Virus Outbreak Tennessee

Judy Goldie, owner of Trendy Pieces clothing store, dresses a mannequin in the front window as her store reopens Wednesday, April 29, 2020, in Murfreesboro, Tenn.

(The Center Square) – A new $200 million grant program will provide Tennessee small businesses with economic relief payments after the response to the coronavirus pandemic caused many businesses across the state to shut down or curtail operations.

Gov. Bill Lee announced the launch of the Tennessee Business Relief Program on Tuesday during a news conference at Arnold's Country Kitchen in Nashville. The money for the program is part of the more than $2 billion Tennessee received from the federal government via the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

"The COVID-19 crisis has been deeply unfair to businesses like Arnold's, and the work of this Financial Stimulus Accountability Group is to ensure that we do everything we can to offset the damages and keep these pillars of our community in place," Lee said.

More than 28,000 small businesses will be eligible for the grants, which are meant to reimburse businesses for costs incurred as a result of mandatory closures. 

Relief payments will be based on a business' annual gross sales, said Department of Revenue Commissioner David Gerregano, who noted payments will range from $2,500 to $30,000. Lee said more than 73 percent of the businesses anticipated to receive payments have annual gross sales of $500,000 or less.

"Rather than an application process, we're going to approach this by using information – data – that we already have in our system to proactively push these payments out to the businesses that will receive them," Gerregano said.

The types of small businesses eligible under the program include barbershops, beauty shops, nail salons, tattoo parlors, spas, gyms and fitness centers, restaurants, bars, hotels and other travel accommodation businesses, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, museums, zoos, amusement parks, bowling centers, arcades, marinas and sports and recreational industries.

Promoters of performing arts, sports, and similar events; agents and managers of artists, athletes, and entertainers; and independent artists, writers and performers also are eligible.

Additionally, these small businesses are eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25 percent, based on their April sales tax returns: furniture stores, home furnishing stores, clothing stores, shoe stores, jewelry stores, luggage and leather goods stores, sporting goods stores, hobby stores, musical instrument stores, book stores, department stores, office supply stores, stationery and gift stores, and used merchandise stores.

More information can be found on the Tennessee Department of Revenue website.

Regional Editor

Jason Schaumburg is an award-winning, veteran editor who has been a journalist for more than 20 years. He spent a decade as the top editor in three northern Illinois newsrooms for Shaw Media and Pioneer Press.