NewsHealth / September 6, 2020

Coronavirus: SBOE Maintains School Funding, Indiana Evaluates Federal Eviction Moratorium

Article origination IPBS-RJC
One in five small businesses in Indiana will have to permanently close by November without another round of federal loans, according to a small business advocacy group.  - Justin Hicks/IPB News

One in five small businesses in Indiana will have to permanently close by November without another round of federal loans, according to a small business advocacy group.

Justin Hicks/IPB News

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 68 additional confirmed deaths over the last week, bringing the state’s total to 3,140. The state announced more than 99,000 total confirmed cases – including two days with more than 1,000 reported cases – and more than 1.5 million Hoosiers tested.

State Exploring Impact Of New Federal Eviction Moratorium

Indiana is evaluating how Hoosiers will be affected by the recent eviction moratorium issued by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The federal moratorium is effective until the end of December. Indiana Housing and Community Development Executive Director Jacob Sipe said there are several criteria people must meet in order to avoid evictions.

First, people have to at least apply for as much governmental assistance as possible. Second, the moratorium only applies to people who will make less than $99,000 this year or $198,000 for those filing jointly.

Advocates Say Federal Eviction Moratorium Delays Problem, Should Prompt State Response

Indiana housing advocates say the new federal eviction moratorium is an opportunity for the state to address the larger housing instability crisis.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced this week a halt to many evictions through the end of December.

Prosperity Indiana policy director Andrew Bradley said the moratorium has the potential to help more than 300,000 Hoosier households. But he noted individual courts will likely be the ones determining whether people qualify.

“And I think that’s where we could start seeing problems unless we take a step back and have a statewide housing policy response,” Bradley said.

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Indiana University School of Medicine Will Take Part In Global COVID-19 Vaccine Trial

The Indiana University School of Medicine announced it has been selected to participate in an international COVID-19 vaccine trial. 

The trial is for a vaccine in development by pharmaceutical company AstraZeneca and Oxford University. It’s one of three vaccines in the U.S. in the final stage of study before Food and Drug Administration approval for widespread use. 

The trial is part of the Department of Health and Human Services’ Operation Warp Speed – an initiative to produce and deliver 300 million doses of a COVID-19 vaccine, with the initial doses available by January. In May, HHS committed up to $1.2 billion in support of the AstraZeneca vaccine. 

“I think we don't want to rush anything,” Dr. Cynthia Brown, the study’s lead researcher and an associate professor of clinical medicine at the IU School of Medicine, said in an interview with Side Effects. “I know we're all eager to get back to as normal as quickly as possible, but we certainly want to make sure we have something that's not only effective, but also safe to be given in large numbers.” 

Indiana Board Of Education Makes Change To Fully Fund Schools Virtual During COVID-19

The Indiana State Board of Education unanimously approved a proposal to maintain full funding levels for schools operating online this fall. School leaders and educators say it offers much-needed stability.

The change means schools will receive 100 percent of funding for students learning remotely because of COVID-19. If a school and its students were virtual full time before COVID, they will only receive 85 percent of funding, per state law. 

The action temporarily works around rules meant to dissuade schools from offering virtual instruction full time. But board member Pete Miller said it's best for most kids to learn in person, and he hopes efforts continue to bring kids and staff back to schools safely.

"My hope is schools will continue to seek to provide in-person instruction whenever possible," he said.

1 In 5 Hoosier Small Business Could Close By November Without Another PPP Loan

One in five small businesses in Indiana will have to permanently close by November without another round of federal loans, according to a small business advocacy group. The organization is urging Congress to pass additional Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan funding.

The National Federation of Independent Business (NFIB) estimates more than 80 percent of small businesses that received a PPP loan have used all the money already in the most recent survey taken.

The PPP program was designed to keep businesses from permanently shutting their doors due to COVID-19 by issuing forgivable loans to help keep employees on payroll and pay rent.

Local Census Offices To End Operations A Month Early Due To COVID-19 Concerns

With just one month left to respond to the Census, community groups are working to ensure everyone is counted. The U.S. Census Bureau will stop counting at the end of September, a month earlier than planned. That could threaten the accuracy of the census if many people go uncounted.

