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Relief incoming for LPC small businesses
Local officials weigh in on federal stimulus bill


During the coronavirus pandemic crisis, The La Porte County Herald-Argus has dropped the paywall for virus-related stories. If you appreciate local journalism, please help us continue to keep La Porte County informed by considering a subscription. Learn more here.La PORTE — Thanks to last week’s enactment of the most substantial economic stimulus bill in the nation’s history, relief is on the way to the nation’s small businesses, beleaguered by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

Though the ink on President Donald Trump’s signature is barely dry, local officials are already hard at work connecting La Porte County’s shops, restaurants and manufacturers to the federal aid they need to keep their lights on and employees working.

On Friday afternoon, Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act into law, following its passage in the U.S. House earlier in the day. The bill – which Congress rapidly drafted in response to the novel coronavirus outbreak – will provide more than $2 trillion worth of relief to American residents and businesses suffering from the sudden economic downturn the pandemic has created.

In addition to providing one-time direct cash payments to most Americans and expanding unemployment insurance coverage, the CARES Act contains a host of provisions aimed at supporting the country’s small businesses, including:

Providing $349 billion in funding to the U.S. Small Business Administration to provide forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans, which will help companies cover payroll expenses, such as employee wages, sick/vacation time, health and retirement benefits, etc.

Providing $17 billion in relief for new and existing nonemergency SBA loans, with the agency covering all payments, including principal, interest, and fees, for qualifying businesses for six months

Providing $10 billion for emergency grants of up to $10,000 to qualifying businesses impacted by the COVID-19 crisis

Creating a tax credit for qualifying companies that retain their staff, worth up to half of the wages paid to employees during the outbreak

Allowing businesses to defer paying payroll taxes through the end of 2020

The backbone of the local economy, La Porte County’s small business community will immensely benefit from the new legislation, said Bert Cook, director of the La Porte Economic Advancement Partnership.

Cook is particularly excited about the impact the CARE Act’s temporary loan forgiveness provision will potentially have with the city’s struggling businesses, he said.

One of the loans included in the relief program is the SBA’s 504 financing program, which companies can use to purchase fixed assets such as real estate, buildings or machinery. Many La Porte businesses have relied on 504 loans to operate and grow, Cook said.

With Washington footing the bill for the next several months, local companies can use the money they would have spent repaying the loan on other, more immediate needs, the LEAP director said.

“I think that will do a lot to calm nerves and provide support to businesses so that they can continue to provide for their employees,” Cook said.

The federal loan relief is on top of the similar assistance local banks have provided businesses over the last several weeks, Cook said. The La Porte County Revolving Loan Fund program has also been of tremendous help to the local business community since the start of the economic crisis, Cook said.

Officials with the La Porte County Office of Community and Economic Development share Cook’s optimism about the relief – provided businesses can get their hands on it quickly, said Matt Reardon, economic development consultant with the La Porte County Redevelopment Commission.

With the COVID-19 outbreak impacting practically every small business across America, the SBA is likely to receive a never-before-seen volume of loan and relief requests in the coming days and weeks, Reardon said. Unless the agency has properly prepared for the influx, business owners could have their benefits delayed – in a period where time is of the essence, he said.

“A week or two weeks can make a big difference in the ability of businesses to continue and be able to move forward,” Reardon said.

Still, there is a lot of potential help the CARES Act can provide the local economy – and not just to small businesses, the consultant said.

Included in the legislation is a $1.5 billion allocation to the Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Agency to fund local and state government “economic assistance projects.”

La Porte County could be in line to receive some of these dollars, Reardon said.

The RDC has several significant projects, such as infrastructure improvements to the U.S. 421/Interstate 94 interchange in Michigan City and Ind. 39 North corridor outside La Porte, in the hopper that could benefit from federal funding. These projects could have a tremendous impact on the local economy, attracting new businesses and creating new jobs in the county, Reardon said.

“That is the name of the game – keeping people employed or figuring out the best way to get them reemployed,” he said.

Reardon and Office of Community and Economic Development Director Tony Rodriguez plan to pour over the CARES Act in the coming days to determine other ways the county could benefit from the stimulus legislation.

For now, though, their main priority is ensuring that local businesses get the support they need to weather the coronavirus storm.

Though the CARES Act has streamlined the business loan application process, the economic development office is working with LEAP and the Economic Development Corporation of Michigan City to help small business owners apply for relief from the SBA.

The three entities, alongside Lori Feldt, executive director of the Northwest Indiana Small Business Development Center, are hosting a webinar at 2 p.m. on Thursday to show business owners how to submit loan applications, as well as answer any questions. The active link invitation to the online meeting can be found at the La Porte County website, located at laportecounty.in.gov.

Both La Porte County and LEAP have dedicated COVID-19 resource pages for local business owners and residents, alike. They can be found at laporteco.in.gov/covid-19 and laporte partnership.com/coronavirus -business-resources.

NewDay Foundation seeking community's support as it postpones annual fundraiser

La PORTE — Though the world's attention is focused on the threat the novel coronavirus poses to people throughout the globe, one local organization is continuing the battle against another, more familiar scourge.

