Gov. Bill Lee announced a new digital tool on Tuesday, Jan. 5, to help inform Tennesseans when they will be eligible to receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
The eligibility tool allows users to opt-in to receive updates and notifications about their vaccine phase and provides risk-based and age-based phase information at the county level.
‘Let’s Get to Work’
Gov. Bill Lee and Labor and Workforce Development Commissioner Jeff McCord on Dec. 9 announced a new campaign called “Let’s Get to Work Tennessee” to help people find meaningful employment.
As COVID-19 has caused significant disruptions to employment and the economy across the state, and with federal unemployment programs expiring soon, the new campaign encourages Tennesseans to join the workforce and secure one of the thousands of jobs currently available.
The ad is airing across the state on broadcast TV, cable, radio, outdoor and digital media.
Jobs4TN.gov currently has more than 240,000 active job postings of all skill levels. Tennessee has an integrated unemployment and workforce development system ready to assist Tennesseans in finding employment. With the expiration of federal unemployment programs quickly approaching, the state encourages claimants to continue searching for work so they can secure employment before their benefits end.
Governor Lee also signed Executive Order 69 today which reconstitutes the State Workforce Development Board. The board works to increase the competitive position of Tennessee businesses and attract new business through the development of a highly-skilled workforce.
Reconnect to Workforce
Governor Lee has announced Reconnect to Workforce, a partnership between the Tennessee Higher Education Commission’s Tennessee Reconnect program and the Department of Labor and Workforce Development that will assist up to 500,000 Tennesseans claiming unemployment benefits to earn a college degree while fulfilling work search requirements.
Tennessee Reconnect offers two years of tuition-free community or technical college by establishing last-dollar scholarships for eligible adults who have not yet obtained a degree.
Individuals from high-need populations make up a significant portion of grant recipients, including 58% having dependents and almost 70% making below $50,000. Last year, over 2,000 students were awarded a certificate or degree.
Federal unemployment benefits funded by the CARES Act will expire as claimants reach the maximum 39 weeks of payments in the coming weeks. The last day to claim federal unemployment benefits is December 26, 2020.
More information about Tennessee Reconnect is available here.
OSHA has published several new guidance documents on reducing the risk of catching and spreading COVID-19 for workers and employers in different industries.
Workers Wearing Face Coverings in Hot and Humid Conditions: OSHA published guidance on the use of cloth face coverings while working both indoors and outdoors in hot and humid conditions or while performing strenuous activities. Employers should follow this guidance to protect against the spread of COVID-19 and the risk of heat-related illness.
Compliance Safety and Health Officers: Read this memorandum that provides temporary enforcement guidance to Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) on Tight-Fitting Powered Air Purifying Respirators (PAPRs) used during the COVID-19 Pandemic.
Cleaning Staff: OSHA’s new poster outlines ways to keep janitorial and cleaning workers safe from coronavirus.
Restaurant Employees: Learn how to protect workers safe from exposure to coronavirus when restaurants resume dine-in service.
TN Pledge updated guidance
Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group has issued updated guidance for businesses and other activities under the Tennessee Pledge.
The updates follow guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and maintain an emphasis on key preventative measures such as wearing masks, social distancing, and frequent disinfection. The update follows executive orders signed by Gov. Bill Lee earlier this week.
The updated and streamlined guidance aligns with recent amendments to state-issued Executive Orders and enable Tennessee businesses to operate with more flexibility where social distancing protocols remain in place. Full guidelines can be found at TNpledge.com, and include such updates as:
- Rather than recommending strict capacity limitations for attractions and entertainment, guidelines focus on case-by-case flexibility and provide examples for incorporating social distancing.
- Focusing on preventing COVID-19 transmission from close physical contact rather than surface transmission, though regular disinfection and hand hygiene remain important. For example, retail establishments may resume use of reusable bags.
- Hotels may resume valet and reopen unstaffed gyms.
- Removing the recommendation to close playgrounds, provided that social distancing is followed to the extent possible.
Click here to download the TN Pledge (PDF).
State of emergency extended
On Sept. 29, Gov. Bill Lee said state of emergency in Tennessee will continue through October with adjustments made to previous executive orders.
Governor Lee signed Executive Order No. 63 to extend certain, targeted provisions of previous executive orders through Oct. 30, including the authority of local governments to institute mask requirements. Remaining restrictions on businesses and gathering sizes in the 89 counties with a state-run health department have been removed.
He also signed Executive Order No. 64, which extends through Oct. 30 provisions that allow for remote notarization and witnessing of documents. Click here to learn more.
Farm, Forestry Businesses Share in $55 Million CAFB Fund
Gov. Bill Lee, the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group, and the Tennessee Department of Agriculture has announced Coronavirus Agricultural and Forestry Business (CAFB) Fund awards to farm and forestry businesses. The department established the CAFB Fund with CARES Act resources to help ensure the stability of the food supply chain and agribusiness economy during the COVID-19 pandemic.
CAFB Fund provides financial assistance to agricultural, food, forestry, and nonprofit agricultural entities in Tennessee. Recipients were awarded based on four categories relative to COVID-19 impact and response: business disruption, pandemic response, supply chain enhancement, and increased meat processing capacity. Applicants who had not received COVID-19 relief funding from other available programs were given priority.
The department says over 1,000 applications with more than $335 million in requests were received. CAFB Fund relief will fund approximately 80 percent of applications. Approximately 40 percent of the funds were awarded to resolve supply chain issues and 60 percent to cover COVID-19 losses and expenses. Priority areas of the relief funding were meat processors, forestry businesses, milk processors, and agricultural fairs. The department will continue working with F&A on the management of funds that will be distributed on a reimbursement basis.
Small business survey
Governor Lee’s Economic Recovery Group is conducting another brief survey that helps them track the sentiments of business owners across the state.
This survey is open through Thursday, Sept. 3If you have a moment to participate, your input will be very valuable to the Economic Recovery Group.
TN Applies for FEMA funds to pay additional unemployment benefits
The state Department of Labor & Workforce Development announced it is submitting an application to the Federal Emergency Management Agency to receive grant funding to pay an additional weekly unemployment benefit to claimants. The action comes after President Donald Trump’s recent executive order.
The enhanced benefit will fund an additional $300 weekly payment (decreased from $600, which expired July 31) for a total maximum possible benefit of $575 (TN’s maximum weekly benefit is $275). The payments will be retroactive to Aug 1 and will continue until either Congress passes another stimulus package or FEMA’s total disaster fund balance lowers to $25 billion.
“Unlike the Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation Program (FPUC) that ended in July, the Lost Wages Supplemental Payment Assistance program (LWA) is a grant with a finite amount of funding ($44 billion). When the federal program exhausts its grant funding, it will no longer have the resources to provide LWA payments and the program will end at that time. If the federal program does not exhaust the LWA grant funding, payments will end in Tennessee on December 26, 2020,” the Tennessee Department of Labor said in a statement on Tuesday.
TN Department of Health guidance on returning to work
The Tennessee Department of Health has issued guidance saying it does not recommend a negative COVID-19 test before allowing an employee to return to work.
If someone tests positive for the novel coronavirus, the Department of Health requires them to isolate at home for at least 10 10 days and show no symptoms for at least 72 hours before resuming normal activities. The department says it isn’t necessary to have a negative test result to be released from isolation. Click here to learn more.
State of emergency extended until Aug. 29
Governor Lee has signed an executive order extending Tennessee’s state of emergency until Aug. 29.
The order, which the governor signed on Monday, June 29, allows the continued suspension of various laws and regulations and other measures in these orders to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19 through regulatory flexibility, promoting social distancing and avoidance of large gatherings, and protecting vulnerable populations. Lee also signed executive orders extending provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards and remote notarization and witnessing of documents. Click here to learn more.
Governor Lee’s Economic Recovery Group has begun its third survey to see how Tennessee businesses are handling the pandemic. State officials will use the results to develop plans addressing the coronavirus and the safe reopening of the economy. Click here to take the survey.
New guidelines for close-contact businesses, large venues
Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group has issued updated guidelines today for close contact-service businesses, exercise facilities, and recreation activities under the Tennessee Pledge.
Updated guidelines for close contact services, exercise facilities, and recreation activities now focus on social distancing measures rather than strict capacity limits. In addition, the guidelines for close contact businesses also provide guidance for resuming certain services that require the removal of face-coverings.
ERG also expanded guidance for attractions and large venues to include recommendations for large community events such as fairs and festivals. To protect Tennesseans from the spread of COVID-19, venues should implement measures to encourage social distancing, reduce occupancy and crowd density, encourage the use of cloth face coverings and increase sanitization.
Full guidelines can be found on TNpledge.com for:
· Close-contact businesses
· Exercise facilities
Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan counties may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with state and local health departments.
NFIB, State Chamber call for liability protections
NFIB State Director Jim Brown and Tennessee Chamber President and CEO Bradley Jackson wrote a guest column that ran in the May 27 edition of The Tennesseean asking legislators to pass liability protections for employers impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic: “We urge all Tennesseans to support reasonable liability protection in response to this pandemic and to allow Tennessee businesses to have the chance to reopen safely and confidently. A successful economic comeback for our state depends on both.” Click here to read the column.
Take the survey: Governor seeks business recovery input
Governor Bill Lee’s administration is seeking input from businesses statewide to measure recovery efforts and to improve business conditions. Take the survey here.
NFIB state director on the radio
NFIB State Director Jim Brown was a guest on “All About Nashville” Friday on WXNA-101.5 FM in Nashville. He talked about efforts to help Tennessee’s get through the COVID-19 crisis. Click here to listen.
New guidelines for restaurants, retail
The state’s Economic Recovery Group issued updated guidelines on May 20 for restaurants and retail, along with new guidelines that enable attractions and larger venues to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions on or after May 22. Click here for details.
TN eases restrictions on shops and restaurants
On Friday, May 15, the state’s Economic Recovery Group announced it will lift capacity restrictions on restaurants and retail to instead focus on social distancing best practices effective May 22. It also will issue guidelines to help larger, non-contract attractions reopen safely on or after May 22. New Tennessee Pledge guidelines will be released early next week.
The large attractions guidance applies to businesses that can “effectively practice social distancing,” such as racetracks, amusement parks, waterparks, theaters, and museums. Restrictions on social gatherings of more than 10 people remain in place for the time being. Details here.
Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with State and local health departments.
State adds $266M to Unemployment Trust Fund
Governor Bill Lee’s administration has shifted more than $266 million of available federal monies to the state’s unemployment trust fund. Before the pandemic, the fund was at $1.2 billion; since mid-March, state payouts to claimants has neared $300 million. Commissioner of Finance & Administration Butch Eley told the Daily Memphian, “We’d like to be able to fill it up proportionally to be where we were.” This is good news for employers because it will keep the fund balance above tax triggers that would begin at $850 million. NFIB continues to advocate for further contributions, as needed, to keep additional pressure off struggling independent businesses during the pandemic.
Refusal to work could jeopardize unemployment benefits
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development says federal guidelines state that individuals must be willing and able to work to receive unemployment benefits.
Not returning to work when there is available employment may be considered a “refusal of work” and could potentially disqualify claimants from receiving TUC benefits.
The federal CARES Act provides provisions for individuals who have traditionally been ineligible for state unemployment benefits, but those provisions do not apply to employees apprehensive about returning to work because of health concerns.
Under federal law, workers who have been placed on a temporary layoff related to COVID-19 who can work, and do not qualify for any other Unemployment Insurance provisions through the state or under the CARES Act, must return to work if called back. Learn more here.
Take Governor Lee’s COVID-19 small business survey
Governor Lee’s administration is encouraging small business owners to complete a brief online 15-question COVID-19 Response Survey. Complete the survey here.
