Gov. Lee announces stimulus funds for small businesses hurt by pandemic

Nikki Wharton, owner of Nicole Marie Nashville salon in Donelson. (Photo: Submitted)
Nikki Wharton, owner of Nicole Marie Nashville salon in Donelson. (Photo: Submitted)

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Nikki Wharton was supportive of safer-at-home orders in Nashville that forced her to close her Donelson neighborhood beauty salon Nicole Marie Nashville on March 19.

Like thousands of other small business owners, Wharton has tried to keep her head above water as the shutdown prevented the salon’s small team of stylists and her from working. She deferred rent and utility payments and waited for the reopening, which finally happened in Davidson County for the salon on May 25.

Wharton said it was especially frustrating as neighboring counties opened sooner than Davidson and her competitors could serve some of her clients, many of whom are not from Nashville.

Nicole Marie Nashville is one of thousands of Tennessee businesses Gov. Bill Lee is seeking to help with a stimulus program that will offer $200 million in grants from the federal CARES Act. The program will be administered by the Department of Revenue and business that earn an annual gross of $500,000 or less will qualify.

There is no need to apply, businesses will be sent the grants through the revenue department.

“This will be super helpful just because, while we were able to defer all our utilities and rent, we aren’t at the point yet where we can just pay those off,” Wharton said. “So yeah, this is super helpful.”

  While the COVID-19 crisis started as a public health crisis, the economic crisis it triggered is in some ways even more devastating.   – Lt. Gov. Randy McNally

Lee announced the $200 million in help for small businesses at a press conference at the popular meat-and-three Arnold’s Country Kitchen in Nashville on Tuesday. 

“The COVID-19 pandemic has created immense economic pain across our state and especially among small businesses that faced temporary closure,” Lee said in a press release. “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.”

Roughly 28,000 Tennessee businesses are expected to qualify, according to the governor’s office.

“While the COVID-19 crisis started as a public health crisis, the economic crisis it triggered is in some ways even more devastating. The burden the virus has placed on small businesses has been substantial,” Lt. Gov. Randy McNally said. “Jobs have been lost. Savings accounts have been drained. Credit has been stretched. Small businesses need this relief more than anyone.”

Lee’s administration provided a list of the kinds of businesses that will qualify, which includes beauty salons like Nicole Marie in addition to gyms, restaurants, bars and other small companies that were subject to the safer-at-home orders across the state.

Additionally, other kinds of businesses that saw April sales fall by at least 25 percent will also be eligible for grants, which will average $7,200 per business.