PRINCETON — Parents learned Thursday that schools are closed statewide through May 1, and maybe longer, while more businesses including Toyota, the region’s largest employer, quickly adjusted operations amid COVID-19 local emergency precautions.
Indiana State Department of Health Thursday reported 17 new positive cases of COVID-19, bringing to 56 the number of Hoosiers diagnosed through ISDH, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and private laboratories. Two Hoosiers have died.
No positive cases have yet been reported among residents of Gibson County. Deaconess Health Systems confirmed Thursday that a Vanderburgh County resident tested positive and a Henderson County Kentucky resident referred for testing to the Deaconess Midtown hospital also tested positive.
Toyota reported Thursday that it is extending the length of production suspension at all of plants in North America. Manufacturing facilities, including the Toyota Indiana plant, will be closed from March 23 through April 3, resuming production on April 6. Service parts depots and vehicle logistics centers will continue to operate.
Thursday afternoon, Gov. Eric Holcomb signed executive orders that extend the closure of schools, provide economic relief and protections for individuals and businesses, and expand unemployment insurance benefits for those impacted by job loss, his office reported.
The ISDH reported that daily COVID-19 testing capacity in Indiana has expanded with the addition of a new partnership between the Indiana State Department of Health and Eli Lilly and Company, and at least one other entity has initiated testing this week. In the past 24 hours, about 200 tests have been completed.
The governor’s orders Thursday include:
• Extending the current state of emergency an additional 30 days when it expires on April 5.
• All K-12 public and non-public schools will remain closed until May 1. The date may be extended through the end of the school year if circumstances warrant. All-state mandated assessments will be canceled for the current academic year. The governor asked Superintendent of Public Instruction Dr. Jennifer McCormick to pursue any federal waivers needed to cancel requirements for accountability, chronic absenteeism and state-mandated assessments.
• The state will delay state income tax payments from April 15 to July 15. The U.S. Treasury extended the deadline to pay federal income tax by 90 days.
• While property tax payments are due May 11, penalties will be waived for 60 days. The state will work with counties that experience cash flow stress because of the delay.
• The state will not immediately move forward with using $300 million in reserves to pay for several capital projects approved in the just-concluded legislative session, in order to maintain flexibility to use the funds as needed for relief efforts and to maintain current services. The state may consider using bonding authority to move forward with the just-approved capital projects.
• Providers of essential utility services such as gas and electric, broadband, telecom, water and wastewater services are prohibited from discontinuing service to any customer during the public health emergency.
• U.S. Small Business Administration provides targeted, low-interest loans of up to $2 million to help small businesses and nonprofits overcome the temporary loss of revenue as a result of coronavirus.
“This application process is done through the SBA by the business, not through a bank, said Gibson County Economic Development Corp. CEO-President Paul Waters, who is a retired banker. “This process can sometimes be difficult and cumbersome for small businesses and many will require help to get through the application. As a retired commercial banker, I and Gibson County Economic Development Corp. will be available to help small businesses with this process. The Small Business Development Center in Evansville is also available free of charge to assist businesses in applying for the loan.” The assistance in making the application is free of charge.
Waters said local businesses interested in making application can contact him at GCEDC, 127 North Hart Street (phone 812-386-0002).
Under the program, small businesses, small agricultural cooperatives and nonprofits across the state are eligible to apply for low-interest loans up to $2 million to help overcome the temporary loss of revenue due to the COVID-19 outbreak. Loans may be used to pay fixed debts, payroll, accounts payable and other bills incurred during this public health emergency. The loan interest rates for small businesses and nonprofits are 3.75% and 2.75%, respectively, with terms up to 30 years.
To qualify, applicants must demonstrate credit history, ability to repay the loan, proof of physical presence in Indiana and working capital losses.
• The state will interpret Indiana’s unemployment laws to the broadest extent possible to cover Hoosiers who are out of work because of COVID-19. Benefits will be paid to individuals who file their initial unemployment claims late. The Department of Workforce Development will allow individuals to continue to accrue unemployment eligibility if they take work leave because of COVID-19.
DWD will seek federal authorization to provide unemployment benefits for those who are not otherwise eligible for unemployment, such individuals who have recently started a job.
For employers, DWD will not assess certain experience rate penalties because of employees who receive unemployment benefits because of COVID-19.
• No residential eviction proceedings or foreclosure actions may be initiated during the public health emergency. This does not relieve the individual of obligations to pay rent or mortgage payments.
• All public housing authorities are requested to extend deadlines for housing assistance recipients and required documentation to show eligibility for housing programs.
The Indiana Department of Financial Institutions and Indiana Community Housing Development Authority are required to work with financial institutions to identify tools to help promote housing stability.
• Participants in the Healthy Indiana Plan and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are not required to make premium payments.
