July 8, 2020
On Friday, Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 54 to give county mayors in 89 of Tennessee’s 95 counties the authority to issue face covering ordinances to combat the spread of COVID-19. The six remaining metropolitan counties, who are unaffected by this EO, have had the ability to put in place these ordinances through their county health departments. These counties are Sullivan, Knox, Hamilton, Davidson, Madison and Shelby.
Governor Lee said, “While our densely populated urban areas continue to have the highest COVID-19 case rates, our local governments expressed a need for greater flexibility in addressing a rise in cases and that includes setting stronger expectations around masks,” said Gov. Lee. “This targeted approach ensures we protect both lives and livelihoods and safely keep our economy open in Tennessee. We encourage every Tennessean across the state to use a face covering or mask, make sure to socially distance and wash hands frequently.”
Davidson, Hamilton, Madison, Knox, Robertson, Sevier, Sumner, Shelby and Williamson counties have issued mask requirements for all citizens when in public places. Montgomery County has issued a mask requirement for all employees of businesses open to the public.
EO 54 provides that any county mask requirement should align to CDC recommendations and should provide specific exemptions including the following:
- Within one’s residence or automobile, unless transporting others for hire;
- By a child twelve (12) years of age or younger;
- By someone who has trouble breathing due to an underlying health condition or another bona fide medical or health-related reason for not wearing a face covering;
- By someone who is incapacitated or otherwise unable to remove the cloth face covering without assistance;
- While eating or drinking;
- While outdoors, unless the person cannot substantially maintain appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household;
- While working under conditions where appropriate social distancing from others outside of the person’s household is substantially maintained;
- In situations in which wearing a face covering poses a safety or security risk;
- While in a house of worship unless required by that house of worship, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged;
- While in a voting site for the purpose of voting or administering an election, but wearing a face covering in such locations is strongly encouraged.
Yesterday, the Governor also announced $81 Million in Coronavirus Relief Grants for K-12 and Higher Education Institutions. The K-12 funds include $11 million for grants to school districts to support reopening efforts and $50 million for support technology grants that can be used on wi-fi devices, laptops, or any other devices needed to support reopening. The higher education funds will provide $20 million in grants to public and nonprofit private higher education institutions to cover costs associated with social distancing and the transition to online learning.
June 29, 2020
Today, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 50, extending the state of emergency declaration related to the COVID-19 crisis until at least August 29, 2020. To help facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19, the order also extended provisions from Executive Order No. 36 and Executive Order No. 38 until August 29 as they were set to expire this week. Tennessee continues to see a rise in COVID-19 cases as the economy has reopened.
Executive Order No. 50
Executive Order No. 50 extends previous provisions urging Tennesseans to wear face masks, limiting social and recreational gatherings of 50 or more persons, and urging employers to allow telework where possible. The ability to order takeout and delivery of alcoholic drinks from restaurants is extended but bars may only serve customers seated at appropriately spaced tables and must follow the Economic Recovery Group Guideline. Many health care and pharmacy related provisions were extended including:
- Limiting nursing home and long-term-care facility visitation
- Increased access to telehealth
- Allows out-of-state health care providers to practice in Tennessee
- Prescriptions available in 90-day supply
- Increased availability of home health services
- Laboratory inspections are suspended to allow for immediate COVID-19 testing.
- Pharmacists can process prescriptions remotely
- Pharmacist are allowed to supervise more pharmacy technicians
- All Licensed health care providers can practice telemedicine
- Retired medical professionals can easily reenter the health care workforce
- Health care licenses, certificates, and registrations are extended until August 31, 2020
- Testing for COVID-19 can occur at more medical laboratory facilities
- Allows for more widespread testing related to COVID-19
Executive Orders No. 51 and 52
Governor Lee also signed Executive Order Nos. 51 and 52, which extend provisions that allow for electronic government meetings subject to transparency safeguards and remote notarization and witnessing of documents to August 29, 2020.
June 4, 2020
Update on State of Tennessee Revised Budget
In a follow up to last week’s presentation to the Senate Finance Ways Committee, Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley appeared before both the House and Senate Finance Committees today. Eley presented the Lee Administration’s plan for a multi-year approach to bring the Tennessee State Budget back to structural balance. According to economists, the economic fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic will create a projected deficit of $500,000,000 for FY 19-20 and $1,000,000,000 for FY 20-21.
To close out the current fiscal year ending on June 30, the state will utilize non-tax revenues, agency savings and reserves. While the impact of the COVID-19 crisis certainly affected the last few months of FY 19-20, the brunt of the financial impact is anticipated to be reflected in FY21 and beyond.
The administration proposed an additional $284 million in reductions for FY 20-21 on top of the $397 million the General Assembly slashed from the budget in March. The bulk of the $284 million in cuts are either reductions or eliminations of previously planned budget increases. Only $30 million in base reductions are reflected in the new document.
In FY 20-21, the state will utilize reserves to lessen the impact of immediate spending reductions, allowing for thoughtful review of business practices for greater efficiencies and creative delivery of vital services as well as the development of strategic plans to reduce the employee workforce over the next two years. A hiring freeze has been in place since March. The state has reserve funds totaling $4 billion, including the Rainy Day Fund, which will reach $1.2 billion after an additional deposit of $325 million at the end of the fiscal year on June 30.
State is Committed to Fully Funding
- Basic Education Program (BEP) for K-12 public schools
- Contributions to the state employee pension fund
- State payments for employee health insurance
- Debt service requirements
Measures to Help Achieve Multi-year Reductions
- Up to 12% reductions through greater efficiencies in all departments
- Reductions in new capital projects and funding for capital maintenance
- Authorizing bonds for existing capital projects previously funded with cash
- An employee buy-out initiative to reduce the state workforce over the next two years
Nashville to Remain in Phase 2 For Now
Mayor John Cooper announced today that given the recent uptick in case numbers, more data is needed before Nashville can move into Phase 3 of the Roadmap for Reopening Nashville Plan. Nashville moved into Phase 2 on May 25 with a 14 day window of improving metrics required to move to the next phase. Mayor Cooper said that his administration will be “examining our public health benchmarks every day, with a goal of starting Phase Three as soon as it’s safely possible.”
June 3, 2020
Governor Lee Announces $200 Million Relief Program for Small Businesses
Governor Bill Lee, Lt. Gov. Randy McNally, House Speaker Cameron Sexton, and the Financial Stimulus Accountability Group announced yesterday the creation of the Tennessee Business Relief Program for Tennessee businesses affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. The program will direct approximately $200 million in federal Coronavirus Relief Funds through the Department of Revenue directly to small businesses that qualify with the award amounts based on the annual gross sales of the business.
