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The Indiana House Republican Caucus is the majority caucus of the Indiana House of Representatives & has 67 legislators, led by House Speaker Todd Huston.

Free job training, skilling-up opportunities amid COVID-19

Hoosiers whose jobs were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can take advantage of tuition-free training grants offered through Indiana’s Next Level Jobs program.

Established in 2017, the program provides Workforce Ready Grants to help Indiana residents who have a high school diploma or equivalent but less than a college degree receive training in high-demand job fields. With more than 500,000 Hoosiers filing for unemployment since March, grants could help those who are laid off or furloughed to build on their skills and get a better paying job.

Hoosiers can visit NextLevelJobs.org to apply for training grants, which cover the cost of tuition and fees for working adults to earn a high-value certificate at Ivy Tech Community College or Vincennes University. Job seekers can connect to local training and resources to find jobs in high-demand industries, including advanced manufacturing, building and construction, health and life sciences, IT and business services, and transportation and logistics.

IvyTech campuses offer students the opportunity to earn a certificate or technical certificate as a building construction management specialist, carpentry specialist, electrical specialist and more. For information, visit IvyTech.edu.

Businesses in high-demand industries can apply for Employer Training Grants, which provide $5,000 for each employee who is trained, hired and retained for six months.

Students interested in attending Ivy Tech have until June 8 to enroll in summer courses, and its summer session will run through Aug. 1. Anyone interested in opportunities through Vincennes University have until May 26 to register for the first round of summer courses and the second round of enrollment is open until July 2. Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, all courses will be offered online.

Hoosiers can learn more about eligibility requirements and apply for a Workforce Ready Grant or Employer Training Grant at NextLevelJobs.org. Anyone who needs help with the application process can call 317-715-9007 to speak one-on-one with a financial aid expert for free through INvestEd.

State expands COVID-19 testing locations

As Indiana eases restrictions on residents and businesses, testing for the coronavirus is key to getting the state back on track. A new large-scale COVID-19 testing effort is underway for symptomatic Hoosiers, with more than 150 testing sites statewide.

Tests are available to those who are experiencing symptoms, close contacts of positive cases and residents of congregate living settings. Symptoms include cough, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing, fever, chills, muscle pain, sore throat, and new loss of taste or smell. This list is not inclusive, so be sure to consult a medical professional with questions and concerns related to the coronavirus.

Through the Indiana State Department of Health, tests are available Monday through Friday at 50 locations across the state. Appointments can be made online or by calling 888-634-1123. Those tested will not be charged and do not need insurance, but individuals with private insurance are asked to bring their information with them.

Test results are typically available within 48 hours. Hoosiers who test positive will receive a phone call, and those who test negative will be notified via email or text.

These free sites are in addition to testing offered by local hospitals and clinics. Criteria to be tested and costs vary at these locations, so check online before going to a site or making an appointment. Click here for an interactive map with a list of open sites near you.

For the latest information on the state’s COVID-19 efforts, visit in.gov/coronavirus.

Thanking Our Teachers, Public Service Workers

Hoosiers work hard every day to support and strengthen their communities. During these unprecedented times, several groups of individuals are going above and beyond to ensure those in need have access to critical services like education, health care and more.

Each year, the first full week of May is recognized as both Teacher Appreciation Week and Public Service Recognition Week.

A good educator can have a lasting and positive impact on the development and success of a child and instill a life-long love of learning. Teachers work tirelessly to give their students the quality education they need to move on to their next phase in life.

It is also important to recognize all the public servants who have been working on the front lines of the COVID-19 pandemic. Thousands of Indiana health care workers, emergency responders, law enforcement, correctional professionals, and so many other critical state employees have supported Indiana’s response to this public health emergency. We are grateful for their commitment, bravery and sacrifice during these trying times.

Now, more than ever, it is important that we give thanks and share our support for these Hoosier heroes.

Even while social distancing, there are plenty of ways to show gratitude for our state’s educators and public service workers. From sharing a photo with an influential teacher, health care or government worker on social media, to putting a thank you sign in the yard, a simple gesture of gratitude can go a long way.

Please take a moment this week to thank your local educators and public service workers, and let them know they are valued.

Self-employed can file for unemployment

The Department of Workforce Development recently launched a new process for self-employed Hoosiers, independent contractors and “gig” workers to apply and receive unemployment benefits.

Under the federal CARES Act, Hoosiers who would not normally qualify for unemployment benefits may now be eligible for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance. To be eligible for this program, you must first file for traditional unemployment insurance benefits and be denied. If you have already done this, you will have a “To Do” on your claimant homepage to complete the PUA application.

For those who have not yet applied, visit unemployment.in.gov. Click here for instructions on how to add your employer to the system. After adding your employer, you should be able to proceed with your application.

All applications must be submitted online at unemployment.in.gov.

Once an application has been approved, Hoosiers can expect to see payments on average within 21 days. The current target date to begin administering payments is May 8. These benefits will be calculated retroactively to March 29 and include the additional $600 per week federal stimulus.

The DWD is working diligently to answer questions and provide information to Hoosiers. Their helpline continues to have extremely high call volumes. Before calling, please check their website for their FAQ guide and other self-help tools. Click here for questions specific to Pandemic Unemployment Assistance.

Federal funds for Hoosier small businesses

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Additional funds are available to Hoosier small businesses due to the federal government recently replenishing $310 billion into the Paycheck Protection Program.

Through the program, roughly 1.6 million loans totaling nearly $350 billion have been approved since April 3. This comes after many employers had to lay off staff because they could not pay employees during Indiana’s temporary stay-at-home order.

