The Journal Gazette
Wednesday, October 21, 2020 1:00 am

State commits to using $1.7 billion of CARES funds

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Indiana has committed to spending $1.7 billion of the CARES Act funding the state received – leaving $700 million on the table.

But Cris Johnston, head of the Indiana Office of Management and Budget, did point out that some states are using the money to plug holes in their unemployment trust fund.

The State Budget Committee heard presentations Tuesday on both federal COVID-19 dollars and unemployment.

Last month, Johnston said the state had committed about $1.1 billion of the $2.4 billion.

But that has risen as federal guidance now allows public health and public safety payroll expenses to be covered during the pandemic.

The biggest increase is about $200 million in new spending by the State Department of Health – largely for more testing and contact tracing as coronavirus cases rises in the state.

On a related note, Tyler Ness of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development said the state has now borrowed $40 million from the federal government to pay unemployment claims. The state trust fund started the year with nearly $1 billion but high unemployment has decimated it.

He said he expects to the state to borrow $300 million by the end of the year.

Right now the borrowing is interest free but that ends Jan. 1 unless Congress acts. Also, if the state has a balance for two consecutive years on Jan. 1 then businesses would lose part of a federal tax credit to pay back the loan.

That would cost businesses about $21 per employee per year but wouldn't start until 2022.

The State Budget Committee approved several local projects:

$210,000 for architecture and engineering fees for renovation of INDOT's Bluffton Subdistrict Building. The building is 24 years old and is experiencing several structural and operational defects.

$252,000 for architecture and engineering fees for the construction of INDOT's LaGrange Unit Building and Salt Building. This new construction at the LaGrange site will replace the existing Brimsfield and Shipshewana Units. The Brimsfield and Shipshewana Units are 53 years and 54 years old respectively and have several deficiencies that negatively affect operations.

$1.75 million in deferred maintenance projects on Purdue Fort Wayne's campus. This includes cabling renovations to Kettler Hall ($1,000,000) and Walb Student Union ($300,000), along with various other campus building ($250,000). Additionally, updates will be made to Liberal Arts classrooms ($200,000).

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