The program is primarily aimed to help small businesses that were forced to close and did not receive PPP funding. Roughly 28,000 Tennessee businesses are expected to qualify, with more than 73% of those businesses earning annual gross sales of $500,000 or less. While currently not eligible, Lt. Gov. McNally said he is hopeful that the program will soon be expanded to include non-profits, trade groups, and chambers of commerce.
The program’s payment timeline has yet to be released but guidance will be posted on the Tennessee Department of Revenue website in the coming days. An eligible business will be identified by the Tennessee Department of Revenue so no application will be necessary and payments will come as direct deposits or by check. Businesses are encouraged to update their information on file with the state at tntap.tn.gov/eservices.
May 28, 2020
State Revenue Projections and Budget Realities Discussed
Newly appointed Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley addressed the Senate Finance Ways and Means Committee today, one day after Tennessee’s leading economists discussed estimates for state tax revenues with the State Funding Board. Using the projections provided by the economists, Tennessee anticipates that several hundred millions of dollars is needed to make up for the revenue shortfall to close Fiscal Year 2020. Eley said that the pandemic’s financial impact on Fiscal Year 2021 will be more significant, with estimates between $500 million and $1.5 billion in shortfalls.
Eley said that the Lee Administration will hope for the best and prepare for the worst as they prepare balanced budgets. To that end, Eley said that every cost savings measure remains on the table including bonding approved capital projects, eliminating state employee salary increases, staffing reductions, increasing reliability on technology to create efficiencies, employing agency reserves for operational costs, and, in a worst case scenario, drawing down from the state’s Rainy Day Fund. The state is statutorily required to realize every other cost efficiency before drawing from the Rainy Day Fund.
Eley has instructed each state department to present Governor Lee with a plan to cut costs by 12 percent by June 30. Eley was quick to caution that this does not mean that every department will have their budget cut by 12 percent, but that this important exercise that will allow the Lee Administration to better understand where recurring expenses may be eliminated. Notably, Eley said that cuts to the Basic Education Program (BEP), the funding formula through which state education dollars are generated and distributed to Tennessee schools, are off the table. Eley also indicated that the Lee Administration is hopeful that Federal CARES Act funding can be used to fill state budget deficits. Currently, these dollars can only be used for direct COVID-19 mitigation efforts and to fortify the State’s unemployment trust fund. The Administration believes that they will receive guidance from the Trump Administration on this question in the next few weeks.
The slides from the Finance and Administration presentation can be viewed here.
County Unemployment Rates Reach Historic Highs in Tennessee
April unemployment data for Tennessee was released today which showed a rate of 14.7 percent unemployment for the state. All 95 counties in Tennessee had their unemployment rate go up in April. Only three counties recorded less than 10 percent and Sevier County had the highest with 29.5 percent. Click here to see a county by county breakdown and additional information.
New Guidance for Noncontact Sports, Summer Camps, and Higher Education
Governor Bill Lee’s Economic Recovery Group issued new guidelines today for noncontact sports, camps, and higher education under the Tennessee Pledge. These guidelines are effective in 89 of the 95 counties. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with State and local health departments.
Full guidelines can be found on TNpledge.com for:
May 21, 2020
Large Attractions To Open; New Guidelines for Retail and Restaurants
Yesterday, Tennessee’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) issued updated guidelines for restaurants and retail, along with new guidelines that enable attractions and larger venues to reopen with social distancing and capacity restrictions on or after May 22. The updated guidelines enable restaurants and retail to increase capacity as long as social distancing protocols remain in place.
Large, non-contact attractions and venues including concert and performance venues, amusement and water parks, auditoriums, theaters and dinner theaters, zoos, large museums and more can also reopen safely under new Tennessee Pledge guidelines. Six counties – Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan – may continue to follow individual, county-specific reopening plans created in consultation with State and local health departments.
Full guidelines can be found on TNpledge.com for:
General Assembly Returns Next week
On Tuesday May 26, the Tennessee General Assembly will resume its work with the House conducting committees throughout the week in preparation for reconvening both chambers on June 1. The Senate has committees scheduled to meet the first week of June. House and Senate leadership have yet to publicly agree on the breadth and scope of bills that will be considered in the remainder of this fractured session. The Senate favors limiting bills to only those that are essential and time sensitive while the House would like a greater number to be considered. Both houses will be dealing with the reality of an estimated $300-$500 million in cuts to close out the FY20 budget and potentially $1 billion from FY21.
Nashville/Davidson County Moving to Phase 2 on Monday
This morning, Mayor John Cooper announced that Metro Nashville will be moving to Phase 2 of the reopening plan on Monday, May 25. The move to Phase 2 comes after 14 days of positive improvement/stability that was called for before moving to the next phase in the “Roadmap for Reopening Nashville”. Phase 2 will allow restaurants and retail to increase to 75% capacity, gyms and hair salons to open, and restrict social gatherings to 25 people. This graphic highlights many of the changes but to see the full list of guidelines, click here.
May 12, 2020
April Revenues Show Effects of COVID-19 Crisis
Tennessee Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley announced today that revenues for April were $693.8 million less than the state budgeted. Overall state revenues for April were $1.3 billion, which is a negative growth rate of 39.75 percent compared to last year. “The signs of economic downturn due to the COVID-19 pandemic have begun to appear in Tennessee’s April tax receipts,” Eley said. “April sales tax revenues, reflecting March taxable sales activity, were weakened as the state began to withdraw from its usual patterns of consumer spending by mid-month. Franchise and excise tax receipts, along with Hall income and business taxes are also notably reduced due to filing extensions that will allow individuals and businesses to report their taxable activity later in the year. Year to date revenues for the current fiscal year are $88 million less than the budgeted estimate. Read the full statement and breakdown for April revenues here.
New Executive Orders
Today, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Orders No. 36 and No. 37, both continuations of existing Executive Orders. Executive Order No. 36 further encourages social distancing by eliminating or postponing regulations that require person to person contact. These include extended deadlines for motor vehicles and handgun permits, allowing 90 day prescription refills, and encouraging Tennesseans who are able to work from home, to continue to do so. The Order further impacts healthcare by suspending various inspections of healthcare facilities, suspending certain continuing education and licensing requirements for healthcare workers, and expanding telehealth. Executive Order No. 37 temporarily allows remote notarization.
