. "Chabusiness.com is very user friendly, I find the filters easy to navigate and sort through the abundance of information."

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