Owners or employees? Bloomington city council’s planned $2-million COVID-19 relief gets scrutiny

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.

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Row-wise from top left: city council deputy administrator/attorney Stephen Lucas, CM Ron Smith, CM Jim Sims, city council  administrator/attorney Dan Sherman, CM Sue Sgambelluri, CM Matt Flaherty, CM Dave Rollo, CM Kate Rosenbarger, CM Isabel Piedmont-Smith, city clerk Nicole Bolden, CM Steve Volan, and CM Susan Sandberg. (Screen grab from April 1, 2020 meeting of the Bloomington city council conducted on the Zoom videoconferencing platform.)

The bridge is supposed to span the time it will take for more robust federal aid to land in local hands.

The step taken by the city council on Wednesday was to hear a first reading of a $2 million appropriation ordinance, made possible by the positive recommendation of the food and beverage tax commission at a meeting convened last Friday.

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.

To whom should that money be available? Continue reading “Owners or employees? Bloomington city council’s planned $2-million COVID-19 relief gets scrutiny”

Bloomington’s city council now set for next step in consideration of $2M for economic relief of businesses and workers

Annotated R-OUT Unemployment Initial Claims Monroe County 2008-2020

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A screen grab of Tuesday’s (March 31, 2020) Zoom-based meeting of the Bloomington city council’s  sustainable development committee. In the main frame is Alex Crowley, Bloomington’s director of economic and sustainable development.

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on Bloomington area local businesses can now seen on charts and graphs.

The pandemic has spiked the county’s initial unemployment claims to four times the number seen during the highest week of the 2008–2009 economic downturn. Even higher numbers could be recorded next week. Unemployment numbers are released on Tuesdays.

In addition to fresh unemployment figures, this Tuesday brought a first detailed look at Bloomington’s effort to use $2 million of food and beverage tax money, as well as other funds, to provide economic relief to businesses and workers .

That’s when the Bloomington city council’s four-member sustainable development standing committee heard a report from an economic stability and recovery (ESR) working group formed by Mayor John Hamilton. Continue reading “Bloomington’s city council now set for next step in consideration of $2M for economic relief of businesses and workers”

United Way, other non-profits, announce $330K in grant awards for emergency relief from COVID-19 impact

In a press release issued Tuesday morning, the United Way of Monroe County announced the distribution of nearly $300,000 in grants to area non-profits to help them as they respond to the local impact on critical human services needs from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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On Tuesday morning,  United Way of Monroe County announced the distribution of money in the COVID-19 emergency relief fund.

Also included in Tuesday’s press release is the announcement by the Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County of more than $30,000 in “rapid response” grants to nonprofits, to help with supplies, equipment, remote-work technology and staffing.

A third announcement in Tuesday’s press release comes from the Bloomington Health Foundation (BHF), which contributed $25,000 to the COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund, coordinated by the United Way. BHF also matched $25,000 worth of individual contributions to that fund.

Tuesday’s release says that the BHF funded hand washing stations for Wheeler Mission and Shalom Community Center, working with the Monroe County Health Department. The wash stations help those experiencing homelessness follow the standard advice of frequent hand washing to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Continue reading “United Way, other non-profits, announce $330K in grant awards for emergency relief from COVID-19 impact”

$2.2M in food and beverage tax money now queued up for Bloomington, Monroe County COVID-19 economic relief, pending guidance from state’s board of accounts

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Screen grab of the March 27, 2020 meeting of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC), which was conducted on the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

At its Friday afternoon meeting, the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) unanimously approved a request to use $2 million in already-collected tax money to assist businesses inside the city of Bloomington that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The request came from Bloomington’s city council, which voted unanimously on Wednesday to make the request of the FABTAC.

Friday’s vote by the FABTAC concludes, for now, its role in the effort to use proceeds of the 1-percent tax to provide economic support to businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Previously, the FABTAC had approved a request from Monroe County commissioners to use $200,000 of the county’s share of the money to assist businesses outside the city of Bloomington.

Details on the distribution of the money will now be sorted out by the city and the county for their respective shares. Continue reading “$2.2M in food and beverage tax money now queued up for Bloomington, Monroe County COVID-19 economic relief, pending guidance from state’s board of accounts”

Monroe County, Bloomington both putting food and beverage tax money towards COVID-19 economic relief

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Screen grab of the March 25, 2020 meeting of the Monroe County council, conducted on the videoconferencing platform Zoom.
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Screen grab of the March 25, 2020 meeting of the Bloomington city council, conducted on on the videoconferencing platform Zoom.

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.