Brandon Gibson Named COO
Today, Governor Bill Lee announced the appointment of Brandon Gibson as the next Chief Operating Officer for the State of Tennessee. Gibson replaces Butch Eley as COO following Eley’s appointment as Commissioner of Finance & Administration. Gibson had previously been serving as Senior Advisor to the Governor.
Expanded Testing for Vulnerable Populations
The Governor announced a new effort to expand COVID-19 testing for individuals with intellectual and developmental disabilities. Because many people in this population also suffer from health conditions that make them more vulnerable to COVID-19 complications, the Governor said that through the Department of Intellectual and Developmental Disabilities, the state hopes to test 12,500 Tennesseans over the next few weeks. The first testing will be Friday in Scott County using mobile clinics owned by the Department.
May 7, 2020
State of Tennessee Updates
Unemployment Insurance FAQ
The Tennessee Department of Workforce and Development put out an FAQ for employees who refuse to work after their employers are allowed to resume from the COVID-19 restrictions. Employees must return to work unless they meet a qualified exception or they will not be eligible to receive unemployment insurance benefits. Exceptions include, but are not limited to, quarantine by a medical professional or governmental entity or a lack of childcare due to COVID-19. The Refusal to Work FAQ is can be found here.
Tennessee Department of Correction Testing Initiative
A COVID-19 testing initiative has begun for all Tennessee Department of Correction (TDOC) staff and the inmates in their care. TDOC confirmed more than 1,246 COVID-19 positive cases, out of 2,450 total tests, among staff and inmates at the Trousdale Turner Correctional Center in Trousdale County, following a targeted testing event at the facility that began on April 28.
Reopening Houses of Worship
Governor Bill Lee announced last week that places of worship to may decide for themselves to reopen. Governor Lee’s Office of Faith Based and Community Initiatives then issued reopening guidance for houses of worship. A phased approach to resuming in-person gatherings is recommended. Vulnerable populations and children’s activities/nursery programs are recommended not to gather in person until a later time. The press release for this guidance can be found here.
Executive Order No. 34
On May 6, Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 34 which extends Order No. 16 through June 30, temporarily permitting safe, open and transparent public meetings by electronic means to preserve and increase the containment of the COVID-19 virus. Read the full text of the order here.
Executive Order No. 33
On May 5, Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 33 which amends order No. 30 stating all close contacts employers and businesses are expected to operate in accordance with guidelines issued by the state. The list of guidelines encourages employees and customers to wear face masks, prohibits the use of waiting areas and more. Read the full text of the order here.
Executive Order No. 32
On May 1, Governor Lee issued Executive Order No. 32 which adds several new provisions to Executive Order No. 15 and extends others. Key provisions in this Order include:
- Extending price-gauging protection for medical and emergency supplies until May 18, 2020
- Extending the deadline for TN Investco’s annual audit report to July 31, 2020
- Allowing state officials to utilize National Guard members to help in the orderly and safe operations and security of state penitentiaries during the continuing state of emergency
- Revising provisions dealing with remote shareholder meetings
- Allowing for services provided by a physical therapist, occupational therapist, or speech pathologist and delivered via telemedical to a worker’s compensation claimant to be reimbursed as if the services were delivered in person
Nashville To Reopen; Phase 1 on Monday
This morning, Mayor John Cooper announced that Metropolitan Nashville and Davidson County will begin Phase 1 of its reopening plan on Monday, May 11. Each phase of the plan will last 14 days before Nashville enters the next phase of reopening. Mayor Cooper said that if health metrics begin to worsen during any phase of reopening, Nashville may be forced to revert to earlier phases of the plan. He also said that the phases may be amended and that, while the city plans to stick to this strategy, officials will adapt as necessary.
The full text of the Roadmap to Reopening Nashville can be found here and contains detailed information on the strategy and metrics Mayor Cooper’s administration is employing to reopen the economy. Below are the guidelines for Phase 1 of Nashville’s reopening.
- Age 65+ and High-risk stay at home
- All work from home if possible
- All residents wear masks in public
- Schools closed
- No gatherings over 10
Restaurants & Bars Serving Food
- Open at 1/2 capacity
- Clean all surfaces after every use
- Employees screened daily and required to wear face masks
- Bar areas closed and no live music
Bars & Entertainment Venues: Closed
Retail Stores & Commercial Businesses
- Open at 50% capacity
- Employees screened daily and wear face masks
Nail Salons, Hair Salons, Massage, Etc.: Closed
Healthcare & Dental
- Routine and elective procedures < age 70
- Employees screened daily and wear masks
Gyms & Fitness: Closed
Playgrounds, tennis & basketball courts: Closed
Sports Venue: Closed
April 30, 2020
Governor Bill Lee was in Washington D.C Thursday afternoon joining President Trump for a press conference discussing COVID-19 testing for senior citizens at long term care facilities in Tennessee. Meanwhile, the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) released guidance for close contact businesses for a May 6 reopening in 89 of the 95 counties. The guidance includes business process adaptations such as 50% customer capacity, appointment only services, sanitization guidelines, and other social distancing measures for a safe opening.
Executive Order No. 31
Yesterday, Governor Lee issued Executive Order 31 to extend the prohibition of non-emergency dental services to Wednesday, May 6, to allow more needed time for the Tennessee Dental Association, the Tennessee Dental Hygienist Association, and the Tennessee Board of Dentistry to continue their work on guidance for safe reopening and practice.
Memphis/Shelby County Update
Yesterday Mayors Jim Strickland and Lee Harris, along with Shelby County’s 6 other municipal mayors, announced that Phase 1 of the County’s Back to Business Framework will begin on May 4, 2020. After careful study of the data, and on the advice of medical experts, including the Shelby County Health Department, the mayors determined that the spread of COVID-19 has sufficiently flattened and the local health system has ample capacity, indicating that it is time to methodically restart the local economy.
Beginning May 4, these Midsouth businesses and organizations can reopen or expand services using specific health and safety guidelines:
- Healthcare: Elective surgeries and diagnostic, medical, and procedural visits allowed consistent with Tennessee Hospital Association standards and district protocol.
- Dentistry: Elective dental visits, procedures, and surgeries are allowed if deemed medically necessary, such as fillings, extractions, and root canals. Active screening at entrances to dental facilities.
- Restaurants and Bars: Maximum capacity of 50%. Adjust layout of dining area/seating to maintain social distance between groups of customers. Eliminate use of communal items (i.e. containers on tables, writing utensils). Require single-use items such as paper menus. Require employees preparing or serving food and employees with interaction with the public wear masks.
