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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.

Let’s Work Together to Support Local Communities

The coronavirus pandemic has effected so many aspects of our daily lives, and now we all must to do our part to protect ourselves and each other. To fight the spread of the virus, the governor’s “stay-at-home” order is in place through April 6. This unprecedented effort is to help save lives and alleviate the strain on our health care system. Hoosier families and businesses are resilient and patient, but Indiana’s leaders understand the need for Hoosiers to get back to work as soon as possible. In the meantime, please consider opportunities to support your local community and neighbors.

Here are five ways Hoosiers can help:

Contribute To Your Local Food Bank

Aside from making cash donations, consider reaching out to local food banks to see what can be done to help others in the community. Many organizations rely on retirees to keep their shelves stocked and doors open, but older citizens are particularly vulnerable to the coronavirus. Local charities are facing a growing need for both supplies and volunteers. If you are working age and in general good health, consider volunteering for a local food bank. These organizations are more vital than ever, providing not only food, but also household items like cleaning supplies, diapers and personal care products. They have plans in place for preventing the spread of the virus like making to-go boxes of food and coordinating drive through stations. Visit Feeding America’s website to find a food bank near you, and please contact them directly to see what they need and how you can help.

Check In With Neighbors

Consider checking-in with elderly neighbors by phone or via social media. Picking up groceries for others is a great way to help, just be sure to leave the items at a secure location, like a porch, in order to limit contact. Others may need help walking their dogs. In some neighborhoods, children are using their front porches as a safe location to play music, put on skits or host shows. There are many ways to help our neighbors, and perhaps build some new relationships along the way.

Donate Blood

The American Red Cross is reporting severe blood shortages since the pandemic took hold, putting many patients at risk. If you are in good health and not feeling sick, visit RedCross.org/Indiana or call 1-800-RED-CROSS and schedule a blood donation. The organization has safety protocols in place to protect donors, volunteers and workers from potential exposure.

Support Local Businesses

Only essential services remain open to reduce the spread of the coronavirus, but there are ways to help small businesses and their employees. While dining rooms in Indiana are temporarily closed, restaurants and breweries can still offer carryout and delivery options. Check out Visit Indiana’s guide on statewide, low-contact carryout and delivery options, for a list of restaurants offering these services and guidelines to help prevent the spread of the virus. Be sure to check local business websites and social media accounts for specifics on delivery and curbside options, and consider purchasing gift cards and contributing to fundraisers to help.

Sew And Donate Face Masks

According to Indiana hospitals, orders for standard/disposable masks are on long back-orders, due to both demand and supply chain issues. While fabric masks are not to be used in the care of COVID-19 patients, according to the CDC, fabric masks are a crisis response option when other supplies have been exhausted. Fabric masks can also be helpful in other areas of patient care as supplies of personal protective equipment are depleted. Follow these instructions on how to make face masks. Organizations that need masks can also request them through the Deaconess database connecting individuals and companies for this important effort. Physicians in Northwest Indiana started the Masks for NWI Healthcare Workers Facebook group encouraging citizens to sew face masks and donate them.

As we all do our part to combat this public health crisis, it is crucial to remember we’re all in this together. Helping fellow Hoosiers not only provides a much-needed lifeline to those facing difficulties, but it also strengthens communities and forges new connections among neighbors.

For a list of resources and the latest information on what Indiana is doing to address the coronavirus, visit IN.gov/Coronavirus.

Best Practices Amid COVID-19 Concerns

State and local leaders have taken bold and decisive actions to utilize all available resources to help Hoosiers as they adjust to the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic.

As Gov. Eric Holcomb and the Indiana State Department of Health continue to provide updates on the ongoing situation, there are simple precautions everyone should be aware of to reduce the spread of the coronavirus. Chief among them is an emphasis on social distancing, or increasing physical space between people to avoid spreading illness, and many are already becoming familiar with this practice by staying home and out of large crowds whenever possible.

Under a recent executive order, all schools will be closed until May 1 and state mandated tests like ILEARN will be canceled for this current academic year. Parents in need of child care services can search the state’s child care finder for locations close to home, work or on a commute route. However, families are reminded that if they or their child show any symptoms of COVID-19, including a fever, cough or shortness of breath, they should stay home and contact their health care provider.

For those experiencing unemployment or financial hardship, the Department of Workforce Development is encouraging Hoosiers to apply for unemployment insurance benefits electronically through a computer or smart phone at Unemployment.IN.gov. Additionally, no residential eviction proceedings or foreclosure actions may be initiated during the public health emergency. Providers of essential utility services such as gas and electric, broadband, telecom, water and wastewater services are also prohibited from discontinuing service to any customer at this time.

These are unprecedented times, the state is working hard to ensure you have all the tools necessary to navigate these challenges. Governor Holcomb, ISDH and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will continue to provide updates on this situation as it evolves.

Visit in.gov/coronavirus to stay up-to-date on the coronavirus and to find more resources.

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