And although it is postponing its largest annual fundraiser, La Porte's NewDay Foundation is still encouraging the community to pitch in and support them in their fight against cancer.

The local charity has announced that it will cancel its annual New Day Concert & Fundraiser, scheduled to take place April 25 at the Silver Palace, due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Instead, the foundation will concentrate on relaunching the event next spring, looking to make it bigger and better than ever, said Brad Hindsley, chair of NewDay's fundraising committee.

Thanks to the generosity of the organization's many sponsors, as well as the support of some anonymous donors, officials are confident the foundation will overcome the loss of the $12,000 to $15,000 in contributions the concert brings in each year, Hindsley said. Though it may take a slight hit to the pocketbooks, the foundation will continue to offer its services to local cancer patients and their families, which includes rent/mortgage assistance, food donations, free transportation and more.

The NewDay Foundation is still asking those who regularly attend the concert, or those just interested in supporting cancer patients in the community, to consider donating, if they have the means to do so, Hindsley said.

"The money we receive, the more people we can support in La Porte County," he said.

The foundation supports between 40 to 50 local families each year — though that number may jump up this year, in particular.

As the coronavirus poses a greater threat to those with compromised immune systems or other underlying health issues, cancer patients will benefit from NewDay's services now more than ever, Hindsley said. This danger is on top of the sudden job losses that many families have suffered in recent weeks due to the economic downturn the public health crisis has caused, meaning cancer patients are more strapped for cash than ever, he added.

Although the foundation has postponed the concert until next year, NewDay is pushing forward with its other annual spring fundraiser, the Resurrection Race — albeit with a twist.

Instead of having participants assemble for the 5K/10K race at a set time and place, from now through April 11, runners can sign up online at newdayfoundation.com/events, run the race at their leisure and submit proof of their time to organizers. At noon on April 11, the foundation will announce the winners, mailing them out the rewards.

"A lot of people are still going outside and exercising," Hindsley said about the fundraiser. "We figured this event would give them a chance to do so while supporting the NewDay cause and helping us out financially."

While the COVID-19 outbreak may have thrown the foundation some curveballs, 2020 is still shaping up to be a monumental year for the cancer support organization.

Formed in 2003 by Connie Yagelski-Marhanka, a La Porte cancer patient, and her husband, Scott, Door Village United Methodist Church has hosted the NewDay Foundation for more than a decade, taking the reins several years after Connie's death in 2004.

Over the past several months, though, the charity's officials have sought to establish the foundation as an independent 501(c)(3) nonprofit. Working with the Healthcare Foundation of La Porte, NewDay Foundation Chairperson Katrina Langford and her team has filed the necessary tax forms with the IRS and are awaiting final approval for the change, she said.

By separating from Door Village, the foundation will be eligible for additional grant funding, Langford said. Due to its current affiliation with the church, NewDay cannot currently apply for aid from the state or other entities that restrict awarding grants to religious organizations, the official said.

Despite the reorganization, families can still expect to receive the same financial and transportation the foundation has offered for more than a decade, Langford said.

"We're just looking to build on that, to provide the same help and services at a greater capacity than we could before," she said.

Like Hindsley, Langford is encouraging locals to consider donating to NewDay, which will continue to spend every dollar it raises from La Porte County residents on La Porte County residents, she said.

"Everybody can think of someone...that has been touched by cancer," she said. "If they are in a position to help out a little bit, we would encourage them to do so. All our donations will continue to go to services, aid and help for cancer patients and their families in La Porte."

Those interested in contributing to the foundation can mail a check to P.O. Box 13, La Porte, IN 46352, or can visit newdayfoundation.com/donate.

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Three injured in second shooting in a week at Michigan City home

MICHIGAN CITY — Three people were injured in a drive-by shooting in the Midtown neighborhood early Monday, at the same address where eight children were threatened by gunfire about a week earlier.

Now the Michigan City Police Department is trying to find those responsible for the shootings, which occurred on March 22 and 30.

Just after midnight on Monday, officers responded to the 600 block of West 8th Street for a report of shots fired.

When they arrived, officers could hear multiple shots being fired to the west of their location. They were then dispatched to the 900 block of West 8th Street for a report of a drive-by shooting.

Officers arrived and found people with non-life-threatening injuries, police said.

Two of the victims were transported to Franciscan Health Michigan City for treatment, while the third refused medical treatment at the scene.

A police report showed at least two of the victims were under the age of 15.

According to the MCPD, officers collected several spent shell casings from the scene.

About a week earlier – on Sunday, March 22, at about 8 p.m. – officers had also been dispatched to the 900 block of West 8th Street for a report of shots fired.

Upon arrival, officers discovered that a gun had fired into a home on the block through a window, police said.

Inside the home were eight children, ranging in age from 1-16, and a 34-year-old woman. None of them reported any injuries, police said.

Police Chief Dion Campbell said the incidents “are isolated and are not an ongoing threat to members of the community.”

He encouraged anyone with information pertaining to either shooting to contact MCPD by any means necessary.

