Tennessee is looking for the best way to spend $272 million in coronavirus relief funds by the end of the year, and the money will likely go to familiar initiatives.
“Ultimately, we’ll have plenty of options available to exhaust the remainder of the coronavirus relief fund,” says, Tony Niknejad, policy director for Gov. Bill Lee.
The financial stimulus accountability group is charged with overseeing the spending but has largely followed the governor’s lead. The governor’s office has three priorities for the remaining money.
- Tripling the size of a popular small business grant program. The state set aside $50 million for businesses to apply for money to help make up losses during the pandemic. But in the last month, the state received roughly $150 million in requests.
- Sending more money to local governments. Counties have requested an additional $200 million to shore up their budgets. This includes Nashville.
- Keeping some of the money in its own coffers to cover the salaries of employees working solely on the pandemic. The state has identified $187 million that could potentially qualify under federal rules.
The state has received about $1.7 billion in flexible federal money for coronavirus relief. More than half was funneled into the state’s unemployment trust fund in order to avoid raising unemployment taxes on businesses, as many states are now having to do.
In all, the state is benefiting from roughly $25 billion in federal stimulus. The largest share went companies through the Paycheck Protection Program. The next largest line item has been the nearly $6 billion that went directly to households in the form of stimulus checks.