Coronavirus: Eviction Ban Extended, Indiana To Borrow From Fed For Unemployment Fund

Aug 3, 2020

The Department of Workforce Development says it will borrow from the federal government to shore up its unemployment trust fund.
Credit Justin Hicks / IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 69 additional confirmed deaths over the last week, bringing the state’s total to 2,775. The state announced nearly 68,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 769,000 Hoosiers tested.

Evictions, Foreclosures Banned For Another Two Weeks

Hoosier renters and homeowners will be shielded from evictions and foreclosures for another couple of weeks.

Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday he’s extending his eviction and foreclosure moratorium through Aug. 14.

He emphasized, though, that those who have struggled with payments need to work with their landlords and mortgage holders.

“We do want to make sure, however, in the next couple weeks here that folks are making payment plans,” Holcomb said.

Indiana Remains Stuck In Reopening Stage For Another Month

Indiana’s reopening plan is stuck in park after Gov. Eric Holcomb announced Wednesday the state won’t move forward for at least another month.

Stage 4.5 – in place since the beginning of July – restricts restaurants to 75 percent capacity and limits bars, nightclubs and other entertainment venues to 50 percent. Gatherings of any kind are restricted to 250 people, unless there’s approval from a local health department.

READ MORE: Indy Mayor Orders Bars Closed, New Restrictions For Schools, Religious Events As COVID-19 Cases Increase

Holcomb said he doesn’t see the need to reimpose past restrictions – like closing bars and nightclubs – but stressed the importance of local leaders (and even individual businesses) enforcing compliance.

Indiana Will Borrow From Federal Government For Unemployment Fund

The Department of Workforce Development says it will borrow from the federal government to shore up its unemployment trust fund, which has paid more than three-quarters of its balance to out-of-work Hoosiers through the pandemic.

DWD pays regular unemployment claims out of a rainy day fund built by payroll taxes from Indiana employers. At the start of the year it had $900 million, but now stands at about $175 million. Unemployment loans to states will have zero interest until the end of the year, but it could mean tax increases for employers in the future.

Unemployed Hoosiers Hold Out Hope For Extension As Extra $600 Benefit Ends

An extra $600 unemployment benefit (Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation) ended this Saturday, meaning unemployed Hoosiers will start getting just less than half their normal weekly income. 

While Congress tries to negotiate some kind of increased unemployment benefits, unemployed Hoosiers say relief can’t come soon enough. 

Karina Oertel worked at events in downtown Indianapolis until the pandemic struck in March and conferences and sports games were canceled. She waited weeks for any benefits at all and now, without the extra money, she’ll get just $84 a week. She says that comes nowhere close to paying bills. 

“I’m anxious, but I’m also hopeful that someone is doing something. That they’re going to help us,” she said. “If not, I guess I’m going to have to – I don’t know. I’m almost at a loss. I have no idea what to feel in this moment.”

Anti-Hunger Advocates Push For Food Stamp Benefit Boost

Anti-hunger advocates from around the country say Congress needs to boost Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – or food stamp – benefits in the next COVID-19 relief package.

They suggest increasing the maximum benefit and raising the minimum from $16 to $30 a month.

Emily Weikert Bryant is the executive director of Feeding Indiana’s Hungry, which works with food banks across the state. She said they’re under increased strain during the pandemic. And she said boosting SNAP benefits can make a much bigger difference.

“For every one meal that our members distribute, SNAP provides nine," Bryant said. "It’s an economic engine.”

As Schools Begin To Reopen, Many Teachers Still Concerned About Safety At Work

A few Indiana school districts returned to in-person learning Wednesday for the first time since the start of the pandemic and some teachers say, despite precautions, it may not be enough to keep them and their students safe from COVID-19.

Concerns are immediate at Avon Community Schools, which reopened to in-person learning Wednesday. Hendricks County, where the district is located, has seen an average positive test rate at or above 5 percent since early July.

READ MORE: You Asked How Schools Will Address Equity Issues, Reopening? We’ve Got Answers

Suzy Lebo is a computer science teacher in the district’s high school and the president of the Avon Federation of Teachers. She said COVID-19 infections are too high to reopen schools, and the inability for some classes to maintain physical distance guidelines could make things worse. For instance, in her own classroom, students have to sit about a foot apart to use computers. 

“I’m fearful for any student to get sick, any teacher to get sick, any cafeteria worker, any custodian, anybody,” Lebo said. “That’s my biggest fear – and we don’t know what’s going to happen when you do get sick.”

Expanded Vote-By-Mail Unlikely This Fall As Holcomb Resists

Voter advocates want Hoosiers to be able to vote by mail in this year’s general election.

Groups including Common Cause Indiana, the League of Women Voters of Indiana, the ACLU of Indiana and the Greater Indianapolis NAACP all want the state to expand vote-by-mail to anyone who wants it for the Nov. 3 election. They also want those ballots to count if they’re postmarked by Election Day (instead of having to physically arrive at the county clerk’s office by noon Nov. 3). And they want counties to set up safe drop-off locations for those ballots.

Gov. Eric Holcomb voted in-person in the primary. And his focus is on making sure the state provides in-person voting opportunities in the fall.

Voter Advocates Sue Over Indiana's Absentee Ballot Deadline

Common Cause Indiana and the Indiana NAACP are suing Indiana in federal court over what they say is its “unjustifiably early” deadline to return absentee vote-by-mail ballots.

There’s increased attention on vote-by-mail this year amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

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The deadline for an Indiana voter to return a vote-by-mail ballot to their county election office is noon on Election Day. That’s unusual – in most states, the ballot must be returned by the end of day (or even just postmarked by Election Day).

Common Cause and the NAACP want to change that, making the deadline an Election Day postmark.

Former Lt. Gov. Mutz Says Holcomb Won’t Expand Vote-By-Mail Because Of Trump

Former Indiana Lt. Gov. John Mutz, a Republican, says pressure from President Donald Trump is the reason Gov. Eric Holcomb won’t allow many Hoosiers to vote by mail this fall.

Mutz and former Lt. Gov. Kathy Davis, a Democrat, called on Holcomb Friday to expand Indiana’s vote-by-mail, as he did in the primary.

More Hoosiers want the option this year amid concerns about voting in-person during the COVID-19 pandemic. Holcomb has steadfastly shot down the idea in recent weeks; he insists polling places will be safe.

Mutz said there’s no reason to deprive Hoosiers of the choice to vote by mail.

“I think the resistance comes from pressure from Washington, D.C.,” Mutz said. “I think these local officials are concerned about what Donald Trump may think about it.”

What Do The U.S. GDP Numbers Mean For Indiana?

The U.S. economy showed its largest decline in more than 70 years last quarter. The broad measure of economic activity also points to areas where Indiana is struggling.

The gross domestic product or GDP calculates the value of goods and services. And it showed consumers holding back from spending in light of shutdowns due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The April, May and June numbers show an almost 10 percent quarterly drop.

BMV Asking Customers Not To Pay In Cash During Coin Shortage

Don’t plan to use cash to pay when you go to the Bureau of Motor Vehicles any time soon.

That’s what the BMV is asking Hoosiers amid a nationwide coin shortage.

The U.S. Federal Reserve is experiencing the coin shortage because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Businesses where coins typically enter the system – retail shops, bank lobbies, transit authorities and laundromats – were temporarily closed. And coins that normally would have been received as change were not circulated back.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.