The Bloomington Redevelopment Commission gave approval on June 1 for Dimension Mill to draw circles on the grass near its building to help encourage physical distancing, though one commissioner called the idea "silliness taken to the extreme."
RDC members also got updates on parking garages in the Trades District, where the Mill is located, and at 4th & Walnut. The Trades District garage is under construction, and the city plans to install a webcam there to monitor progress. Alex Crowley, the city's director of economic & sustainable development, described the project as on time and on budget.
For the 4th Street garage, F.A. Wilhelm Construction – the firm hired by the city as construction manager – is reviewing bids received for that project's first phase and will likely be awarded this week. Bids are currently being accepted for the construction phase. This project, which is expected to be completed in late 2020, will also have a webcam filming the site.
Regarding the Mill's request, Crowley said that since the RDC owns the vacant land in the Trades District, the co-working nonprofit was seeking permission to mark circles on the grass to measure physical distancing in this COVID-19 climate. The commission ultimately approved the request, with dissent from David Walter. Walter said the area is public and anyone can be there, regardless of whether they practice social distancing. It's a matter of personal responsibility, he said.
Watch the full June 1, 2020 RDC meeting here.
Thanks to the generosity of Cook Medical, the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce is distributing face masks and hand sanitizer to local businesses and organizations in Bloomington/Monroe County.
Access to this PPE (personal protective equipment) is on a first come, first serve basis. Masks can be requested in increments of 50, up to 100 masks per week. Businesses and organizations also have the option of a one-time request for a 1-gallon bottle of hand sanitizer, made by Cardinal Spirits.
The PPE is free with a $5 handling fee per request.
Click here to make a request for PPE. More resources are posted on the Chamber's Back to Business site.
Any registered voter can vote by mail in the June 2 primary, following an action by the Indiana Election Commission in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Typically voters must provide a reason for voting absentee, but that requirement has been waived.
To vote by mail, follow these steps:
Click here to see who's running in the primary.
MonroeCountyCOVID-19.org is a collaborative effort of many organizations across the entire Monroe County community in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. The site is hosted by the Chamber and updated daily by Chamber staff.
The site provides information from federal, state and local sources about economic assistance, help for nonprofits, virtual meetings, basic services, HR and legal resources, and more. We are also gathering information on ways to give back and stories of resilience and care from our community.
We are in this together, and we are here for you. If you have suggestions for other resources to include, please click here to fill out our resource submission from. If you have any questions email email@example.com.
Monroe County is accepting applications from locally-owned businesses located outside the City of Bloomington that need support in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Click here for the application.
The county has allocated $200,000 from its share of Food & Beverage Tax revenues for this purpose. The 3-page application was posted on Thursday, March 26. An introductory section states:
"Completing the application does not guarantee that funding will be made available. The scope of funding will be reviewed weekly by the Board of Commissioners.
In addition to restaurants and bars, other locally-owned businesses that support tourism are encouraged to complete the survey if they have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Board of Commissioners recognize that while there are some long-term funding opportunities for businesses, short-term assistance may be vital for the survival of our local economy."
The City of Bloomington is in the process of allocating up to $2 million of its Food & Beverage Tax revenues for a similar purpose, but has not yet developed an application process to receive those funds.
Some Bloomington councilmembers who've been holding monthly constituent sessions at city hall have pivoted to Zoom, an online videoconferencing platform, in the wake of changes resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic.
Isabel Piedmont-Smith (District 5) will hold a constituent session on Saturday, March 28 from 11-noon. Click here to access the meeting via Zoom. Additional details are on her Facebook page.
Sue Sgambelluri (District 2) plans to hold a Zoom session for constituents on Saturday, April 4 at 1:30 p.m. Details will be forthcoming on her Facebook page and website.
Assuming the stay-at-home directive is still in place, Matt Flaherty (At-Large) will hold a constituent hour via Zoom or other online platform on Saturday, April 18, with details to be announced on his Facebook page.
To reach your elected officials directly, get contact info on the Chamber's Elected Officials Directory.
Letter to the Bloomington/Monroe County Community from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce Staff
Over the past week we’ve witnessed some amazing acts of community. Competitors joining forces. Restaurant owners scrambling to take care of employees, despite not knowing how their business will survive. Organizations and individuals banding together to support our community’s most vulnerable residents. Local coalition-building to address a global crisis that’s hitting close to home.
That gives us hope during these frightening times. Collectively, we are watching a slow-motion train wreck that we can’t easily control or stop. We don’t know what’s coming next, and that’s the most frightening feeling of all. If we knew, we could prepare. It’s easy to feel helpless.
The next few weeks – and possibly months – will be very painful for many of us, as the economic toll of the COVID-19 outbreak continues to build. At the Chamber, our priority right now is information-sharing. We are working with others to ensure the community can find resources necessary to weather this unprecedented period. Our website is gearing up to be a source of dependable information for the community, and our staff are ready to adjust roles and duties depending on what the community needs.
We are here for you. If you have a need, are struggling with a problem, or just want to vent, we are here. Please let us know how we can help.
