KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — Governor Bill Lee announced a new relief program for small businesses Tuesday. It uses about $200 million dollars from the Federal Cares Act.
About 28,000 Tennessee businesses are expected to qualify.
A light at the end of the tunnel has been difficult for some small business owners to see, but many in East Tennessee have reopened their doors.
"I've been in business for 43 years. I've never experienced anything like this," said Garde Bien Spa Salon owner Stacey Handel.
"We pivoted, we adapted and we overcame," said Old Forge Distillery manager Kris Tatum.
Both were able to get assistance from the federal paycheck protection program. It helped both stay in business.
"We've continued to bring people back through the increase in revenues," said Tatum.
"For the government offices to be patient and help us not be penalized for trying to stay on task i think that's important," said Handel. She hopes local governments continue to monitor small business successes and failures. "To see down the line more things need to be done to help small businesses stay afloat."
Tatum agrees saying small businesses aren't in the clear just yet.
"There's still a lot of unknowns but there's a little bit of comfort understanding the scope," Tatum said.
Both said the support since reopening has been tremendous, but a lot of work is still to come until they're fully back on their feet.
"We don't want to lose small businesses. We all understand how much they mean… they are the one on one, heart to heart, live people," said Handel.
Smart Bank alone said it helped about 1,000 businesses in Round 2 of PPP totaling over $50 million in loans.
The Knoxville Chamber said most businesses say they would need a minimum of five months to rebound.
In a recent economic survey, the Chamber said 52% of businesses who responded reported a decrease in sales and 62% characterized that decrease as "extreme" or "high."