- Retail Stores and Commercial Businesses: Limit occupancy to 50% building capacity. Employees with interaction with the public must wear face masks; all other employees must wear face masks.
- Manufacturers / Distributers: Require face masks for all employees. Require symptom checks for all employees. Establish work arrangements by which employees are spaced six feet from one another.
- Gyms / Fitness Facilities: Limit occupancy to 25% building occupancy. Employees must wear face masks. Adjust equipment layout or close/restrict access to equipment as necessary to maintain at least six feet of separation between users. Conduct regular and thorough cleaning of all equipment, surfaces and areas of the facility using disinfectant cleaning supplies. Require customers to clean equipment with disinfecting wipes before and after use. Provide hand sanitizing stations for use upon customer entry and exit. Limit workouts to 45 minutes.
- Civic Facilities (libraries, etc.): Limit occupancy to 25% building capacity. Employees must wear face masks.
- Places of Worship: Limit occupancy to 25% building capacity. Adherence to social distancing.
- Offices / Call Centers: Require face masks for all employees. Require symptom checks for all employees. Establish work arrangements by which employees are spaced six feet from one another. Do not share phones or headsets. Allow telework and minimize business travel to the greatest extent possible.
It is important to note that purposeful gatherings of more than 10 are prohibited and the public is still advised to adhere to social distancing. Phase 2 will expand capacity restrictions for these sectors and will allow contact sports facilities (basketball courts, baseball fields, etc.) and personal appearance businesses (hair, nail salons, spas, etc.) to begin reopening. Separation between phases is a minimum of two weeks, meaning the earliest date to begin Phase 2 is May 18.
Shelby County leadership may decide, based on health data, to delay implementation of Phase 2 until data shows that it is safe to move to the next phase. Local leaders will not, even with improving metrics, accelerate a transition between phases and may decide to enact more restrictive conditions based on data.
April 29, 2020
Today, Governor Bill Lee announced that close contact services, such as hair, nail, and tanning salons, will be allowed to reopen May 6 in 89 counties in Tennessee. This is the latest industry the Governor has greenlighted as Tennessee reopens its economy in phases. Guidelines for safely reopening those businesses will be released in the coming days. Governor Lee also noted that additional guidance for worship services will be coming by the end of the week.
Executive Order No. 30
Yesterday evening, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 30 as the state begins to reopen the economy in phases amid the COVID-19 crisis. The Order repeals several previous Executive Orders directing Tennesseans to stay home unless engaging in essential activities or essential services and limiting the operation of certain businesses and venues. Effective today, the Order outlines how the state will allow many businesses to reopen with new health restrictions. However, some businesses will remain closed.
Specifically, the Order supersedes and repeals Executive Order Nos. 17, 21, 22, 23, 27, and 29, effective Wednesday, April 29, but does not affect Executive Order No. 25 concerning dental and medical procedures, which is currently effective until April 30.
The Order allows Tennesseans and businesses to return to work in all industries where that can be safely accomplished by following health guidelines, while urging employers to allow or require remote work/telework if possible. All employers and businesses that choose to open are expected to comply with the Governor’s Economic Recovery Group (ERG) Guidelines for operating safely, as well as general health guidelines from the CDC and other government entities.
The Order is fully effective in 89 of Tennessee’s counties. The county health departments in the 6 counties with locally run county health departments (Davidson, Hamilton, Knox, Madison, Shelby, and Sullivan) shall have authority to issue orders or measures that permit or restrict to a different degree than this order the opening, closure, or operation of businesses, organizations, or venues, except for places of worship. Otherwise, this order governs on the topics it covers.
- Tennesseans are urged to continue limiting activity and staying home as much as possible to preserve and build on the health progress we’ve made.
- Social and recreational gatherings of 10 people or more are prohibited, including but not limited to festivals, fairs, parades, youth and adult sporting events, and overnight summer youth camps.
- This does not cover places of worship, for which there will be guidelines for safe operation of worship services and gatherings if in-person services are conducted, but the order strongly encourages places of worship to continue virtual or online services where possible.
- Entertainment and recreational gathering venues must remain closed to the public for now, including, but not limited to, bars, night clubs, live performance venues, bowling alleys, arcades, concert and sporting event venues, theaters, auditoriums, performing arts centers, racetracks, indoor children’s play areas, adult entertainment venues, amusement parks, senior centers, and skating rinks.
- Limited service restaurants can serve food to customers seated at tables but must follow the ERG Guidelines for restaurants in doing so.
- Persons with COVID-19 or COVID-19 symptoms are required to stay at home, and employers may not require or allow employees with COVID-19 to work.
- Persons are urged to wear a cloth face covering in places where in close proximity to others, especially where social distancing is difficult.
- Take-out and delivery alcohol sales by restaurants will continue to be allowed to encourage customers to utilize take-out or delivery options.
April 28, 2020
April 27, 2020
At today’s press briefing, Governor Lee was joined by Tennessee Hospital Association President, Dr. Wendy Long, to announce that hospitals may resume elective procedures on May 1. Guidelines for a cautious return to conducting elective procedures include ongoing reporting on hospital capacity and COVID-19 patients, regular meetings to review resources, and adequate access to PPE. The restart will be a phased approach with triggers to scale back if necessary. The hospitals will also agree to operate pursuant to other guidelines drafted by THA and can be found here.
The Governor and newly appointed Finance and Administration Commissioner Eley also announced a hiring and equipment purchase freeze throughout state government with exceptions for mission critical areas necessary for the public welfare. The Governor said that the freezes will ensure that the state is fiscally responsible as state sales tax revenues are expected to fall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. State government layoffs have not been discussed by the Governor or his administration at this time.
Memphis/Shelby County Update
Today, Mayors Jim Strickland and Lee Harris were joined by Shelby County Health Department Director Alisa Haushalter and the mayors of Shelby County’s 6 other municipalities to announce the Back-to-Business Framework for Memphis and Shelby County. During the press conference, Midsouth leaders cautioned that while the community should remain vigilant about adhering to social distancing guidelines and hygiene practices, local government must also evaluate measures that help alleviate some burdens on the economy.
While no start date has been announced, local businesses may reopen using a phased-in approach only after 14 days of a stable or declining number of confirmed COVID-19 cases within the county. After Shelby County meets this 14 day benchmark, county businesses can gradually reopen using a three phase approach, as long as certain COVID-19 mitigation benchmarks are met.