‘Close-contact’ businesses to begin opening
Governor Lee has said that close-contact services such as salons and barbershops in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties will be able to reopen at limited capacity on May 6. The governor’s Economic Recovery Group, of which NFIB is an advisory member, on Thursday issued industry-specific guidance for those businesses. Read about it here.
NFIB TN director speaks at Nashville mayor’s daily briefing
NFIB State Director Jim Brown was asked to speak at Nashville Mayor John Cooper’s daily briefing on the city’s response to the coronavirus.
Brown talked about additional funding for federal Paycheck Protection Program loans and NFIB’s 10-point legislative agenda to help Tennessee’s small businesses survive the COVID-19 crisis.
Guidelines for gyms
Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group has announced guidance for gyms and exercise facilities on how to reopen safely. Gyms will be allowed to reopen in 89 of the state’s 95 counties beginning Friday, May 1. The counties excluded are those with locally-run health departments: Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, and Sullivan. The rules include limiting members to 50% of fire-code capacity and maintaining social distancing. Learn more here.
State issues business interruption FAQ’s
The Department of Commerce & Insurance has issued FAQs for insurance policyholders inquiring about business interruption clauses in their contracts. Read their guidance here.
SBA releases list of PPPL lenders
Department of General Services FAQ
The state Department of General Services’ Central Procurement Office is handling many requests for personal protective equipment or emergency supplies such as respirators, masks, hand sanitizer, disinfectant wipes, and disinfectant spray, and is handling grant requests to help local government agencies. Vendors or donors with equipment for sale or donation to the state should contact COVID.PPEVendors@tn.gov or COVID.PPEDonations@tn.gov. Click here to learn more.
Most businesses in 89 counties allowed to re-open May 1
Governor Lee says the order for people to remain at home will expire on April 30 and that most businesses in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties will be allowed to reopen on May 1. “These businesses will open according to specific guidance that we will provide in accordance with state and national experts in both medicine and business,” Lee said. The governor’s office plans to work with six other counties — Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan — as they develop their own reopening strategies. Details here.
NFIB TN director speaks at Nashville mayor’s COVID-19 briefing
Nashville Mayor Jim Cooper asked NFIB State Director Jim Brown to speak at the mayor’s daily news COVID-19 news conference on Friday, April 17. Brown addressed the urgent need for Congress to approve additional funding for Paycheck Protection Program loans. He also cited the recent NFIB survey showing that about half of small business owners can continue only two months under current conditions. Click here to watch the full news conference, or click here to watch Brown’s presentation.
Brown named to Economic Recovery Group
Brown has been named to Governor Lee’s Economic Recovery Group, a joint effort between state departments, legislators and business leaders to develop a strategy for safely rebooting Tennessee’s economy. Lee said, “As we work to safely open Tennessee’s economy, this group will provide guidance to industries across the state on the best ways to get Tennesseans back to work.” Read more about it here.
Stimulus Financial Accountability Group
Governor Lee on April 16 announced the Stimulus Financial Accountability Group to ensure proper fiscal management of stimulus funds received by the state through the Coronavirus Relief Fund created by the CARES Act. Tennessee projects a distribution of approximately $2.3 billion from the fund. Details here.
COVID workers’ comp presumption in TN?
At least nine states have or are considering changes to their workers’ compensation laws relating to the coronavirus. Most provide presumptions that a COVID-19 illness is compensable for health care workers and safety professionals (firefighters, first responders, police officers). There is now pressure in some states to include other essential workers such as grocery store employees. In many of these states, changes have been made in response to political pressure. States have made the changes by rule or executive order. Illinois recently made the change with the issuance of an “emergency” rule.
In Tennessee, any rule must be in keeping with existing law; there is no law that provides a presumption for a pandemic illness. Policymakers should keep in mind that presumptions given may be hard to retract once the emergency has passed. If a state’s workers’ compensation system is working as it should, a person with a valid job-related injury/illness will have a compensable claim and a presumption statute is not necessary. If an employer denies a claim that should be paid, that employer will face negative consequences. Tennessee has both a penalty and the possibility of having to pay the employee’s legal expenses if an employer wrongfully denies coverage. In the final analysis, however, this is and should only be a policy question for the legislature to determine.