Kelley Coures is the executive director of the Evansville Department of Metropolitan Development. He said they’re working with the local Census office to target historically undercounted neighborhoods during these final weeks to ensure a complete count of the region.

Health Advocates Say Some COVID-19 Testing Lacks Cultural Sensitivity

On a Friday evening in late June, Liliana Quintero received a call from one of the Spanish interpreters working at a COVID-19 testing site in Goshen, Indiana. The area has one of Indiana’s higher Latinx populations and higher rates of COVID-19 cases, according to state data.

“[He was] saying, ‘Liliana I need to inform you that the nurse who is in charge of this site just told me that each time that she sees Hispanics coming to this site, she's going to call the police,’” recalls Quintero, director of the Northern Indiana Hispanic Health Coalition, an Elkhart-based health education and advocacy nonprofit.

That sort of racial profiling upset Quintero and was a serious threat to local residents. Local and state health officials quickly shut down the testing site and within days replaced it with one managed by the state.

Optum, the state contractor that provided testing, apologized to the Goshen community. In an emailed statement, Optum said it “ended our relationship with this person upon learning of their behavior, which was totally inconsistent with our values.”

“We take seriously our responsibility to provide compassionate, quality care to all members of the communities we are privileged to serve, and we are committed to treating every person seeking testing for COVID-19 with respect,” Optum said in its statement.

Quintero says the incident could have undermined her organization’s work to build their clients’ trust in the local government.

"We cannot be always there acting as a bridge," she says. “That was the beginning of a lot of huge learning experiences for everybody.” 

The profiling incident is also part of a larger problem. Months into Indiana’s fight against COVID-19, some community health leaders say testing efforts don't always consider the Hoosiers they serve. That includes Black and Latinx Hoosiers, as well as undocumented immigrants and refugees.

Statewide Organizations Collaborate To Mobilize Resources During COVID-19

More than a dozen statewide government, non-profit and economic development groups are collaborating to help communities across Indiana respond to and recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

The organizations are Accelerate Indiana Municipalities, Association of Indiana Counties, Indiana Association of Regional Councils, Indiana Chamber Executives Association, Indiana Economic Development Association, Indiana Library Federation, Indiana Office of Career Connections and Talent, Indiana Philanthropy Alliance, Indiana Public Health Association, Indiana Tourism Association, Indiana United Ways, Indiana Workforce Development Board Alliance, Prosperity Indiana and Purdue Extension.

Philanthropy Alliance President and CEO Claudia Cummings said all those groups, working together, allows each of them to mobilize resources to the people who need them. As an example, she pointed to Starke County, where the United Way and a local community foundation were able to more quickly get money to county government.

“Both to support those in need of supplies and groceries due to unemployment, quarantine or other facets but also was part of their economic development strategy to maintain operations with their local businesses and to keep employees working,” Cummings said.

Indiana Early Learning Providers Receive More Than $13 Million To Stay Operational

An early learning nonprofit has awarded more than $13.1 million in grant money to child care and early learning providers around Indiana, to help them navigate the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

More than 1,000 providers in counties around the state are receiving part of the funding. It’ll be used for things like hiring new teachers, buying safety and sanitization supplies, and expanding capacity.

Early Learning Indiana President Maureen Weber says the goal is to help high-quality providers stay open as they adapt to changes in demand spurred by COVID-19.

“This is an industry that really barely survives; in the best of times we look at razor thin margins as the norm across the early learning community,” she said.

Unemployed Hoosiers Plead With State To Fix 'Disconcerting Problems'

A group of Hoosiers are asking the state to address what they call “disconcerting problems” with the unemployment system. That’s from a letter they sent Gov. Eric Holcomb’s office last week.

The letter comes from a Facebook group formed in early April for volunteers to support others navigating Indiana’s unemployment system. Members report getting conflicting information from the Department of Workforce Development’s call center and are frustrated with long waits to get questions answered.

Alisha Lambert is one of the administrators of the Facebook group. She said many Hoosiers are struggling – financially and emotionally – with the long waits to get their unemployment issues resolved.

“They’re losing their homes, their cars, they can’t find jobs, they can’t get answers from DWD on anything,” she said. “We’ve had several members talk about suicide. They’re hopeless.”

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

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