• Job search requirements are waived for those applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families benefits.
The Family and Social Services Administration will seek a federal waiver to extend renewals for existing Medicaid and HIP recipients.
Telehealth services for mental health, substance use disorder and prescribing for Medicaid covered services will be expanded.
• The commissioner of the state Department of Insurance will ask insurers to institute a 60-day moratorium on policy cancellations for non-payment of premiums. This does not suspend a policyholder’s obligation to make payments.
The commissioner will ask health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing without requiring prior authorization.
The commissioner will request that health insurers not increase prices or coverage costs that involve medical care for COVID-19.
• To limit the number of in-branch transactions, late fees will be waived for several driver’s licenses and identification card renewals, vehicle registrations, titles, and certain other transactions. Other operational changes in branches are being instituted, such as spacing between terminals and limiting the number of customers in the lobby.
• Requirements have been relaxed for veterans to qualify for awards from the Military Family Relief Fund.
Awards in excess of $2,500 may be approved by the IDVA director during the public health emergency.
• Mental health professionals are permitted to practice via telemedicine.
• Advance Practice Registered Nurses are allowed to provide services in multiple locations.
• The state health commissioner may waive requirements of the nursing home certificate of need statute to respond to COVID-19 issues for long-term care facilities.
MORE LOCAL ADJUSTMENTS
• Indiana Supreme Court granted a petition Friday for Gibson Circuit and Gibson Superior Courts for relief in the declared statewide public health emergency.
1. authorizes tolling all time limits for speedy trials in criminal and juvenile proceedings, public and mental health matters, judgments, support and other cases through April 30.
2. authorizes suspension of all criminal and civil jury trials through April 30, to be reviewed no later than April 16 as to whether the continued suspension is necessary, and if not, to resume jury trials no later than April 30 to allow adequate notification of jury pools. If the local courts determine a continued suspension is necessary, they can petition for a continued suspension.
3. suspends through April 30, all civil proceedings, except for protective orders in domestic violence cases, emergency child in need of services (CHINS) cases, and other emergencies deemed urgent by the local courts.
4. suspends through April 30, all proceedings except for emergency motions and petitions, bond hearings, initial appearances, emergency hearings and other criminal hearings or proceedings necessary to protect a defendant’s constitutional rights.
5. The local courts must file a status update by April 27 with the Supreme Court to determine whether there’s an ongoing need for emergency relief.
• German American Bank will, at the end of business Friday, convert to lobby access by appointment only. Drive-up banking remains open with no change in operating hours.
Customers can also manage accounts using German American Bank’s digital banking tools. The mobile banking app also offers check deposit services. All German American Bank 24 hour ATMs are available, along with fee free access to the Allpoint ATM network. German American Bank’s Customer Care Center can be reached by calling 800- 482-1314. Insurance customers can call 800-326-1871 for assistance. Investment and wealth advisor clients can call representatives directly or call 800-482-1314 to be connected.
• While school buildings are closed, North Gibson School Corporation’s Facebook page offers a live “mystery reader” event to elementary students and parents at 7 p.m. Friday and, if possible, every weeknight.
• Gibson County Council on Aging issued a social media request, using the time activities are suspended to catch up on repairs/maintenance. Thursday, the request was for an electrician willing to donate a few hours of labor. Call the office at 812-385-2897.
• Menards reported immediate temporary store hour changes: Monday through Saturday 6 a.m. to 8 p.m. and Sundays 8 a.m. to 7 p.m. to allow for additional cleaning and sanitizing.
• Walmart reported U.S. stores will adjust operating hours to 7 a.m. to 8:30 p.m.to further help restock shelves while continuing to clean and sanitize the store. Employees have access to regular scheduled shifts and full hours.
From March 24 through April 28, Walmart offers an hour-long senior shopping event every Tuesday for customers aged 60 and older, starting one hour before the store opens. Pharmacies and vision centers will also be open during this time.
Stores will have limits for customers in categories including paper products, milk, eggs, cleaning supplies, hand sanitizer, water, diapers, wipes, formula and baby food.
• Duke Energy reported it will waive late payment fees and fees for returned payments beginning Saturday March 21 until the national state of emergency is lifted. For residential customers, the company will also waive fees for credit and debit card payments.
Duke Energy Foundation is donating $1.3 million to help local health and human services nonprofits across its service territories. Duke Energy is giving nonprofits the flexibility to use the funds where most needed.
Duke Energy will also expand assistance to employees.
The company will read meters in most areas and send bills. Customers should pay what they can to avoid building up large balances.
Duke Energy power plants, electricity and natural gas delivery facilities and call centers, are staffed. The company will continue to respond to power outages and other emergencies.
Customers should download the company’s mobile app or visit duke-energy.com for information and most service transactions.