The Tennessee State House and Senate both passed the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act (SB 8002/HB 8001) which protects businesses from unfounded legal claims. The effort has been a primary focus of the statewide Chamber and Tennessee’s business and manufacturing community since the pandemic created the threat of unsupported COVID-19 liability claims. Legislative leaders in both the Senate and House have noted since the start of the special session on Aug. 10 that liability protections are a major priority to ensure Tennessee’s economic recovery.

On Wednesday, Aug. 12, the Tennessee COVID-19 Recovery Act passed both the House and Senate. Under this act, a covered entity will not be liable for any damages, injury, or death that results from a health emergency claim if the covered entity did not act with gross negligence or willful misconduct and substantially complied with applicable public health guidance.

  • A bill to expand telemedicine was approved requiring health insurance entities to reimburse providers for services performed in accordance with the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) telehealth rules, and authorizes a health insurance entity to consider any remote patient monitoring (RPM) as a covered service if it is also covered by Medicare.

  • Legislation was approved revising criminal laws to strengthen the punishment for vandalism, create new offenses for assaulting a first responder, establish mandatory minimum sentences for rioting, enhance the penalty for knowingly damaging or defacing government property, and make it a felony to camp on state property not designated for camping.

  • A bill to prohibit a government entity from intentionally preventing or prohibiting law enforcement or fire and rescue services from accessing any specific bounded area within the jurisdiction, and establishes that a government entity may be held liable for injury occurring due to law enforcement or fire and rescue being prohibited from accessing the area.
Tennessee Governor Bill Lee announced new and expanded financial relief programs for small businesses, agribusinesses, displaced workers, and the tourism industry through the federal Coronavirus Relief Fund (CRF). The Tennessee Small Business Relief Program will expand to include additional industries adversely impacted by reductions in commercial activity in April, with $83.5 million added to the program’s initial $200 million allotment.

Expansion of Tennessee Small Business Relief Program - $83,517,500
The Tennessee Small Business Relief Program will expand 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, below are the categories of small businesses that will be eligible under this expansion:
  • Caterers, Mobile Food Services, and Food Service Contractors
  • Wedding and Event Planners
  • Convention and Trade Show Organizers
  • Wedding and Banquet Hall and Similar Property Rental
  • Linen Supply Services
  • Photography Studios
  • Travel Agencies and Travel Arrangement Services
  • Car, Truck, Trailer, and RV Rental
  • Sightseeing and Tour Operators
  • Taxi, Limousine, Bus, and Other Transportation Services
  • Recreational Vehicle and Vacation Camps
  • 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

The expansion list will also include, among others, the following businesses that are now eligible if their sales were reduced by at least 25%, as shown on their April sales tax returns (filed in May):
  • Florists
  • Party and Banquet Equipment and Other Supply Rental
  • Formal Wear and Costume Rental
  • Consumer Electronics and Appliances Rental
  • General Rental Centers and Other Consumer Goods Rental
  • Gasoline 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 and Other Grocery Stores
  • Baked Goods and Other Specialty Food Stores
  • Beer, Wine, and Liquor Stores
  • Food Supplement Stores
  • Vending Machine Operators
  • New and Used Car Dealers
  • Recreational Vehicle, Boat, and Other Vehicle Dealers
  • Automotive Parts and Accessories Stores
  • Tire Dealers
  • Online Stores (selling from a Tennessee location)
  • Other Direct Selling Establishments

A full list of and instructions for eligible businesses will be available from the Tennessee Department of Revenue.
Agriculture and Forestry Economic Relief - $50 million
The Tennessee Department of Agriculture will establish an economic support program for agricultural businesses and forestry businesses to help ensure stability of the food supply chain and agribusiness economy. The department will accept applications for funding between August 17 through August 31 to make grant awards the week of September 14.
Tourism Industry Recovery Support - $25 million
The Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will utilize $25,000,000 from the CRF to remarket and support the State’s tourism industry recovery from the public health emergency. Of the total funding, $15,000,000 will be directly designated for destination marketing organizations (DMOs) in all 95 counties.
Workforce Development - $9.5 million
Tennessee will allocate $7.5 million to two established workforce development programs: Reemployment Service and Eligibility Assessment (RESEA) Program Expansion and Career and Training Services, and $2 million to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development’s Virtual American Jobs Center. These funds will provide reemployment services to a proposed 17,000 participants to return them to gainful, sustainable employment.

