Gov. Bill Lee has rejected Metro Nashville’s request for an additional $83 million in COVID-19 relief funding.
During a press conference on Thursday, Lee cited Metro’s decision to continue imposing restrictions on businesses as one reason not to accept the request.
He said that approach is not consistent with the state’s.
“Metro Nashville is the least rapidly recovering economy of all metro regions in the United States, as of right now,” Lee said. “That means, in my view, that our strategy in that particular place from an economic standpoint is not an effective one.”
In a statement Thursday evening, Nashville Mayor John Cooper said his office followed the guidance coming from the White House. He defended his request and said it is his job to advocate for the city.
“The deep economic injury from the pandemic is still with us,” Cooper said. “We should, of course, ask for any available help to serve our people and our businesses during this crisis.”
Lee’s public comments came on the same day Nashville eased some capacity limits on bars and restaurants. However, Lee had sent a letter to Cooper on Wednesday notifying him of his decision.
In it, Lee said Metro Nashville has already received $2.5 billion from the state, making it the highest per capita relief of any other county in Tennessee.
“I must share my deep concern that, of the $93 million in Coronavirus Relief Fund dollars spent to date by your administration, only $5.7 million has been budgeted to relief to businesses,” Lee said in the letter. “This concern is heightened by the ongoing challenges ahead for Nashville business owners who have already endured some of the most restrictive limitations on commercial activity, as well as a recently enacted property tax increase.”
Lee said giving Nashville additional money would take away funding from other counties in the state that might need it.
This story was updated Thursday night to include a comment from Mayor Cooper.