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Small business owners across the state unclear about the process for applying for emergency assistance from the federal government are encouraged to seek free counseling assistance through the Tennessee Small Business Development Centers across the state.

The TSBDC has professional counselors in offices throughout the state available to help small business owners access programs such as the Payroll Protection Program as well as economic injury and Small Business Administration relief loans implemented as part of the federal government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

The TSBDC has been increasing its workforce to be able to handle an uptick in requests for assistance and is especially interested in connecting with the many small businesses throughout the state that may not be aware of their variety of services and who not have close relationships with local banks, lenders or accounting firm to help them tap into available relief.

“Those are the people who are profoundly impacted right now, so we’re trying to get the awareness out there,” said Patrick Geho, state executive director for the TSBDC and a management professor within MTSU’s Jennings A. Jones College of Business.

Hosted at Middle Tennessee State University, the network of Tennessee Small Business Development Centers have operated for more than three decades and are funded in part through a cooperative agreement with the U.S. Small Business Administration, participating universities and community colleges, and regional support partners.

As part of the COVID-19 relief aid, the Paycheck Protection Program is a loan designed to provide a direct incentive for small businesses to keep their workers on the payroll. The Small Business Administration will forgive loans if all employees are kept on the payroll for eight weeks and the money is used for payroll, rent, mortgage interest, or utilities.

But the June 30 application deadline is fast approaching for the PPP program. The deadline for Economic Injury Disaster Loan is Dec. 31.

Geho said the TSBDC anticipates another phase of federal relief for which service centers will be prepared to assist with counseling. Visit for more details or to request counseling.

The TSBDC offers an extensive amount of training events and typically serves 12,000 to 15,000 clients each year, Geho added. Service centers provide small business start-up services including, but not limited to business plan development, financial planning assistance, marketing plan development, sources of capital, and social media guidance.

“Everybody’s different, no two are the same,” Geho said of their small business clients. “But ultimately they have the same objective, it’s just figuring out how you’re going to get them there. … The good thing is, I have a national network where we can get some answers.”

The MTSU’s Jones College of Business is affiliated with the TSBDC’s Murfreesboro service center located at the Rutherford County Chamber of Commerce. It is one 14 service centers across the state that are part of TSBDC, which also includes one online center and one affiliate office.

Most Tennessee residents are within a 30-minute drive of a center, though centers aren’t accepting walk-ins or doing in-person client meetings because of the pandemic. However, trained, professional counselors are still available via phone, email, and online video conferencing methods.

To connect with a service center in your area, visit

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