The Journal Gazette
 
 
Thursday, May 28, 2020 1:00 am

State still considering use of funds

$2.1 billion in federal aid waiting to be distributed

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana is still weighing how to spend about $2.1 billion in federal dollars from the Coronavirus Relief Fund while other states are helping renters, farmers and more.

About $5 billion in all came to the state in federal dollars with much of that designated to specific programs such as education, community development block grants and social services spending.

But $2.4 billion is up to state officials on how to spend between March and December – so long as it doesn't replace current budget expenditures or cover revenue losses.

Gov. Eric Holcomb appointed an Economic Relief and Recovery Team in early April to come up with a plan for that money. But almost seven weeks later little has been made public other than setting aside $300 million for local units of government to recoup pandemic costs.

The remaining $2.1 billion is up in the air – though some of it is likely paying for coronavirus testing and tracing contracts the state entered into worth more than $60 million. Increased unemployment administrative costs can also be covered. 

Cris Johnston, head of Indiana's Office of Management and Budget, said Wednesday the work is ongoing.

He noted some money will be spent on staffing assistance for the Indiana Department of Correction and Holcomb will announce a small business program soon to help bridge expenses for those companies.

Johnston said the business program will be for companies that didn't receive help from the federal Paycheck Protection Program.

Other states have announced specific plans. For instance, Wisconsin is putting $25 million aside for renter's assistance and $50 million for farmer relief.

Vermont is using $150 million for cash grants to businesses hardest hit by the pandemic.

And California is providing $75 million in aid to undocumented immigrants.

Nationally, $150 billion was given to states by Congress via the Coronavirus Relief Fund.

Some states are holding off on spending until they see if an additional federal stimulus package is coming or if the federal government loosens restrictions on how the earlier aid can be used. 

Johnston did add that Indiana received a $61.5 million in emergency education relief funds that will be used for remote learning costs. That is separate from the other funding.

And Holcomb said the state already has a $100 million broadband expansion program that is continuing – with new grants coming in July. That is money from the Indiana Toll Road lease.

nkelly@jg.net


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