By HANK HAYES
KINGSPORT — Aundrea Wilcox says her organization is “receiving emails left and right” from Tennessee officials begging for local businesses to participate in the Tennessee Business Relief Program.
“It would be an incredible shame to leave this money on the table,” Wilcox, executive director of the Kingsport Office of Small Business and Entrepreneurship (KOSBE), said in an email. “Some businesses are under the impression that they do not need to do anything to receive these funds, which is not the case.”
More than 40,000 small business owners across 60 industries qualify for the Tennessee Business Relief Program. Eligible businesses have until Sept. 25 to confirm their information with the Department of Revenue in order to receive a relief payment between $2,500 and $30,000 in no-cost funds from the state.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has placed an enormous strain on Tennessee’s small businesses, and we’re hopeful these relief payments will help alleviate that burden as businesses get back on their feet,” said Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee. “We’re excited for this tool to help small businesses get the relief they need.”
The Lee administration recently announced $83.5 million has been added to the program’s initial $200 million allotment.
The program has expanded to include additional businesses provided they have less than $10 million in annual gross sales and fall within an industry impacted by executive-order limitations on activities, gatherings and other non-essential businesses and activities; or a retail industry that experienced a 25% reduction in taxable sales in the month of April due to the public health emergency.
In addition to the original list of eligible businesses, the categories of small businesses that are eligible include: caterers, mobile food services and food service contractors; wedding and event planners; convention and trade show organizers; linen supply services; photography studios; travel agencies; car, truck, trailer and RV rentals; sightseeing and tour operators; taxi, limousine, bus and other transportation services; sports and recreation instruction; fine arts instruction, exam prep, driving schools and other similar instruction; motion picture and video production and distribution services; music production, distribution and publishing services; sound recording studios; florists; party and banquet equipment rental; formal wear and costume rental; consumer electronics and appliances rental; gas stations and convenience stores; warehouse clubs and general merchandise stores; home centers, hardware stores and paint stores; household appliance and electronics stores; nurseries, garden centers and outdoor power equipment stores; pharmacies and drug stores; optical goods stores; cosmetics, beauty supply and perfume stores; supermarkets; baked goods and other specialty food stores; beer, wine and liquor stores; food supplement stores; vending machine operators; new and used car dealers; boat dealers; automotive parts stores; tire dealers; online stores (selling from a Tennessee location); and other direct selling establishments.
Wilcox said businesses should do three things: 1) Check their email. Search for “Tennessee Business Relief” or “TNTAP” or “revenue.support.” If they discover an email, they should follow the instructions. 2) If they do not discover an email, check eligibility by going to: https://businessrelief.tn.gov/. Follow the instructions provided. 3) Contact KOSBE if they are confused or stuck.
“An error message that I am seeing a lot is ‘The entered information does not match our records,’ ” Wilcox noted.
“As frustrating as this is, business owners should not give up at this point. Instead, they need to seek further help.”