NASHVILLE, Tenn. (WKRN) – “I’m not a council member that tells you what I think you want to hear, I’m a council member that tells you what you need to know.” Brett Withers doesn’t mince words discussing the challenges in his community.
“Our small business owners, in particular, need to know this isn’t going to be over anytime soon,” said Withers.
The struggle began March 3 when a tornado tore through East Nashville. The destruction hasn’t slowed as COVID-19 devastates the neighborhood in other ways.
“Our numbers are really terrifying right now,” said Withers.
He fears those in the service community, no longer employed and without healthcare benefits, may suffer the worst. “If they were to contract the virus,” Withers said. “That could be devastating. Not only from a health perspective but financially.”
Critical of the state’s response, Withers believes a more unified effort would flatten the curve.
“I’m a little disappointed in Governor Lee for not being more receptive to that,” Withers said. “We just need more decisive action that is based on medicine and science.”
Withers blames indecisive action for creating confusion and collateral damage in the community he loves. “Most small businesses will tell you like, just tell me what the expectations are and I can plan on that. But, if you keep changing the rules all the time, that’s the problem.”
True to form Withers warns, without additional federal stimulus action, East Nashville hasn’t hit bottom. “Enhanced employment benefits run out shortly, as moratoriums on evictions end and people get evicted, it’s going to get a whole lot worse.”
Which begs the question, will the vibe of East Nashville be preserved post-COVID if beloved small businesses don’t survive?
“The market in that recovery may continue to get so expensive,” explained Withers. “It’s not conducive for small businesses at all.”
He holds out hope community-minded landlords will focus on culture, willing to take a financial hit supporting independent shops versus chains.
“I think some of our Five Points, in particular, property owners will and others won’t,” he said.
“So, we’ll see.”
Stay with News 2 for continuing coverage of Super Tuesday tornado rebuilding and recovery.