The investigations are assigned to Sgt. Tony McClintock and Cpl Tim Baker. They can be reached by calling (219) 874-3221, ext: 1074 (McClintock) or ext. 1075 (Baker).

Information can also be provided to the MCPD by accessing their Facebook page or anonymously by calling the crime tip hotline at (219) 873-1488.

– From staff reports

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Indiana residents urged to stay home as COVID-19 cases, death rise

During the coronavirus pandemic crisis, The La Porte County has dropped the paywall for virus-related stories. If you appreciate local journalism, please help us continue to keep La Porte County informed by considering a subscription. Learn more here.

INDIANAPOLIS — Fourteen more people have died in Indiana from coronavirus-related illnesses, increasing the state’s death toll to 49 as confirmed cases surged past 2,000, state health officials said Tuesday.

And the state health commissioner is urging people to continue to abide by the governor’s stay-at-home order.

Indiana’s number of confirmed cases of COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, grew by 374, to 2,159, the Indiana State Department of Health said. A week ago, the state had 365 confirmed cases and 12 reported deaths.

Five of the state’s 14 new deaths involved Indianapolis residents and four others were from Lake County. There was one death each reported from Elkhart, Decatur, Hancock, Ripley and Warren counties.

As of Tuesday, there were 8 confirmed cases in La Porte County; 21 in Porter County; 49 in St. Joseph County; 146 in Lake County; 8 in Jasper County; 1 in Starke County; and 3 in Marshall County.

Five deaths have now been reported in Lake County, and one each in Jasper and St. Joseph counties.

Berrien County, Michigan, has 32 positive cases and one death, according to the Berrien County Health Department.

To date, 11,658 tests have been reported to ISDH, up from 9,830 on Sunday.

Marion County, the home of Indianapolis, had 170 of the state’s 374 new coronavirus cases reported Tuesday. Indianapolis and the seven counties surrounding it account for 68 percent of Indiana’s COVID-19 deaths and 63 percent of its confirmed cases.

Tuesday’s update on the pandemic in Indiana followed Monday’s announcement by state officials that Indiana hospitals have increased the state’s intensive care unit capacity by about one-third in the past few weeks in preparation for an expected surge in coronavirus-related illnesses.

Gov. Eric Holcomb said some shuttered health facilities could be reopened for bed space if hospitals and their ICUs become overwhelmed.

That could include the former St. Anthony Hospital on Michigan City’s north side.

“We understand the desire to use our Homer Street campus to accommodate a potential surge in COVID-19 patients,” a statement from Franciscan Health Michigan City said.

“While we are not currently able to equip and staff a second hospital ourselves, we have offered the site to state and federal authorities for their potential use.”

Outpatient COVID-19 testing is now available in the parking lot of the former hospital for those with a physician’s order.

In Indiana, the baseline number of critical care hospital beds is 1,432 and some hospitals have already taken steps to increase that number to 1,940, according to the governor. Overall, the state’s plan is to double the number, if needed, by taking existing noncritical care hospital beds, recovery rooms, operating rooms and outpatient facilities, turning them into critical care beds.

The state’s baseline number of ventilators is 1,177, and hospitals have identified another 750 that can be used for critical care patients, according to Holcomb. The state’s plan is to double that number, if needed, by repurposing ventilators from operating rooms, ambulatory care centers, EMS and the Indiana National Guard.

“The surge plan calls for moving less critical patients to alternate facilities including neighborhood hospitals, medical clinics and state-owned hospitals,” Holcomb said.

Dr. Kristina Box, the state health commissioner, said Monday that Indiana’s illness peak was still expected in mid- to late-April, but some prediction models put it as late as mid-May.

And she urged Hoosiers on Tuesday to continue to stay at home, warning that while Indiana’s coronavirus cases and deaths were climbing, the state remains far from reaching its peak in cases.

The 14 additional deaths reported Tuesday represent “a very big increase,” Box said, but the worst is still ahead.

“I do not want Hoosiers to see these rising numbers and think that means the peak has arrived. We have a very long way to go before we reach the peak and I cannot say enough about how important it is for you to continue to stay home,” Box said.

Holcomb has extended the requirement for bars, nightclubs and restaurants to stay closed to dine-in patrons until April 6 at 11:59 p.m. They may continue to provide take-out and delivery services.

Also on Monday, he signed an executive order that eased medical licensing restrictions to allow retired medical professionals and those with an inactive license to practice medicine and join Indiana’s response to the pandemic, along with certain medical students.

“We see a surge coming and we’re calling in the reinforcements, bolstering Indiana’s capacity to provide additional health care services during this emergency,” Holcomb said.

He also ordered health care providers to stop all non-urgent surgeries or procedures.

“All health care providers, whether medical, dental or other, and health care facilities, whether hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, dental facilities, plastic surgery centers, dermatology offices and abortion clinics are directed to cancel or postpone elective and non-urgent surgical or invasive procedures,” Holcomb’s order states.

Veterinarians are also asked to postpone non-urgent surgeries.

The order is an attempt to save protective equipment for those working on the front-lines of the coronavirus, the governor said, though federal judges in at least three states have blocked such orders from limiting abortion access.