Coronavirus in Tennessee: State budget response to COVID-19 highlight of Governor Lee’s briefing

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NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) — The state budget response to COVID-19 dominated the governor’s now daily news briefing.

At the top of the list is a proposed $150 million fund that could be used for health and safety issues related to COVID-19. There’s now an additional $350 million in the state’s rainy day fund to ensure Tennessee remains prepared.

“We are really concerned about the impact that this is going to have on our economy and on businesses. We are talking to manufacturers about the possibility of shutting down if this continues the way they believe it will continue,” said Gov. Lee.

Then, there’s the $30 million more for the TEMA disaster relief fund and the previously announced $200 million of grants for local governments. No county will get less than $500,000 and no city less than $30,000.

“We have a lot of funds that we have put in place preparing for the day when we had an economic downturn, and we can use those funds right now,” said Gov. Lee.

The governor also wanted to make a statement to those worried about Tennessee’s food supply. Governor Lee urging Tennesseans to grocery shop as they normally would before the COVID-19 pandemic, since there is absolutely no need to stockpile or hoard. The food supply chain is strong, but Tennessee grocers are in need of additional employees and those seeking employment are encouraged to apply.

Governor Lee also touched on alternative workplace options for state employees. Currently, 15,000 state employees are working alternative workplace solutions. The Department of Human Services is rapidly acquiring equipment to place another 8,400 employees on AWS which will bring the total to more than 19,000 employees.

Roughly 37% of Tennessee’s state employee workplace performs functions that cannot transition to alternative workplace solutions, however.

Governor Lee also submitted a request to the Small Business Administration to officially pursue statewide relief opportunities for Tennesseans, pursuing loan assistance for small businesses, private and non-profit organizations with funds up to $2 million in assistance per business.

The Department of Health is working in conjunction with the Department of Military and TEMA to aggressively pursue every available avenue for medical supplies and personal protective equipment. The state authorized the order of an additional 570 ventilators to support Tennessee hospitals that may need the additional capacity.

“We are going to hold ventilators centrally, which allows us to look at need across the state. I hope that we don’t have to deploy any of those,” said Gov. Lee.

A reminder to donate blood to the American Red Cross, as the state is undergoing an urgent need due to recent tornado disasters and now COVID-19 concerns.

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