$105K donated to assist region's businesses

David Floyd • Apr 30, 2020 at 9:00 AM

Almost two weeks after it launched, a local donation-supported fund designed to assist struggling small businesses has accumulated $105,000 and 170 applications for funding from regional business owners.

The $105,000 donated to the Local Business Recovery Fund includes $50,000 donated by BrightRidge Tuesday.

“Our board of directors understands small businesses are the backbone of our regional economy, and like all of our customers, have been greatly impacted by social distancing and work at home constraints,” BrightRidge CEO Jeff Dykes said in a press release emailed Wednesday.

Andy Dietrich, the former chairman of the Johnson City Area Chamber of Commerce and one of the fund’s organizers, said this money hasn’t been distributed yet, but he anticipates it will start late next week.

“We’ve had a lot more grant applications than money coming in so far, so we need to make it imperative, people and businesses out there, if they can donate, they need to donate, because there’s a lot of small businesses struggling,” Dietrich said.

He said an anonymous, 13-member committee composed of accountants, lawyers, business owners, economic leaders and representatives from the banking industry and higher education will review applications and determine who receives funding.

“We’ve got a wide variety of people, and they’re scattered across an entire region in Tennessee and Virginia to make it as fair as possible,” Dietrich said.

Small businesses in specific sectors with 50 or fewer employees are eligible to apply. Those sectors include arts, entertainment or recreation, accommodation and food services, retail trade and manufacturing.

Businesses must be located in Northeast Tennessee or Southwest Virginia to apply. Eligible locations include Carter, Greene, Hancock, Hawkins, Johnson, Sullivan, Unicoi and Washington counties in Tennessee and Buchanan, Dickenson, Lee, Russell, Scott, Smyth, Tazewell, Washington and Wise counties and the independent cities of Norton and Bristol in Virginia.

Even as Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee begins the process of reopening the state’s economy, Dietrich said there are still many small businesses that are struggling and remain closed.

With social distancing practices still being encouraged as the United States grapples with the novel coronavirus (COVID-19), Dietrich said it will continue to be a slow time for businesses in the region and across the U.S.

“We’re just trying to give them a lifeline to keep them afloat until things really start to ramp back up,” he said.

Donations can be submitted online at regionahead.com, the website for the Appalachian Highlands Economic Aid Directory. Individuals can also mail checks to Local Business Recovery Fund, 603 E. Market St., Johnson City TN 37601.

Information about how to apply for funding is also available on the website.

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