Restaurants, libraries, places of worship, and gyms may reopen in Phase 1 if certain social distancing and health related protocols are adhered to. Elective procedures at hospitals and dental offices are also allowable in Phase 1. The complete framework may be found here.
Local leaders, including Collierville Mayor Stan Joiner and Germantown Mayor Mike Palazzolo cautioned that this plan should not be interpreted as a return to business as usual; social distancing and enhanced hygiene are critical to ensuring that businesses reopen. Local leadership may decide to delay implementation of a phase until satisfied that it is safe to move to the next phase or may decide to enact more restrictive conditions based on COVID-19 data.
Knoxville/Knox County Update
Today, members of the Knoxville/Knox County Joint Task Force released a phased reopening plan of local businesses. Knox County and the city of Knoxville will begin a three phase process to reopen businesses starting on Friday, May 1. Phase one of the three-part plan will allow most businesses to open with strict social distancing guidelines in place. Each phase will last a minimum of 28 days before progressing to the next. The full plan includes benchmarks that will be evaluated throughout each phase, a collaborative community process to help determine business protocols in future phases and a certificate program to recognize businesses that have successfully taken the safety measures spelled out by the task force.
The list of businesses that can begin the phased reopening on May 1 includes but is not limited to:
- Retail stores
- Places of worship
Social settings and gatherings for Phase 1 are limited to 10 people maximum (and 6 people maximum per table for public dining). It is strongly recommended that households continue to send only one household member to shopping areas at a time. Also, individuals are encouraged to minimize non-essential travel and follow CDC guidelines regarding quarantine following travel. Read the full text of Knoxville/Knox County reopening plan here.
April 24, 2020
Today, Governor Lee and Department of Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell announced the Tennessee Pledge, the state’s guidance to reopen businesses in 89 Tennessee counties. Ezell was appointed by Lee to lead the Tennessee Economic Recovery Group (“ERG”) comprised of the state’s departments of tourism, economic development, and revenue, members of the Tennessee General Assembly, and business leaders. The ERG was created by the Governor to help reopen the state safely, based on CDC guidance. The Tennessee Pledge is the ERGs plan to keep employees and customers safe during the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic while gradually restarting the Tennessee economy.
To underscore the need to reopen businesses, the Governor noted that 15 percent of Tennessee’s workforce, more than 400,000 people, filed unemployment claims as of this week; economists predict a $5 billion loss in the state’s gross domestic product during 2020.
Citing that the hospitality and retail industries have been hit particularly hard by the pandemic, Lee and Ezell said restaurants that adhere to social distancing guidance can reopen as early as Monday, April 27. Retail establishments may reopen on Wednesday, April 29 if they follow similar guidance.
Lee and Ezell said that the Tennessee approach must be steady, methodical, and based on metrics related to the virus so as not jeopardize the strides Tennessee has made in fighting COVID-19. To that end, gyms, churches are not opening, but are expected to be in the next phase of establishments to reopen. The administration is working with the hospital and medical community to create a plan to allow hospitals and the medical community to restart all services. The reopening of close contact businesses like barber shops, salons, and tattoo parlors will be on hold for several weeks.
Tennessee’s six, urban counties, who operate their own health departments, are tasked with developing their own timelines and guidance for reopening businesses in their communities.
For more information, see these details of the Tennessee Pledge.
April 23, 2020
State of Tennessee Update
Today, Governor Bill Lee announced that he is holding a special press briefing tomorrow morning at 10:00am to debut the first round of guidance for the restaurant and retail industries so they can safely open next week. Restaurants operating at 50% capacity and following all guidelines will be allowed to open next Monday. Retailer outlets operating at 50% capacity and following all guidelines will be allowed to open next Wednesday.
This will apply to the 89 counties in Tennessee who do not have their own health department, which excludes Shelby, Davidson, Madison, Knox, Sullivan, and Hamilton counties. Those six counties will be releasing their own policies and guidelines for reopening their economies.
Nashville/Davidson County Update
This morning, Mayor John Cooper announced his plan to reopen Nashville’s economy gradually in four phases. While no start date was announced, Mayor Cooper said that Phase 1 of the reopening could start in early May if the following requirements are met:
- A sustained decline in new cases over a 14 day period
- Adequate testing capabilities and available PPE for the region
- Robust public health infrastructure in place for contact tracing
- Adequate health care system capacity
During this planning period, all non-essential businesses should remain closed and the Safer At Home Order remains in place. Except when performing essential services, citizens over age 65 and those with high risk factors need to remain vigilant and to shelter at home.
Once Phase 1 of the reopening begins, subsequent 14 day periods will be required to enter the next phase as Nashville moves towards a full reopening. Mayor Cooper stated that if the metrics begin to worsen during any of the phases, it will force Nashville to revert to earlier phases of the plan. The full text of the Roadmap to Reopening Nashville is attached and contains detailed information on the strategy and metrics Mayor Cooper’s administration is employing to reopen the economy. Below are some of the guidelines for each phase of the plan.
- Retail and restaurants can open at 50% capacity.
- Public gathering limited to 10 or less people
- Routine and elective health and dental procedures allowed for those under age 70
- Work from home if possible
- Retail and restaurants can open at 75% capacity
- Worship services limited to 50 people
- Routine and elective health and dental procedures allowed for all ages
- Work from home if possible
- Retail and restaurants can open at full capacity
- Bars can open at 50% capacity
- Gyms can open
- Public gathering limited to 100 people
- Schools can reopen
- Work from home if possible
- Bars and entertainment venues can open at full capacity
- Sports and large event venues can open
- Work from home optional
Shelby County Update
The City of Memphis’ “Safer at Home” order has been extended to May 5. During yesterday’s press conference, the Mayor Jim Strickland acknowledged the order could be extended past May 5. Reopening Memphis will depend on several factors related to the spread of COVID-19. Strickland and Shelby County Health Officials said that a phased-in reopening of the city and county will be on different terms than Tennessee’s rural communities.
April 22, 2020
On April 17, 2020, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 28 which amends Executive Order No. 15 and removes additional regulatory barriers to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19. Read more here.
April 20, 2020
Stay at Home Order to Expire April 30
Today, Governor Bill Lee announced that he will not extend the order for Tennesseans to remain at home past April 30 with the vast majority of businesses in 89 counties allowed to re-open on May 1. The six counties with their own health departments will work with the Lee Administration to plan their own re-open strategies. Those counties are Shelby, Madison, Davidson, Hamilton, Knox and Sullivan.
