COVID-19 Update from Tennessee State Director Jim Brown

Date: March 25, 2020

I am grateful for the NFIB more than ever right now in this very uncertain time. – NFIB member in Madison  

Greetings, NFIB member in Tennessee:  

I hope you are managing the current economic uncertainty as well as possible. We’ve heard from many of you with challenges, many questions and frankly, a lot of frustration. 

I wanted to share an update on federal and state legislation and happenings that will impact your business, some of it greatly. I echo what the NFIB member in Madison emailed me this morning – it’s never been more important to be at the table and have the information you need to navigate change and uncertainty. NFIB delivers that to your small business. Here goes …  

The latest from Washington, D.C. 

Last night, leaders announced an agreement on the CARES Act, which now must clear both chambers before going to President Trump for his signature. NFIB’s federal team has been actively engaged with Congress on the bill to craft a $367 billion relief package for small business that will provide near-immediate cash flow through forgivable loans, once enacted.

NFIB’s advocacy was essential since so many small businesses were abruptly impacted by the coronavirus, with plummeting sales, supply chain challenges, and various state and local “stay at home” orders. A key part of the relief package for small business is the forgivable loan provision that can be used not only for payroll expenses but also for rent, utilities and other defined business expenses (stay tuned)

The legislation hopefully will stem the tide of unemployment claims and help many small employers stay in business and bring back furloughed workers. The $2 trillion package also includes additional unemployment monies of $600 a week (added to what the state will pay; weekly max in TN is $275/week) to the unemployed, which is supposed to include independent contractors and small business owners. 

For an excellent update earlier today, here’s NFIB Legislative Affairs Director Kevin Kuhlman earlier today on C-SPAN’s Washington Journal.   

For “Live Updates and Coronavirus Help (Small Business Financial Resources)” visit our main web page at NFIB.com. You will find the latest information on where legislation stands, important relief and compliance information on the CARES and Families First legislation and emerging regulations, and critical links. Also: Download the NFIB Engage app to stay current on fast-moving developments. 

The latest from Nashville 

On March 22, Governor Bill Lee announced a statewide ban on gatherings of more than 10 people, dining in at restaurants and working out at gyms. The executive order runs through April 6. Several local governments have issued orders for Tennesseans to stay at home with certain exceptions. 

In these jurisdictions, NFIB members have been scrambling to find out if their businesses are considered essential so they can continue to operate as normal. Check your local government website to find out. 

Many NFIB members report they have adopted CDC-recommended guidelines like social distancing and enhanced disinfecting and cleaningwhile many are working with their customers’ specific on-site requests. NFIB continues to encourage the governor to keep Tennessee open for business while supporting enhanced health and safety measures to slow the spread of the virus and “flatten the curve.” 

Last week, the Tennessee General Assembly passed an emergency budget before adjourning until June 1. Due to the serious nature of the virus, proposed funding priorities shifted away from new programs and tax relief (professional privilege tax cut) and toward a significant increase in contributions to the Rainy Day Fund ($350 million)health-related funds to combat COVID-19, and more monies ($100 million) for local governments. 

Beginning March 16, state buildings were closed to the publichearings and debates were live-streamed, with lawmakers pledging that legislation that was only mission-critical, like the budget, would be heard. NFIB and the Tennessee Chamber of Commerce & Industry strongly objected to one bill being heard without public input – a fast-tracked proposal to change the process for property tax appeals. The bill would have eliminated “Fair Market Value” assessmentswhich has been state law since 1984. Lawmakers eventually agreed to postpone the debate until they reconvene and when proceedings once again will be open. 

Yesterday, Governor Lee announced that the state has extended the due date for filing and paying franchise and excise tax from April 15, 2020, to July 15, 2020. This is welcome news for many independent businesses, especially after the IRS’s announcement last week that the due date for federal income taxes has been moved to July 15. NFIB advocated for the state extension to help many of our members with cash flow challenges as a result of the COVID-19 virus; we thank the governor and his administration for this flexibility during uncertain economic times. Read more here. 

Several important bills to small business could be heard this summer when/if legislators come back to Nashville. We’ll keep you posted. 

What’s next? 

NFIB remains actively engaged with federal and state leaders and other business groups. We are sharing updates and information via our TN website and our Twitter feed at @nfib_tn. We are sharing your stories with the media. We are closely monitoring the increase in unemployment claims and the balance in our Unemployment Trust Fund. Your input helps us. 

These are trying timesMiddle Tennessee experienced devastating weather this month, and small business optimism has shifted significantly. Like you, we’re in it for the long haul. We are proud of how communities and our leaders are responding to the tornadoes. We are proud of the resilience and adaptability we’re seeing and hearing from our members statewide. We’re proud to be part of a great state and a great NFIB team. 

We want to hear from you. You can email your questions or call us, anytime. Thank you again for being an NFIB member. 

Gratefully, 

Jim Brown
Tennessee State Director
[email protected]
615-337-5507

 

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