The City of Maryville publishes a daily web page that breaks down all the COVID-19 cases in Blount County. Bookmark it to make sure you know the facts.
Join us August 28 at 8:30 a.m. for a virtual Federal Legislative Briefing with Congressman Tim Burchett.

Register in advance for this meeting: 

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.
Join us Wednesday, August 26 from 9-10:30 a.m. for a hybrid webinar/networking event hosted by the Blount Chamber and Fire by Light, a Knoxville based training company specializing in helping people better engage with others in conversations and presentations, in both face-to-face and virtual environments.

After registering, you will receive a confirmation email containing information about joining the meeting.

  • Stop sabotaging yourself. Learn the easily implemented, but frequently overlooked, basics that make a difference when engaging virtually.
  • Get better at asking good questions and giving other people a chance to tell their stories.
  • Gain insights on how to concisely share your own stories in relevant ways.
  • Learn how to follow up without fear of being a nuisance.
Success in 90 Seminars
Creating the Resilient Firm of the Future
Sept. 2 at 8:30 a.m. | REGISTER HERE
In this session we will discuss business continuity and pandemic planning and the steps that your company can take now to protect your employees, make informed business decisions for returning to the workplace, working with clients and ensuring organizational resiliency and profitability. Presented by Kathryn Scourby, CBCP of KNS Consulting.
This feature is a question-and-answer session with a new Blount County Chamber member. So, here we go with our 161st installment visiting with Marcus Blair, managing partner of Poribar Consulting and Investing whose goal is to help small to medium-size businesses harness the power of data and cloud-based applications. We also consult on operations, Six Sigma, and support manufacturing clients. 

Describe what you do.
We develop cloud-based applications to help with data maintenance and facilitate analysis. We also teach companies how to analyze the data they already have to created more targeted marketing campaigns, determine the focus of their service offerings, and improve customer relationships.

How did you get started?
While working for a manufacturing MNC, I realized that larger companies were using data in ways their smaller competition simply couldn't. The vendors are exacerbating the problem by pushing the same product to everyone and charging outrageous service fees that smaller firms couldn't afford. Our entire reason for starting Poribar is to make digital transformation available for every single company. We build right-sized solutions for each customer, and are not selling them a pre-packaged product and then leaving.
What is your background?
Managing the aforementioned MNC's digital transformation taught me more about people than technology. People are the key to making any business transformation work. They have to feel involved and valued, or the technology will sink. It doesn't matter how great the solution is without people to use it.

Who is your mentor?
At this stage, my biggest mentor has been Dr. Jack Feng. He recruited into management, and he helped transform me from an overly energetic, unfocused worker bee to a strategic, globally-minded leader. He is an absolute master of change management, and his lessons on prioritizing cultural change over technological revolutions have served me well.

Describe your customers?
Our passion is helping smaller companies punch above their weight, but we can service any size firm. A typical manufacturer would be on the smaller end of the scale - under $250M in sales, for instance. Our non-manufacturing customers include any firm with data that needs captured, managed, or analyzed, but are too small to have a dedicated department or in-house expertise to handle it. We also develop application for any size company.

What is impacting your business?
The recent Congressional hearing for big tech will directly impact our business. If anti-trust laws lead to the break-up of tech companies - specifically, Amazon and their Web Services - an increase in the cost of cloud storage could come to pass. If Congress chooses to regulate the Apple App Store, it will lead to a shifting environment for application development. Some developers may quit selling applications altogether and work for specific clients, leading to increased competition, downward price pressure, and a decrease in quality.