“These businesses will open according to specific guidance that we will provide in accordance with state and national experts in both medicine and business,” said Governor Lee. Some businesses will be allowed to open as early as April 27 with more details to come in the following days. The Economic Recovery Group (ERG), composed of 30 leaders from the public and private sector is crafting guidance to assist businesses in a safe reopening. The full text of the press release is attached.
Much of the reason for the announcement today was that for the first time, the number of recovered cases in Tennessee is now higher than the number of active cases. In addition, the Governor and the Department of Health began drive through testing sites over the weekend. Lee announced more than 11,000 Tennesseans received free COVID-19 tests through the weekend efforts of Unified-Command Group to offer tests regardless of traditional symptoms. There were 22 total sites open across all three grand divisions. Tennessee Department of Health personnel and Soldiers and Airmen of the Tennessee National Guard operated 19 sites, four more than originally planned, to meet the testing demand. The Governor noted that more sites will be open again this upcoming weekend and that more testing will allow the state to open back up.
March Tax Revenues Exceed Expectations
Department of Finance and Administration Commissioner Butch Eley today announced that Tennessee tax revenues exceeded budgeted estimates in March. Overall March revenues totaled $1.2 billion, which is $71.3 million more than the state received in March of 2019 and $62.1 million more than the budgeted estimate for the month.
This may be surprising to some but Commissioner Eley believes it highlights that inherent lag between reported tax receipts and that of actual economic activity.
“The eventual impacts of COVID-19 on tax revenues are unavoidable and will begin to appear in the coming months. We will closely monitor our tax receipts during this time and remain committed to balancing the state’s budget in a responsible manner during this extraordinary national economic downturn.”
April 13, 2020
Executive Order No. 27
Today, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order No. 27 which extended his executive order closing non-essential businesses and mandating Tennessee residents to stay at home until April 30. The order was scheduled to end on April 14. Lee said that a new Economic Recovery Task Force, led by Department of Tourism Commissioner Mark Ezell, will work closely with the COVID-19 Unified Command Team to reopen Tennessee’s economy as early as May. Governor Lee said: “We need Tennesseans to get back to work, but we also need everyone to recognize that physical distancing must continue for the foreseeable future.” He stated that the reopening of the economy will be gradual and the new task force will be charged with determining industry-specific guidance on how to safely operate during the on-going pandemic. Read the full text of the order here.
Governor Lee said that he will make an announcement this week pertaining to public schools. Tennessee’s nearly 1 million public school students have been out of school since mid-March. Schools are currently closed until at least April 24.
Executive Order No. 26
On April 9, Governor Lee signed Executive Order No. 26, which permits the use of remote notarization and remote witnessing of documents to allow person to engage in commerce and execute legal documents without the need for in-person contact. The order is meant to further limit the exposure of individuals and spread of COVID-19. Read the full text of the order here.
Executive Order No. 25
On April 8, Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order No. 25, the latest in his line of orders to combat the COVID-19 crisis. This latest order amends and supersedes the provisions of Executive Order No. 18 which went into effect March 23.
The order states that all healthcare professionals and healthcare facilities in the State of Tennessee must postpone surgical and invasive procedures that are elective and non-urgent until the order expires. The order also continues the ban on non-emergency dental procedures and postpones surgical and invasive procedures that are elective and non-urgent.
Additionally, to conserve personal protective equipment, healthcare providers and facilities in Tennessee are ordered to limit attendance to essential personnel in the rooms where surgeries and invasive procedures are being performed.
April 6, 2020
On Friday, Governor Lee signed another Executive Order relating to the on-going COVID-19 pandemic and today the Governor made two important announcements pertaining to healthcare and infrastructure.
Executive Order No. 24
On Friday, April 3, Governor Lee signed Executive Order No. 24. The order includes the temporary suspension of selected state laws and rules, as well as other measures necessary to facilitate the response to the COVID-19 crisis. Key provisions include:
- Gives the Commissioner of Health authority to allow post-degree, pre-licensed mental or behavioral health professionals to treat patients through telemedicine under the supervision of a licensed professional.
- Extends payment due date for the professional privilege tax from June 1 to July 1.
- Suspends until July 1 the April 6 deadline for filing applications for property tax relief and tax freezes, so that elderly and other vulnerable populations will not have to visit public buildings to apply.
- Gives the Commissioner of Labor and Workforce Development the discretion to require a terminating employer’s information faster (within 4 days, rather than 7 days) in the unemployment benefits claims process, in order to speed up processing of benefits.
Read the full text of the order here.
Today, the Governor announced a $10 million investment in small and rural hospitals. Citing the financial strain that many small and rural hospitals are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic, the Governor said that these dollars will serve as a bridge until new federal funds are processed. The grant funds will be capped at $500,000 per hospital. Applications are live today and can be accessed here: https://www.tn.gov/ecd/rural-development/small-and-rural-hospital-readiness-grant.
The Governor also announced that $200 Million will be distributed to county and city governments through local support grants. Dollars may be used for road projects, I.T. upgrades, capital maintenance, utility system upgrades, public safety projects, and some disaster-related expenses. The grant amounts are based on population. Each county will receive at least $500,000, while each city or municipality will receive at least $30,000. The allocations for each county can be found here, and the city allocations can be found here. A one-pager with additional information can be viewed here.
April 2, 2020
Governor Lee Announces Stay at Home Order
Today, Governor Bill Lee announced that he will sign Executive Order 23 requiring Tennesseans stay home unless people are carrying out essential activities. This policy shift away from the Governor’s previous urging of citizens to stay home was done after consulting cell phone mobility and traffic data indicating the movement of Tennesseans is trending back toward pre-COVID-19 levels.
In his press conference, Governor Lee stated that an enforcement letter was sent out to law enforcement officials around the state with guidance on how to enforce the order, but ultimately, local governments will determine their own enforcement strategies. The order is effective immediately and will be in effect until April 14. The press release can be found here.
Governor Lee cautioned that April will be a tough month for Tennesseans as COVID-19 confirmed cases and deaths are expected to rise. Preparations are under way as FEMA approved Tennessee’s Major Disaster Declaration that will enable the Army Corps of Engineers to drastically increase the number of hospital beds, which includes transforming large convention centers, such as the Music City Center, into emergency hospitals.
Mayor Andy Berke issued an executive order today for individuals to shelter at their place of residence unless performing Essential Activities, Essential Governmental Functions, or to operate Essential Services Businesses. All public and private gatherings of more than ten people occurring outside a single household or living unit are prohibited, except for the limited purposes as expressly permitted by the order. The full text of the order can be found here.
