Indiana waiting on federal guidance to spend $1.3 billion

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INDIANAPOLIS–  Indiana has $1.3 billion in federal relief left to spend.

Those controlling the budget said they’d like to get the money to Hoosiers now but they’re waiting on guidance from Congress and the White House.

One thing state lawmakers can agree on, Indiana’s $1.3 billion from the CARES Act needs to be used to help Hoosiers. It’s when and how they should use it that’s causing a disagreement.

“At least take care of the needs of the individuals that are out there,” said Democratic State Rep. Greg Porter. “The state needs to be more aggressive in getting those dollars out the door.”

“I’m not in as big of a snit about this as some of my colleagues,” said Democratic State Sen. Karen Tallian.

Both lawmakers sit on the state’s budget committee.

Sen. Tallian wants the federal government to allow CARES Act money to go toward payroll and benefits of public employees such as police, fire, and EMS. She said that would free up state and local budgets heading into an uncertain financial future.

However, she said conflicting guidance from the federal government is stalling Indiana’s spending.

“We don’t know exactly the parameters of what we can use it for,” said Tallian.

Republican State Sen. Ryan Mishler, also a member of the budget committee, said Indiana wants to help people right now but current restrictions on the money won’t let the state spend it on the need.

“It has to be used for a COVID-19 related expense and it cannot be used for revenue replacement,” explained Sen. Mishler.

It’s also unclear if Indiana has to use all the money by the end of the year or just have it allocated.

So, the state is asking for an extension to use the money as well.

Until then— Tallian said the state needs to focus on educating the public on relief already available to them.

“I don’t think they are just sitting on it, I think the problem is that we are not getting the word out to the public about how they can apply to get relief from this money,” said Tallian.

Sen. Tallian said if you need rental, utility or food assistance you can go to your local Township Trustee to apply for aid.

“They have budgets and if they exceed their budgets they can tap into this money,” said Tallian.

The state also has other areas of assistance available such as childcare relief.

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(This story was originally published on September 16, 2020)

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