PPP funds are an incentive for small-business owners to keep their employees on the payroll. According to the Small Business Administration, loans can be forgiven if all employees are kept on the business’ payroll for eight weeks and the money is used to pay wages, rent, mortgage interest or utilities. Employers would not need to pay back this loan if at least 75% of the money is spent keeping or rehiring workers. Otherwise, it carries a 1% interest rate and must be paid back in two years.

In order to qualify, small businesses must certify in good faith that “current economic uncertainty makes this loan request necessary to support the ongoing operations of the applicant.” Those with fewer than 500 employees are eligible to receive loans up to $10 million.

For more information and to apply for a small business loan, visit SBA.gov/disaster. Hoosiers can also contact 1-800-659-2955 or disastercustomerservice@sba.gov with additional questions.

New Map To Help Find Food Assistance

A new online tool is now available to help Hoosiers feed their families during the COVID-19 pandemic. Indiana’s Food Assistance Availability Map provides locations of local pantries, community kitchens and other food resources.

The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration updates the map, which highlights food pantries where Hoosiers can pick up groceries to prepare at home and meal sites that provide packed, ready-to-eat meals.

Some food banks and pantries are also distributing 25-pound boxes filled with a variety of food items, like canned and packaged fruits, vegetables, soups, sauces, noodles, beans, nuts, juices and meats. This is part of the Disaster Household Distribution program offered by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and Nutrition Service.

This service is available through Thursday, May 14, and individuals should contact their local food bank or pantry to determine whether they are participating in the program.

Anyone having trouble getting food, including those who need groceries, can also call 2-1-1 or visit in211.org to connect with local resources.

State Awards Grants For Roads, Bridges

More than 200 Indiana cities, towns and counties recently received a combined total of $126.5 million in state funding for road and bridge improvements through the Community Crossings Matching Grant program.

This was the latest round of grants made available through the Indiana Department of Transportation, resulting from a law passed in 2017. The Community Crossings program is an integral part of Indiana’s long-term, fully funded roads plan, which helps maintain Indiana’s status as the Crossroads of America without passing on debt to future generations. To date, more than $738 million has been distributed to communities throughout the state since the program was first established. Along with maintaining essential infrastructure, the initiative also incentivizes economic development and creates jobs.

Because the process is highly competitive, the state awards two rounds of grants annually. Locals can use these grants for road reconstruction, road and bridge preservation, intersection improvements, guardrail replacements and signage. Funding is awarded based on need, road and pavement condition, amount of traffic, and the potential community impact on mobility and connectivity.

Cities and towns with a population of less than 10,000 must provide a 25% funding match, while communities larger than that contribute a 50% match. The program requires that half of its available matching funds be awarded annually to municipalities with populations of 50,000 or less. The maximum amount given to a community or county is $1 million.

Applications for the next round of grants will be accepted starting in July. An estimated $100 million is expected to be awarded. Learn more on INDOT’s website.

Resources For Remote Learning

With Indiana school buildings closed for the remainder of the academic year to help slow the spread of COVID-19, there are several online resources available to help students continue learning at home.

Parents can visit doe.in.gov/covid-19, and click on “Remote Learning Resources” to access educational tools, including free online classes on a variety of subjects for all grade levels covering multiple subjects. There is also a parent toolkit with information on how to help students finish the school year strong, along with STEM activities, educational games, virtual tours of museums and zoos, and more.

To help students complete the school year at home, Indiana Public Broadcasting Stations teamed up with the Department of Education to offer television programming and online resources aligned with Indiana’s curriculum standards for K-12 students. Parents can find their local TV program schedule through the DOE’s COVID-19 website or by visiting their local IPBS station website. Students and parents can also visit PBSLearningMedia.org to find grab-and-go activities, lesson plans, interactive lessons and other materials.

For households with limited or no internet connectivity, the DOE’s COVID-19 website also offers information on how to get low-cost or even free broadband service. Hoosiers can also contact their provider directly.

For high school seniors on track to graduate, the DOE is working to ensure the students receive their diplomas. Most schools are continuing to provide food to students in need, with many offering meals at pickup locations. Each district has a different policy, so parents should check their school district’s website for specific information.

Parents and guardians in need of child care during this time can visit childcarefinder.in.gov to find options near their home or on the way to work. Children displaying any signs of sickness should remain home until they are better.

For more information about remote learning, visit doe.in.gov/covid-19, or email IDOECOVID-19@doe.in.gov with questions.

State, federal tax filing deadlines extended for Hoosiers

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, Hoosiers will have an additional three months to file their state and federal taxes. Originally set for April 15, the deadline to file has been extended to July 15.

This extension applies to both individuals and corporations, and Indiana’s Department of Revenue offers income tax forms for individuals and businesses with the updated corresponding submission date. If Hoosiers are needing extra time to file state returns, an extension is available and instructions can be found here. For federal returns, taxpayers can defer payments without penalties or interest, no matter the amount owed. Indiana will automatically extend the state deadline for returns if an individual requests a federal extension.

There is no action required for Hoosiers to qualify for the July 15 deadline extension. The IRS recommends taxpayers file as soon as possible, especially if individuals are eligible for a refund, and to file electronically.

If taxpayers have questions, the DOR is available and ready to assist by phone at 317-232-2240 or by email using this online form. For questions about corporate taxes, call 317-232-0129. At this time, in-person services are temporarily suspended.

For more information, visit in.gov/dor.

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