What do you enjoy most about your profession?
I enjoy the idea of building something that helps level the playing field. Most firms run on Excel and Quickbooks, and we can help them in ways they never considered. Bringing access to people and showing them what can be possible and helping them be their best selves is the enjoyment in this work.
Please complete the 2020 Census and we ask that your family and friends do the same by September 30. Blount County has a response rate of 68.8% which is below the 71.6% response rate in 2010.

The process is simple and can be completed online.

There are 12 easy questions and no citizenship questions.
Why is this important?
The 2020 Census will determine congressional representation, inform hundreds of billions in federal funding every year, and provide data that will impact communities for the next decade.
The August 21 edition of soft skills classes offered by the Blount County Public Library is quickly approaching.

This Zoom Webinar session is entitled "Empowering and Motivating Employees." Here, you will learn to empower employees and enable better performance. Learn strategies to help employees be their best.

All participants will earn .5 CEUs per session for participating. They will also receive an email survey two months after workshop participation to assess application of new ideas.

August 21 from 9-10:30 a.m.
How prepared are you and your sales team to close the sale without showing the product or meeting the client in person?
The Tennessee Small Business Development Center is hosting a myriad of online training webinars to assist you in all facets of your businesses. Take advantage of training opportunities with the SBDC at no cost.

Get the Facts on PPP and EIDL
Hear from SBA every Monday and Friday at noon ET until December 21. Find out what is a myth and what is a truth on SBA loans for small businesses. REGISTER HERE 

August 18 from 9 a.m.-noon

August 18 form 4-6 p.m.

August 19 from 10-11:30 a.m.

August 20 from 1-2:30 p.m.

August 24 from 11 a.m.-noon

August 25 from 2-4 p.m.

August 27 from 1-2:15 p.m.

August 28 from 10-11:30 a.m.
Virtual Monthly Contracting Training for August
SBA Government Contracting Management and Technical Assistance Online Training: Learn the fundamentals of government contracting. For more information and to register for August trainings, click here.

SBA Virtual Events Navigating the National Crisis Series: Virtual training courses to help you navigate the COVID-19 national crisis and provide you strategies and tactics for managing contract changes, maximizing remote work effectiveness, staying afloat, identifying new opportunities, managing cashflow in a crisis, and growing your businesses in a down market in response to the COVID-19 global pandemic and U.S. National Emergency. For more information and to register, click here.

SBA Virtual Training on 8(a) Business Development and Government Contracting:  Connect to online training for every phase of the 8(a) Business Development Program. For more information and to register for August trainings, click here.

SBA Cybersecurity Online Training: Protect your business and compliance requirements through these webinars. For more information and to register for August trainings, click here.
33rd Annual Tax Conference - Virtual Workshop  
August 24 from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. ET
4 hours of CPE and CLE are approved

Grow with Google
Get Your Business on Google Search and Maps
Sept. 15 from 2-3 p.m. | REGISTER HERE

Learn about Google My Business, a free tool for local businesses that want to connect with customers on Google Search and Maps. Get (virtual) hands-on help in creating or updating your business profile or a simple website.

In this live webinar, you will learn how to:
• Create or claim your Business Profile on Google
• Manage your business info across Google Search and Maps
• Use Google My Business to connect with potential customers
• Create a free website using the info from your Business Profile
As businesses reopen across the state, Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group released guidance for businesses. The Tennessee Pledge guidelines recommend capacity limits, spacing requirements, and frequent sanitization, among others.
The full guidance offered by the state can be found here as well as printable guidelines.
If you aren't following us on social media, you must. We are constantly updating information as each day progresses. So, give us a like and stay up-to-date as we move through this crisis.
And follow tourism updates here:
Here's a great way to offer Member-to-Member deals using your chamber member account. Check the deals.

Members can post Coupons and Discounts to this page at no charge. Click Here
Topping the Billboard Top 100 this week in 2000 was "Incomplete" by Sisqó. It is Sisqó's third and most recent Hot 100 top 40 hit; within two years of its release, Sisqó would return to his role as Dru Hill's lead singer.