At its meeting on Wednesday, Bloomington’s city council took the next procedural step towards getting $2 million worth of already-collected food and beverage tax revenue, into the hands of the private sector.
The goal is to provide bridge funding for local employers and employees who have been impacted by the COVID-19 viral epidemic.
The bridge is supposed to span the time it will take for more robust federal aid to land in local hands.
Based on the timeline sketched out on Wednesday by city controller Jeff Underwood, the money could be ready for distribution as soon as the end of next week, April 10.
The steps involved would include a city council approval of the appropriation at its second reading at a Tuesday, April 7 meeting.
The appropriation would then need a final sign-off by the Indiana Department Local Government Finance, which Underwood hopes to get by April 10. At that point, the money would be available, Underwood said at Wednesday’s meeting.
A virtual press conference on Monday featured various government officials, who talked about local measures that are being taken to address the COVID-19 pandemic. It’s so far claimed 17 lives in the state.
During the conference, Bloomington city councilmember Dave Rollo posed a question: Could the Monroe County health department issue a declaration saying that grocery stores cannot prohibit their workers from wearing masks to protect themselves and others from infection with COVID-19?
Rollo didn’t get an answer to the question at the press conference—a technical glitch prevented some county officials from joining the call.
Added together, Bloomington and Monroe County’s respective shares of unexpended food and beverage tax revenues, collected countywide since early 2018, stand at around $5.7 million.
In separate actions over the last week, Bloomington and Monroe County elected officials have taken steps towards appropriating $2.2 million of that money for relief of businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Highlights from a press release issued by the city of Bloomington early Wednesday afternoon included the creation of a city working group called the Continuity of City Government (COCG) team. It will be led by the city’s deputy mayor Mick Renneisen, and human resources director Caroline Shaw, according to the news release.
Monroe County’s board of commissioners met Wednesday morning and authorized $50,000 worth of emergency COVID-19 relief and made a request for $200,000 more.
Bloomington’s city council held a work session on Friday, March 13, 2020. Joining remotely via a Google Meet were four concilmembers and director of utilities Vic Kelson, who’s on-screen in this shot. (Dave Askins/Square Beacon)
The extra meeting was added so that the council can act to approve the re-funding of some waterworks bonds. The utilities services board approved the bond re-funding this past week. And the council’s action will set up the city to save about $2.3 million in interest.
Even if that kind of public business continues to get done, it’s not business as usual.
On Thursday, Indiana’s governor, Eric Holcomb, announced additional statewide measures meant to help reduce COVID-19 infection rates. The number of cases in the state of Indiana has doubled from six on Tuesday (March 10) to 12 cases two days later (March 12).
Among the measures announced by Holcomb on Thursday was a prohibition of non-essential gatherings of more than 250 people. About the scope of the prohibited gatherings, the press release states, “This includes any event or gathering of people who are in one room or a single space at the same time, such as cafeterias …”
The climate action and resilience committee of the Bloomington city council on March 11, 2020. From left: Dave Rollo, Kate Rosenbarger, Matt Flaherty, and Isabel Piedmont-Smith.
Ilana Stonebraker, who recently moved to Bloomington Tippecanoe County where she served as a Democrat on the county council, addresses the climate action and resilience committee of the Bloomington city council.
Daniel Bingham, who ran for Bloomington city council last year, addresses the climate action and resilience committee of the Bloomington city council.
Bloomington city council’s climate action and resilience committee, a four-member subset of the council, convened a meeting Wednesday night to hear feedback from the public on a possible countywide increase to the local income tax.
About three dozen people attended, maybe a third of them Indiana University students, for whom attendance was a class assignment.
Based on the statutory framework for the county tax council, a simple 5–4 majority on the Bloomington city council would be enough to enact the tax.
The size of the increase that was floated on New Year’s Day by Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, was 0.5 points. That would bring the total amount of local income tax paid by county residents to 1.845 percent.
Prominent on the city’s approach will be “social distancing”—measures to reduce occasions when people have to gather in close proximity to each other.
According to the release, “The City will significantly reduce large in-person meetings effective March 16, including boards and commissions, special events, cabinet and other large internal meetings, and more.”
Among the events that will be rescheduled, according to the release, are the March 25 Women’s History Month Luncheon, the March 28 Women’s Leadership Summit, and the March 31 Be More Awards.
The fire department’s U.S. Department of State-sponsored trip to Sierra Leone
has been postponed, according to the release. And attendance at numerous planned conferences will be canceled, according to the release.