The Tennessee Star Report: Caller and Nashville Dentist Billy Tells Leahy That This is Way Past the ‘Rainy Day Fund’ Situation for Small Businesses in Tennessee


On Wednesday’s Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy – broadcast on Nashville’s Talk Radio 98.3 and 1510 WLAC weekdays from 5:00 a.m. to 8:00 a.m. – host Leahy was joined on the line by a caller and Nashville Dentist named Billy.

During the third hour, caller Billy explained how he had been advised by the ADA to shut down all non-emergency related business at his current dental practice in Davidson County leaving him with a non-existent practice. He stressed his concern for local small businesses stating that this is way past the ‘rainy day’ fund in Tennessee and was waiting to see if the SBA loans would apply to dental and medical practices as well.

Leahy: We are actually as private individuals we are just responding to what the federal and state and local governments are doing. They are constraining our economic activity. And in many cases for good reason. and in some states perhaps not quite so for good reasons.

And nonetheless, we have to chart our course of action based upon the reality of both the threat from the disease and from government action. So this status in the country right now is as of a week ago Friday, the President declared a national emergency.

He declared a 15 day period of slowing down and social distancing. That period will end sometime early next week. And then the President will go ahead and announce a new strategy.

And he’s signaling very clearly that the new strategy is going to be let us get back to work in those areas that are not hot spots. And he’s said that he’d absolutely like to try and have that happen by Easter Sunday. April 12th. I think that’s a very good sign.

And you know it’s a balance of public health with the economy. But we’ll have no economy and poverty will really end up having as much damage or more than the public health problems we have associated with the coronavirus.

Here in Tennessee, we have over 600 cases. Two deaths. And seven percent of the people who test for the coronavirus test positive in contrast to 26% in New York. The governor has said to shut down restaurants and bars for in-store dining but he has not done what the Democrats here want him to do which is to shut down all non-essential businesses in all 99 counties in the state. Billy in Nashville wants to weigh in. Welcome to the Tennessee Star Report Billy. Do you want to talk about Governor Lee?

Caller Billy: Yeah, Michael I was just curious if we are shutting down all the non-essentials is the Lee Company shutting down all non-emergency?

Leahy: The governor has not shut down non-essentials. Just to be clear. Did you get that impression from anything that I’d said on the program? Because he hasn’t.

Billy: No. No. That’s just the way I was reading it and going into work every morning seeing that there’s nobody on the road. So I was assuming that we were in not a lockdown. But he’s advised everybody to slow the businesses or restaurants. Medical and dental not to operate. So I wasn’t sure who else wasn’t operating.

Leahy: Again there’s a difference between an executive order and a recommendation. I think governor Lee’s only executive order has related to all restaurants and bars in the state which he’s told to do no in-store dining.

But to go ahead and make curbside and takeout and delivery still available. He has not ordered safer at home directions which is a government order that would shut down all non-essential businesses, gas stations, pharmacies, and hospitals.

As is the case in several counties. The public health directors in Davidson County have issued that order and in Shelby County but not throughout the rest of the state. So do you live in Williamson County and drive to Davidson County? Is that what you do?

Billy: No, I live in Davidson. I actually have a dental practice in Davidson. We can go in and see an emergency which may be two people a day. But we’re pretty much non-existent right now.

Leahy: Yeah. I think the governor did have an executive ending non-elective surgeries. Which includes dental practices. I think that is correct. I think that was an order for your particular business. Tell us about your business. What’s the impact on your dental practice Billy?

Billy: We might see 40-50 patients a day on a normal operating day. We had one person with a broken tooth yesterday but had to refer them to an endodontist. We’re trying to keep staff on board as long as we can. We’re trying to ride this two weeks ago. We’re basically at zero right now Michael.

Leahy: And the cash flow? Not good right? Not good at all.

Billy: Non-existent.

Leahy: So you’ve got to be looking at your business and saying how do I survive for the long term? Let me ask you this. This is actually right on point and it has been something that’s bothering me. There are 1.4 billion dollars in the state’s rainy day fund and apparently they are going to put 350 million more in the next fiscal year which begins July first.

It strikes me that if government action and is probably correct from a public health point of view. If government action has shut down restaurants, bars, and basically dental practices here that seems to me like the definition of a ‘rainy day.’

And it struck me that those rainy day funds ought to be made available to restaurants and bars and dental practices like yours on an emergency basis. It seems to make sense. What’s your take on that?

Billy: I would think that it’s past a rainy day. I mean even the tornado stuff before not just our business but I’m sure everybody’s business. The people that its effected are our patients and people that come to our business and they don’t’ have the resources to go to a restaurant when they are trying to rebuild their homes.

We are way past a rainy day. So for sure, they need to be digging into everything. We’re just hoping the federal government digs up something special for not just dental. I have friends that are plastic surgeons and orthopedic surgeons and tese guys aren’t doing anything as well.

Leahy: Has the state given you any indication that there will be financial assistance for medical practices that have been shut down based upon this executive order?

Billy: I’m on the medical side. I know of course we rely on the ADA. I don’t know if that’s a good thing or a bad thing since it’s not a governing body. It’s just a club we can be a part of. they have lobbyists. How effective that is I don’t know. To answer your question, no that we would fall into the SBA and hope that part of that includes us.

Leahy: The other thing is to look at the federal level this bill has passed. Do you have any indication that any federal money through loans through the SBA would, in fact, be available to dental practices out there?

Billy: I haven’t heard anything directly on that yet that would be directed toward dental or medical practices.

Leahy: When you get up in the morning Billy, what’s your game plan?

Billy: My game plan is to go in in the mornings and make sure that my current patient base is good and doesn’t need to see a specialist. And just around the office probably touching up knick-knacks that need to be done or updating our equipment.

Leahy: So doing some of the things like maintenance things so that when things come back you’ll be able to hit the ground running?

Billy: Correct. Things that I think are going to come into play. The filtration system may be in air conditioning units with all this corona. So we’re going to go ahead and have that done while we’re done just to get ahead of what I think is coming in the future.

Leahy: How long do you think you can keep operating as a business under these circumstances? What’s sort of the magic time frame?

Billy: They always say Michael if god forbid one of your colleagues passes away that their spouse has about four to six weeks to sell their practice or their practice doesn’t exist to sell. Sot that ought to give you a pretty good indication.

Leahy: So you are about one week into that four to six-week time horizon?

Billy: We’re about two weeks in because last week we were advised by the ADA not to see anything but an emergency. And everybody pretty much went according to that.

Leahy: Billy, keep us posted on how things are going for you. Everybody is going through this. Particularly dental, medical, restaurants and bars being hit right now. Billy, thanks for calling in.

Listen to the full third hour here:

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Tune in weekdays from 5:00 – 8:00 am to the Tennessee Star Report with Michael Patrick Leahy on Talk Radio 98.3 FM WLAC 1510. Listen online at iHeart Radio.





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