State plans to borrow $300M for Indiana unemployment benefits
Indiana health officials reported 756 new COVID-19 cases and three additional deaths Sunday.
The Indiana State Department of Health confirmed a total of 111,505 positive coronavirus cases in the state, including 3,281 deaths. There have been 1,867,826 tests conducted, with a 6% cumulative positivity rate.
The flood of unemployment claims stemming from the coronavirus pandemic has forced a request from Indiana officials to seek potentially $300 million in loans from the federal government. The borrowing is needed because the state's unemployment insurance trust fund that stood at nearly $1 billion before joblessness exploded in March has nearly gone dry. The state workforce development agency is seeking $60 million to cover shortfalls for September, plus a projected $120 million for each October and November. Indiana is among more than 20 states and territories seeking federal loans for their unemployment funds.
The Indianapolis City Council has passed $76 million in federal CARES Act COVID-19 Relief allocations. Mayor Joe Hogsett's office says Wednesday that it's the third and final application of the funding and extends existing programs formed in response to the coronavirus pandemic. It also funds the creation of several new initiatives. The allocations were introduced Wednesday by Hogsett at a special meeting. The package includes $7.5 million for the city's rental assistance program, bringing total funding to $30 million for the program. Money also will go toward food access, secondary and adult education and a homeless winter contingency program.
The counties that include Indiana and Ball State universities are listed as the highest-risk locations for coronavirus infections on the state health department's updated county-by-county map. The agency on Wednesday also added 12 more confirmed or presumed coronavirus-related deaths to the state's toll, raising it to 3,472, including confirmed and presumed coronavirus cases since mid-March. Monroe County, which includes the main Indiana University campus in Bloomington, and Delaware County, which includes Ball State in Muncie, are the only two listed with the health department's orange rating for moderate to high coronavirus spread after seven counties had that rating last week.
Indiana officials are still holding back on spending more than half of the $2.4 billion state government received in federal coronavirus relief funding. Republican Gov. Eric Holcomb's top budget adviser on Tuesday blamed some of that on confusion with federal rules, but Democrats on the State Budget Committee questioned why there wasn't more urgency in spending the money on the immediate needs of people around the state. A new state report showed that only $225 million, or less than 10%, of that federal money has been spent, with some $1.3 billion not dedicated to any programs yet.
The Indiana Supreme Court says Chief Justice Loretta Rush has tested positive for a COVID-19 infection but not yet developed severe symptoms. The court said Monday that Rush learned about her infection on Sept. 13 and underwent the test after a family member tested positive for the coronavirus. Rush has been working remotely and hasn't been to the Statehouse, where the Supreme Court justices have offices, since Sept. 1. A court spokeswoman says Rush is under a doctor's care but has not gone to a hospital for treatment. Rush has been Indiana's chief justice since 2014.
Indiana health officials are developing the criteria they'll use to decide who's entitled to receive a coronavirus vaccine when one becomes available.
Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said last week she expects the supply of doses will be extremely limited once the federal government approves a vaccine for widespread human use. It might be just 10 million or 15 million doses for the 330 million people living in the United States.
The (Northwest Indiana) Times reports that if the vaccine is distributed to each state based on its share of the U.S. population, Indiana might receive only 300,000 doses initially for its 6.7 million residents.
Nearly 100 additional coronavirus testing sites are planned across Indiana by the end of this month. State officials announced that $30 million over the next two years from federal coronavirus funding will go to 76 county health departments for the new testing sites. About three dozen sites will be open by the end of this week, with a total of 95 scheduled to be in operation by Oct. 1. State Health Commissioner Dr. Kristina Box said the new sites should be conducting 100 to 200 free tests a day.
Indiana lawmakers are preparing to move much of their 2021 legislative session activity out of the Statehouse over coronavirus concerns. A joint House-Senate committee endorsed a plan aimed at allowing the 100-member House hold its floor sessions and committee meetings in the auditorium and conference rooms in a state office building next to the Statehouse. The 50-member state Senate is planning to keep meeting in its Statehouse chamber but will convert its public gallery into seating for senators in order to allow sufficient distancing when the legislative session starts in January.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.