By early Wednesday, March 25, COVID-19 had claimed 14 lives in the state of Indiana. Continue reading “Monroe County, Bloomington both putting food and beverage tax money towards COVID-19 economic relief”

First Monroe County, now Bloomington, to consider food and beverage tax money as economic relief funds in COVID-19 response

On Monday, Indiana governor Eric Holcomb’s gave a noon address announcing a stay-at-home order as a way to help curb the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

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Monroe County councilor Cheryl Munson and Bloomington city councilmember Steve Volan are vice president and president, respectively, of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC).

A couple of hours later, elected and appointed officials from Bloomington, Monroe County, Indiana University, and IU Health, held a virtual press conference.

During his turn, Bloomington’s mayor, John Hamilton, referred to the necessary response to the COVID-19 pandemic as a “marathon, not a sprint.” He quickly revised that description: “We’re in a marathon that starts with a sprint.”

Part of the sprint is a resolution approved last Wednesday by Monroe County commissioners, to make a request of the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC). If the FABTAC gives its approval, the county would be able to use $200,000 of already-collected food and beverage tax revenues for economic relief of local businesses impacted by COVID-19.

Bloomington now looks like it could make a similar request of the FABTAC. It will likely be for a larger amount, because Bloomington receives 90 percent of the food and beverage tax revenues. The county receives the other 10 percent.

Bloomington’s request could be made at the city council’s upcoming Wednesday meeting. A revised meeting agenda now includes a resolution that would make a request of FABTAC for the use of food and beverage tax revenues. Continue reading “First Monroe County, now Bloomington, to consider food and beverage tax money as economic relief funds in COVID-19 response”

COVID-19 means fare-free Bloomington buses for now, rear-door entry preferred

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Over the weekend, Bloomington’s public bus agency, announced that its downtown transit center’s indoor waiting area would be closed starting Monday (today), because of concerns about transmission of the COVID-19 pandemic virus.

The downtown transit center’s closure eliminated one option that passengers had for paying the $1 fare for Bloomington Transit buses—sales of bus tokens at the customer service desk inside the center.

Now, the task of buying fare media for public buses in Bloomington has been eliminated, at least for the time being.

Bloomington transit issued a press release on Monday announcing that fares would be eliminated on fixed route and BT Access buses “until further notice.” BT Access is the bus agency’s para-transit service. Continue reading “COVID-19 means fare-free Bloomington buses for now, rear-door entry preferred”

Column: On the normalcy of local COVID-19 response

Early Friday afternoon, Monroe County’s health administrator, Penny Caudill,
sent out a press release announcing the county’s first confirmed case of COVID-19, the pandemic virus that’s spreading across the world.

It was a student seen a week earlier by Indiana University Health Center, whose positive test was reported to the center just that morning.

The student, who lives off-campus, self-isolated for the week while the test was being processed. The student health center sent the test to LabCorp, a private lab in Burlington, North Carolina, according to the student health center’s medical director, Beth Rupp.

The COVID-19 infection that was reported on Friday appears to be a case contracted in Monroe County. Rupp told a group of reporters on a Zoom video conference call on Friday that the student had not travelled recently and had no known exposure.

Rupp confirmed that LabCorp reported the positive result to the health center on Friday morning. Rupp said her first step was to contact the patient. After that, the student health center notified Caudill, as Monroe County’s health administrator.

Caudill was a part of Friday afternoon’s press conference call, which was organized by Indiana University’s director of media relations, Chuck Carney. Continue reading “Column: On the normalcy of local COVID-19 response”

Food and beverage tax group to meet: Relief for some businesses impacted by COVID-19?

R Bar Chart of Food & Beverage Tax through 2019

The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on local area businesses has prompted a special meeting on Tuesday next week (March 24) by the food and beverage tax advisory commission (FABTAC) to consider a request from Monroe County’s board of commissioners.

The board voted this past Wednesday to ask that Monroe County be allowed to use $200,000 in already-accumulated revenues from the 1-percent food and beverage tax to support businesses that collect the tax or that promote tourism. Continue reading “Food and beverage tax group to meet: Relief for some businesses impacted by COVID-19?”

Press Release: Local non-profits, businesses, governments launch COVID-19 emergency relief fund, ask for individual support

In a news release issued by the United Way on Tuesday afternoon,
nearly 30 area non-profits, private businesses and governmental units have announced the launch of a fund to support human service needs during the COVID-19 viral pandemic.

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On Tuesday afternoon,  United Way of Monroe County announced the launch of a COVID-19 emergency relief fund.

Tuesday morning, Indiana’s department of health announced a second death due to the COVID-19 pandemic virus and six additional confirmed cases in the state of Indiana. That brings the total confirmed cases in the state to 30, double the number three days ago, with just 159 people tested statewide.

Area response to the COVID-19 pandemic since late last week has included grass roots efforts to organize resources by local activists, among others a Facebook group called Bloomington Mutual Aid for COVID-19. Continue reading “Press Release: Local non-profits, businesses, governments launch COVID-19 emergency relief fund, ask for individual support”