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Small business owners getting ready to apply for financial help

Many small businesses in East Tennessee are struggling because of the coronavirus. Now, they have the chance to apply for rescue loans and payroll assistance.

KNOXVILLE, Tenn. — As part of the $2 trillion stimulus package passed by Congress, the U.S. Small Business Administration is offering several new temporary programs.

Those include the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan assistance. It's a big relief for small business owners like Stacey Handel.

"Because we're non-essential, we're closed with no revenues coming in," Handel said. "What we do for a living, we cannot do it six feet away."

Handel is the owner of Garde Bien Spa Salon in Farragut, which has been open since 1999. In addition to traditional salon and spa offerings, they do cranial prosthesis for women with hair loss.

When Knox County issued its Safer at Home order, Handel said they called in as many prosthesis clients as they could in the final 12 hours.

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Since then, Garde Bien has been silent.

"Thankfully, I've always been fairly successful and planned ahead," Handel said. "This is a whole different animal."

She's currently gathering all her documentation to apply for help through the new SBA programs

Although applications opened on Friday, NBC News reported a series of technical glitches crippled the process. Some major banks still hadn't opened applications as of Sunday night.

A note on Citi Banks' website site applications would be available shortly.

"While we are working as quickly as we can, Citi is not yet able to accept the loan applications for the new Paycheck Protection Program," the website said."

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Wells Fargo offered a tool to start the process, but as of Sunday night said it was not taking applications yet either. 

Handel has been relying on her fellow salon owners and industry professionals for tips, information and guidance.

"If we don't get some assistance as far as rent and mortgages and insurance and so forth, we certainly are not going to be able to continue paying that and payroll," Handel said. "We don't know if this is going to be weeks or months. It's really hard to plan."

The Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development will be hosting webinars all week to help small business owners learn more about the progress.

There will be a morning session for those requiring help related to the Middle Tennessee tornadoes and an afternoon session for those with COVID-19 disaster loan inquiries.

Sign-up information and additional resources are available on TDECD's website. 

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