April 1, 2020
Gov. Lee again had his afternoon COVID-19 briefing. Among other things, he talked about the plans to prepare for the surge of COVID cases and the need for additional hospital beds. He is working with the Unified Command to identify hotels, convention centers and other facilities that can be used. In addition, he asked that former health care workers consider returning to work.
TNCare Waiver Approval
TNCare was approved for a waiver from CMS for a number of federal Medicaid and Medicare requirements that pose issues or challenges for the health care delivery system in all counties in Tennessee. The waiver includes:
- Suspension of Pre-Admission Screening and Annual Resident Review (PASRR) Level I and Level II Assessments for 30 days
- Provider Enrollment Changes
- Provision of Services in Alternative Settings
Read the full text of the approval letter here.
Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform
LaunchTN, working in partnership with Tennessee’s COVID-19 Unified Command, has unveiled the Tennessee Innovation Crowdsource Platform to engage companies to rapidly connect solutions, resources, and capabilities to major issues facing Tennessee. The platform will allow LaunchTN to organize and evaluate proposals, complete due diligence, and recommend strategies to state procurement specialists for expedited treatment.
LaunchTN is seeking proposals from companies that have an existing solution or one that can quickly pivot to address immediate challenges due to COVID-19. For more information and to register your business, click here.
Solicitations for proposals will be actively updated as the needs of Tennesseans evolve. Visit this page to find descriptions of open solicitations and specific details on needs and how to submit your proposal. Solicitations are listed by category and there is an opportunity to submit proposals to challenges not listed in existing solicitations.
Tennessee Chamber Launches TN Creators Respond
The program was created to help connect manufacturers with the capability of producing personal protective equipment and needed medical supplies with hospital systems and medical centers in need. Amid a nationwide shortage of testing, N95 masks, and other tools healthcare providers need to protect themselves and their patients against the spread of COVID-19. The program’s website is putting together manufacturers who want to help and health care providers who need supplies.
March 30, 2020
This afternoon, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Orders No. 21 and No. 22, both aimed at combatting the COVID-19 crisis.
Executive Order No. 21 mandates a state-wide shutdown of all businesses and organizations who perform close-contact personal services such as barbers, massage spas, and nail salons. The Order also closes entertainment and recreational gathering venues such as night clubs, concert venues, and bowling alleys. The order is effective immediately and will stay in effect until April 14. The full text of the order can be viewed here.
Executive Order No. 22 urges Tennesseans to stay at home, except for when engaging in Essential Activity or Essential Services. The Order requires that businesses or organizations that do not perform Essential Services shall not be open for access or use by the public. A list of Essential Activities and Essential Services are included with the order in Attachment A. The order is effective at 11:59pm on March 31 and will stay in effect until April 14. The full text of the order is attached.
Most major metropolitan areas in Tennessee had issued stay at home orders and shut down nonessential businesses previously. (See prior updates.) The full text of the order can be viewed here.
In other news, the Department of Revenue has issued an additional guidance extending the due date to June 15th for the business tax that would be originally due April 15. That guidance joins the prior extensions of both the franchise and excise tax as well as the Hall income tax to June 15th as well. Click here for more information.
On March 26, 2020, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order No. 20, with immediate effect. Executive Order No. 20 amended and significantly expanded the health care specific sections of Executive Order No. 15, dated March 19, 2020, which has been previously summarized and posted on our COVID-19 website.
As more fully summarized here, Executive Order No. 20 specifically addresses following areas: Licensing under Tennessee Code Annotated, Titles 63 (Professions of the Healing Arts) and 68 (Health, Safety and Environmental Protection); Investigations and Inspections by the Department of Health; Investigations and Inspections by the Board of Pharmacy; Pharmacy Technicians- Ration to Pharmacists; Medical Laboratory – Onsite Visit; Emergency Medical Services; Certificates of Need for Involuntary Commitment; Telehealth and General Suspension to Effectuate Order. The full text of Executive Order No. 20 can be found at https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/pub/execorders/exec-orders-lee20.pdf.
March 23, 2020
On March 23, 2020, Governor Bill Lee issued Executive Order #18, which restricts medical facilities from performing non-emergency procedures in order to conserve essential items needed to facilitate the response to COVID-19.
Effective at 12:01 a.m. on March 24, 2020, the following restrictions will be in effect until 12:01 a.m. on April 13, 2020:
- Dental service providers in the State of Tennessee shall not perform any non-emergency dental or oral procedures.
- All hospitals and surgical outpatient facilities in the State of Tennessee are prohibited from performing procedures not necessary to address a medical emergency or to preserve health and safety. The order provides examples of what procedures are included and excluded from the prohibition.
Additionally, non-hospital healthcare providers impacted by this Order are requested and encouraged to provide necessary personal protective equipment in their possession and not required for the emergency care exempted in the Order.
View the full text of the order here: https://publications.tnsosfiles.com/pub/execorders/exec-orders-lee18.pdf
Governor Lee announced today that he was creating a COVID-19 Unified Command. This effort will be lead by Commissioner Stuart McWhorter, who will be leaving his post at the Department of Finance and Administration in order to lead this joint command. The COVID-19 Unified Command will “streamline coordination across the Tennessee Emergency Management Agency (TEMA), Tennessee Department of Health and Tennessee Department of Military. Retired Brig. General Scott Brower will serve as the chief of staff for the operations.
Click here to read the press release announcing the creation of this new joint command.
On March 23, Memphis Mayor Jim Strickland declared Executive Order 3 of 2020 regarding the, “Safer at Home directive and closure of nonessential services and businesses.” The order is effective beginning at 6:00 pm on March 24, 2020, through midnight April 7, 2020.
The order requires City of Memphis residents to stay in their homes unless they are engaged in essential activities. This means that all mass gatherings of more than 10 people and all business activity, unless deemed essential, are prohibited. The order also prohibits all travel, including by public transit, unless it is necessary for an essential activity. The order further mandates that those who partake in essential activities outside their homes maintain six-foot social distancing whenever possible.
Activities that are deemed as essential are described as:
- Activities or tasks essential to the health and safety of themselves or their family members.
- Obtaining necessary services or supplies for their household or to deliver to others.
- Engaging in outdoor activities if individuals comply with social distancing.
- Performing work to provide essential products and services at an essential business or to carry out activities permitted by the order, including minimum basic operations.
- To perform payroll and other critical administrative functions for any business.