COVID OSHA update
The U.S. Department of Labor announced recently that confirmed cases of COVID-19 will not have to be included as recordable incidents for Occupational Safety and Health Administration recordkeeping purposes unless there is objective evidence available to them that the cases are work-related. OSHA noted that determining whether a worker contracted COVID-19 while performing work duties is difficult given ongoing community spread. The announcement helps to protect companies from unfounded liability claims while allowing businesses to focus on hygiene and safety procedures at their facilities. Read the OSHA enforcement memo here.
Safer at Home order extended
On Monday, April 13, Governor Lee extended his Safer at Home order until April 30. His original order was set to expire at 11:59 p.m. on Tuesday. Lee said he made the decision to extend the order through the end of the month after consulting with the White House.
Economic Recovery Group announced
The governor also announced an Economic Recovery Group to develop a plan to “reboot” the state’s economy as early as next month. It will be led by Tourism Development Commissioner Mark Ezell. Lee said the “safety and health of Tennesseans is utmost,” but “we also can’t keep our economy shut down.”
Department of Labor FAQ for employers
The Tennessee Department of Labor and Workforce Development has posted a FAQ for employers dealing with furloughs related to the coronavirus. Read it here.
Filing Extension for Professional Privilege Tax
The Tennessee Department of Revenue has extended the due date for filing and paying the professional privilege tax from June 1 to July 1, 2020. Details here.
FAQ’s on TN’s mandatory ‘safer at home’ order
On April 2, Governor Bill Lee issued a “shelter in place” order, several days after issuing a “safer at home” order. NFIB has partnered with the Beacon Center of Tennessee to produce FAQ’s to help understand what these orders mean for small businesses. Read it here.
ECD webinars for SBA loan questions
The Tennessee Economic & Community Development Departments is hosting the SBA for twice-daily webinars for SBA-loan related inquiries, Monday through Friday. To register, visit https://tnecd.com/covid-19-resources/.
Governor issues 2-week ‘safer at home’ order, closes non-essential businesses
Gov. Bill Lee has issued a two-week statewide order closing non-essential businesses and telling Tennesseans to stay at home “as much as possible.” The order takes effect at 11:59 p.m. Tuesday, March 31, and lasts through April 14. Click here to read Executive Order 22 and an attachment listing the kinds of businesses the state considers essential.
The governor also issued an executive order specifying the kinds of businesses that should remain closed to prevent the spread of the deadly coronavirus. The list includes hair salons, movie theaters, music venues, and bowling alleys. Click here to read Executive Order 21.
Business tax filing deadline extended
The state Department of Revenue has extended the due date for filing and paying the Business Tax from April 15 to June 15, 2020. Details here.
Metro asks Nashville businesses to post flyers
Metro Nashville/Davidson County has requested all business owners in Davidson County to prominently post these two flyers (download them here and here) where it is visible for customers and employees as they enter and move around the premises. If you have any questions, please contact Brian Todd, Public Information Officer with the Metro Public Health Department of Nashville/Davidson County at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Nashville remains under a “Safer at Home Order” issued by the Metro Public Health Department on March 15. All individuals living in Davidson County should stay in their homes, unless absolutely necessary, or if they work for essential businesses and government services.
Tax deadline extended
On March 24, Governor Bill 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.
At this time, the business tax due date remains the same (April 15), while the Hall income tax due date is still the 15th day of the fourth month following the end of your fiscal year. NFIB will update our members if this changes. As noted on the Tennessee Department of Revenue’s COVID-19 webpage, sales & use tax filings and payments remain due on the 20th day of each month.
For more information on these and other tax matters, follow the Department’s webpage on COVID-19 and tornado disaster relief.
As small businesses across the country are grappling with the current and potential impacts associated with COVID-19, NFIB is continuing to track the latest developments from healthcare officials, congress and the administration. We know small business owners are acting now to take necessary precautions, but also need to understand how actions taken by policymakers today affect business operations down the road.