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April 2021

Investing In Students, Educators

Indiana is making an unprecedented investment in K-12 education in our next two-year state budget. Half of all state spending is already dedicated to K-12 education, and Indiana is investing a historic $1.9 billion in new money over the biennium. These additional dollars include $600 million annually to increase teacher pay.

Our investment fulfills and exceeds the $600 million needed to meet the governor’s Next Level Teacher Compensation Commission‘s recommendations to make Indiana’s teacher pay more competitive. With this additional funding, locals should be in a strong position to raise minimum starting teacher salaries $40,000. To ensure our investment is being used to support students and teachers directly, schools are required to dedicate at least 45% of tuition support to teacher pay. If these benchmarks are not met, corporations must report to the Indiana Department of Education or apply for a waiver.

In addition to raising teacher pay, lawmakers furthered their commitment to students and teachers by appropriating $150 million to establish the Student Learning Recovery Grant program, which will help students who have fallen behind their peers due to COVID-19. Increased funding will be available for special education grants and complexity grants to help Indiana’s most vulnerable students. In addition, career and technical education programs will continue to be supported, providing students opportunities to pursue trade occupations while in high school. Non-English speaking programs will also see increased funding over the next two years. Each year, $1 million will be allocated for the teacher residency grant program, and $37.5 million will be available for Teacher Appreciation Grants, which reward highly effective and effective educators.

With these record-breaking investments in public school funding, lawmakers also expanded our School Choice Scholarship Program, which removes financial hurdles for families who want to choose the best educational fit for their child. In addition, lawmakers created the Indiana Education Scholarship Account to empower parents with special education students to select a school that meets their unique needs. 

This historic state funding is on top of the $2.8 billion in federal money sent to Indiana schools.

This new budget is a huge win for Hoosier students and teachers, and it is thanks to Indiana’s conservative leadership and strategic investments over the last decade. While the state continues to prioritize K-12 education, the next budget also reduces taxpayer-funded debt by over $1 billion, provides opportunities for future tax cuts and reforms, and makes critical investments in infrastructure, broadband, mental health and law enforcement. Click here to learn more about the next two-year budget.

Propelling Our State’s Economy Forward

The COVID-19 pandemic left many states in a precarious financial situation. Not Indiana.

Thanks to strong, conservative leadership, the Hoosier state was able to manage the economic fallout from the pandemic better than most. A year ago, Indiana’s unemployment skyrocketed to over 17%, but now we’re at 3.9% – well below the national average of 6.7%.

Still, many small businesses and low-wage workers have been negatively impacted over the last year, especially those in the tourism and hospitality industries. The Indiana General Assembly will use part of a projected revenue increase of more than $2 billion over the next two years, as well as $3 billion in emergency federal funding, to support small businesses and workforce training, and position Hoosier communities for economic development and growth.

A new law invests $60 million to bolster the Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Grant. Administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp., the program provides eligible businesses a grant of up to $50,000 to cover a portion of business and payroll-related expenses. Information on the grant program can be found on the IEDC’s website under the “COVID-19 Updates & Resources” banner at the top of the web page.

To prepare Indiana for the future, the state will invest $500 million in the Regional Economic Acceleration and Development Initiative so communities can work together on innovative policies to spur continued economic development and attract new residents.

Lawmakers allocated $75 million to establish the Career Accelerator Fund for educational programs that train Hoosiers for high-wage, high-demand jobs. Another $34 million goes to the Next Level Jobs program that offers tuition-free training grants for residents with a high school diploma or equivalent, as well as $6 million for Workforce Ready Grants. These strategic investments, while continuing to maintain prudent reserves, keeps Indiana’s economic momentum on the right track. Click here to learn more.

Boosting Small Business Recovery

Small businesses are a vital part of the Hoosier economy, and the pandemic created many hardships throughout the last year. Employers have worked diligently to keep their doors open and made large investments to keep employees and customers safe. Some are still trying to make ends meet.

To help speed that recovery, a new law expands the Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Grant Program to provide more small businesses a chance to recoup some of their losses.

This grant program is an extension of the already existing Small Business Restart Program and would continue to be administered by the Indiana Economic Development Corp.

Originally, the program was started with federal COVID-19 relief dollars and issued $34.5 million in grants. Through the CARES Act, an additional $60 million has been made available.

Eligible recipients include those whose revenue is $10 million a year or less, with fewer than 100 employees as of Dec. 31, 2019, and they must show average monthly gross revenue loss of at least 30%. Grants cannot be more than $50,000 to any individual business.

Small businesses may apply until Dec. 31, 2021, but are encouraged to apply and submit expenses for reimbursement as soon as possible, as grants will be issued in the order they are received until funding is exhausted.

For more information about the grant program, visit backontrack.in.gov.

Solving More Crimes With Digital Evidence

As the world becomes increasingly digital, criminals are using advanced technology to commit crimes and take advantage of Hoosiers. To keep our communities safe, law enforcement officers must be prepared to use cyber resources to track down and catch criminals. This session, we passed a new law helping law enforcement agencies partner with local university students to analyze digital evidence during criminal investigations.

This new law establishes the High Tech Crimes Unit Program where prosecuting attorneys can call on Hoosier college students to help gather and process digital evidence. The program is based on the success of the Tippecanoe County High Tech Crime Unit, which gave Purdue University’s Cyber Forensics Program the opportunity to partner with local law enforcement agencies. Students in related fields can now collaborate directly with prosecutors to analyze digital evidence in crimes such as child pornography, child abuse, drug investigations, murder, fraud and more.

The Indiana Prosecuting Attorneys Council will approve 10 units established by the High Tech Crimes Unit Program as well as oversee the selection of university groups to partner with under this new law, which will go into effect July 1. To learn more about this new law, visit iga.in.gov.

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