- To care for a family member or a pet in another household.
Minimum Basic Operations are described as:
- The minimum necessary activities to maintain the value of the business’s inventory, ensure security, process payroll and employee benefits, or for related functions.
- The minimum necessary activities to facilitate employees to work remotely.
A thorough, but not exhaustive, List of Essential and Nonessential Services was provided by the City of Memphis and can be found here.
The full text of the Executive Order can be found here.
March 22, 2020
Nashville’s Mayor, Jon Cooper, announced Sunday morning Order No. 3 closing all nonessential businesses. The “Safer @ Home Order” is an attempt to flatten the curve and to prevent the spike of cases that would be otherwise forthcoming.
Meharry’s Dr. Hildreth, an Epidemiologist by training and Vanderbilt’s Dr. Balser both appeared with the Mayor to support the order and to explain its need.
This order will be in place for 14 days but will allow delivery of goods in a safe manner.
On Sunday, March 22, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee signed Executive Order 17 calling for businesses across the state to utilize alternative business models beginning at midnight on Monday, March 23, 2020 until midnight April 6, 2020.
The Executive Order prohibits social gatherings of 10 or more people and implements these mandatory business interruptions until April 6:
- Bars and restaurants are to exclusively offer drive-thru, take-out, or delivery options. These establishments will be allowed to sell alcohol by take-out or delivery (with the purchase of food) in closed containers to those who are age 21 and up.
- Gyms and fitness centers are to temporarily suspend in-person services.
- Visitation to nursing homes, retirement homes, and long-term care or assisted-living facilities is now limited to visits involving essential care only.
Further, the order encourages all Tennessee business owners to seriously consider adjusting their business practices to comply with recommendations from the President and CDC, including implementing telework when possible. The order does not mandate sheltering in place.
This is Lee’s fourth Executive Order pertaining to the COVID-19 pandemic, with the first order released on March 12, 2020. This order is the first to include mandates to curb the spread of the virus. See the full Executive Order here.
March 20, 2020
Late yesterday, Governor Lee conducted his daily 3:00 Press Conference and Update regarding COVID-19 and discussed his just released Executive Order #15. The order is extensive and is heavily focused on the health care industry. Many provisions in statutes and rules are suspended along other necessary measures to facilitate the treatment and containment of COVID-19.
The order, among other things, waives some health care Tennessee licensure requirements, expands scope of practice for some providers without additional supervision, waives some CON requirements for expansion of hospital beds, allows pharmacists to fill 90 day maintenance prescriptions without proper authorization, urges insurance companies to cover telemedicine for COVID19, and waives the renewal or expiration of driver licenses for 6 months. More specifically, it does the following:
- Section 2 – Provides the Commissioner of Health the authority to permit health care professionals living in another state to practice in TN without a TN license. Forms will be posted on the Department’s website.
- Section 3 – Permits pharmacists to dispense maintenance prescriptions without authorization for up to 90 day for maintenance purposes, as necessary to respond to and prevent the spread of COVID-19. State restrictions on opioid prescriptions remain in place.
- Section 4- Permits home health visits by professionals who do not meet TN licensing requirements. (Necessary as a result of Section 2).
- Section 5 – Relieves nurse practitioners that have certificates of fitness from (1) certain filing requirements with the Board of Nursing, (2) chart review requirements, and (3) requirements for physician visits to remote sites.
- Section 6 – Relieves physician assistants from same requirements summarized in Section 5.
- Section 7 – Extends expiration date of facility and health care professional licenses for 3 months.
- Section 8- Permits pharmacists and pharmacy techs to process prescriptions remotely including from residences, subject to HIPAA compliance. This section does not alter regulation of pharmacy facility, recordkeeping or medication storage or dispensing.
- Section 9 – Permits the Commissioner of Health to allow unlicensed individuals to work as medical lab technologists for corona virus research, provided the individuals are employed by a medical laboratory and working under the supervision of the medical laboratory director, and further provided the individuals are postdoctoral fellows in a biological science.
- Section 10 – Suspends CON requirements for hospitals to add new beds or diagnostic facilities in order to respond to COVID-19.
- Section 11- Permits the addition of testing sites for COVID-19 without prior approval by the Medical Laboratory Board; laboratories must notify the Board of alternate sites.
- Section 12 – Permits construction of temporary structures in response to COVID-19 without plans review; structures will be subject to safety inspections.
- Section 38 – Permits telemedicine services by pain management clinics and for nonmalignant chronic pain.
March 19, 2020
Governor Lee’s Administration is now providing a daily update to Tennesseans on the COVID-19 virus and has created a website specifically for Tennessee COVID-19 Updates. The impact on state government continues to evolve daily and there have been major shifts that impact how the public interacts with state government.
The Lee Administration announced that over 15,000 state employees are currently working from home using the Alternative Workplace Solutions program through March 31st. This is a sizable portion of total state employee workforce, and the state is readying equipment so another 8,400 employees can telework by week’s end. Lee also noted that 37 percent of Tennessee State Employees are unable to perform their roles using Alternative Workspace Solutions. Further, state employees have been instructed to cease all non-essential business travel through March 31.
Vendors that work with state government have also seen changes as more and more meetings are held remotely or are canceled altogether when at all possible.
Lee also announced assistance for small businesses. Noting that 94 percent of Tennessee businesses have fewer than 50 employees, Lee said that any small business or nonprofit impacted by COVID-19 can apply for low interest loans of up to $2 million.
The General Assembly is working feverishly to pass a budget this week, shelving all other legislative matters unless it is deemed “essential.” The State of Tennessee had expected a large surplus of revenue that could have been spent on many key initiatives. When Governor Lee first released his proposed budget in January there was over a billion dollars of non-recurring dollars and approximately nine hundred million recurring dollars budgeted to be spent. Given the expectation that future state tax revenues will take a large dip in the coming months due to COVID-19, the Governor’s Office and the Legislature are negotiating a budget that is scaled down considerably. Governor Lee unveiled his budget amendment on Wednesday, March 18 with nearly a billion dollars in new funding from the original proposed budget shelved for the year.
The General Assembly is expected to pass a budget no later than Saturday, March 21 and then take a recess to reconvene potentially in June. Depending on the impact of COVID-19, the Legislature could possibly take up other legislation and budget items in June, subject to revenue projections. This is obviously a fluid situation, and there is an expectation that there will be changes to this plan as the state learns more on what the impact to COVID-19 is on the state.
Below you will find links to the Governor’s Executive Orders and other notices related to COVID-19: