Chattanooga, TN – Governor Bill Lee announced on Friday that $83.5 million will be added to the initial 200$ million allocated to businesses through the Coronavirus Relief Fund. $25 million will be designated specifically to the tourism industry, with the remainder going to small businesses, agribusinesses, and displaced workers.
The tourism industry is receiving a huge portion of the additional stimulus due to the enormously destructive effects of the lockdowns. Foot traffic has decreased significantly, with many businesses often afraid of the ever-changing pandemic measures. The tourism industry is essentially on the frontlines of small business survival, as most of their business involves in-person service.
Chattanooga had a billion-dollar tourism industry in 2019, and now businesses are being provided relief up to $30,000 each. These are not just loans either, these are direct payments that do not have to be repaid.
“Tourism is the industry in Chattanooga and if these tourism businesses go out, then we’re going to be up a creek without a paddle,” said Amy Petulla, President and Owner of Chattanooga Ghost Tours, Inc.
The destruction of the tourism industry is going to drive up the rates of anxiety, depression, and suicide in Tennessee and the United States. Low income workers depend on this industry, and many Americans maintain their sanity through frequenting entertainment and tourist attractions.
It is estimated that 33,000 businesses in the State of Tennessee could be eligible for the new disbursement of financial assistance. At-risk industries that are most likely to collect the assistance include restaurants and bars, sensitive retail and manufacturing, travel and transportation, personal services, and entertainment.
“Those businesses employed one in four private sector workers in our state, a population that earns 40% less than average and is more likely to be minority, young, and have less education,” said Bryce Tuggle, a policy analyst at the Sycamore Institute. “COVID-related job cuts have hit black Tennesseans and the youngest workers disproportionately hard. The consequences of joblessness can be significant for financial and emotional well-being.” The tourism industry and many other small businesses are struggling to exist across Tennessee, which puts the well-being of many residents on the line. Wage-earners depend on these industries, and the anti-small business approach to the nation-wide lockdowns has put them all in a tough spot. The federal government also cannot dish out money to businesses forever. It is time for economic participation and the generation of revenue.