We value all our Chamber members. But right now, our most important member is the Bloomington/Monroe County community. We are committed to providing whatever support we can to help our community survive this threat.
We will get through this because we’re capable of amazing acts of community. We witness them every day, and we know you do, too. We’re grateful to be part of such a special place.
In a letter sent to the Indiana Election Commission, Chamber CEO Erin Predmore asked commissioners to eliminate restrictions for voting by mail in the May 5 primary election, due to COVID-19 concerns.
"During these unprecedented times, Hoosiers who are registered voters should be able to receive and cast their ballot by mail rather than voting in person," Predmore stated. "This proposed change has received strong bipartisan support. We urge the Indiana Election Commission to take decisive action to help protect the health of our state’s residents while maintaining the basic functions of democracy."
This change has received support from the state GOP and Democratic parties. Currently, voters must provide a reason to cast an absentee ballot by mail. Those reasons include being at least 65 years old, being unable to get to the polls because of illness or lack of transportation, or having disabilities, among other reasons.
Want to weigh in? Emails can be sent to Indiana Election Commissioners at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Click here to apply for an absentee ballot by mail. More information about the May 5 primary is available on the Monroe County Election Central website.
Community and civic leaders have formed a coalition to coordinate responses to the COVID-19 crisis. The group is gathering resources and sharing information with twice-weekly conference calls. Here is a summary of the recent updates from around the community.
COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund
The COVID-19 Emergency Relief Fund has been formed to respond to human service needs. It will launch with $250,000 from partners, including the Bloomington Health Foundation, Community Foundation of Bloomington Monroe County Government, City of Bloomington, Monroe County Community Schools Foundation, Bloomington Township, Perry Township, Van Buren Township, Duke Energy, Cook Group, Old National Bank, and Owen County State Bank.
The fund will be used to:
Monroe County Government
There are no confirmed cases so far. The Monroe County Health Department is working to communicate with the community, including businesses like childcare providers, group homes, etc. where groups gather. Get updates via Facebook @MoCoHealth or on the Health Department’s website.
The county has opened an emergency operations center. Monroe County has issued a local disaster emergency declaration, which will help secure resources for this area.
Monroe County has implemented Phase II of its continuity-of-government plan. Many buildings are closed to the public, as are county parks. Courts will hold only essential and emergency hearings. The county has allocated $25,000 to this coalition. Officials say it has a healthy rainy day fund and they want to hear what the community needs.
Cities and Townships
The City of Bloomington continues to maintain critical services, including police, fire, dispatch, water utilities, sanitation, transit, fleet maintenance, and animal shelter, among others. Click here for additional actions taken by the city. There are no directives to shelter-in-place at this time. Updates will be posted to the city's COVID-19 site.
Ellettsville is also maintaining critical services, and reaching out to some of the rural parts of Monroe County to offer help. Updates are available on the town’s website.
Three townships have committed to funding the COVID-19 relief fund. Bloomington Township has offered the township’s former office building as a facility for housing residents who need to be quarantined, if necessary.
Business: In collaboration with other Bloomington and Monroe County organizations, the Chamber has created a resource site to help businesses navigate the impact of COVID-19. The Chamber also compiled a listing of updates, information and resources provided by Chamber members. The resource categories include food, kids activities, housing and utilities, among others. These pages will be updated daily.
Local small business: Retailers, restaurants and other businesses are organizing to support each other and encourage the community to "Shop Local" during this period. The City of Bloomington is offering free two-hour parking downtown daily.
Low-interest loans: The U.S. Small Business Administration disaster loan program will provide 3.75% interest rates on 30-year loans for small businesses, or 2.75% interest loans for nonprofits. Call 812-345-1141 to reach staff of the South Central Indiana SBDC for more information.
Education: Both MCCSC and RBB districts are doing deep cleaning of their buildings and are preparing for remote instruction starting March 23. Both districts are providing food delivery on weekdays.
Childcare: This is a challenge, especially for businesses that rely on in-person employees. The Community Foundation of Bloomington and Monroe County is working to assess childcare and early learning needs.
Blood supply: Many Red Cross blood drives have been canceled, and the blood supply is a concern. The Red Cross is looking for locations to hold blood drives. MCCSC Superintendent Judy DeMuth said the schools are available for blood drives.
Tourism: Hotel business has dropped dramatically. April-May are huge revenue months, and the local tourism industry will likely take a $75-80 million hit during that time. All events have been canceled at the Monroe Convention Center, and that facility might be available for community needs, if necessary.
Even as the community deals with COVID-19, it's important to encourage all residents to respond to the Census 2020 questionnaire. More info here.
In collaboration with other Bloomington and Monroe County organizations, the Chamber has created a resource site to help businesses navigate the impact of COVID-19.
In addition to guidance from the Small Business Administration, Centers for Disease Control and others, the site provides legal resources, economic recovery resources, and links to updates from the Monroe County Health Department, City of Bloomington, and local educational institutions.
We've also compiled a listing of updates, information and resources provided by our Chamber members. The resource categories include food, kids activities, housing and utilities, among others. Do you have an update to include? Click here to submit your information and we'll add it to the list.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy