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.
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.
Local governments are making changes in response to threats from the coronavirus pandemic.
The City of Bloomington is reducing large in-person meeting effective March 16, including advisory board and commission meetings and several upcoming special events. Monroe County has canceled all board and commission meetings through March 25, other than meetings of the Board of Commissioners and County Council.
Gov. Eric Holcomb issued a Declaration of Public Health Emergency on March 6.
In a press release issued March 12, the Monroe County Health Department stated that employers should encourage telecommuting where possible and consider temporary changes to sick leave and/or hardship policies to address employee needs. Penny Caudill, the county's health administrator, also recommended implementing contingency staffing plans that will include flexible scheduling as well as temporary changes and exceptions to leave policies, in order to allow employees to take care of themselves or family members.
The Centers for Disease Control has created a guide for businesses to plan, prepare, and respond to the coronavirus. The Indiana State Department of Health and the Monroe County Health Department will also continue to update their sites as more information becomes available.
The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce supports efforts to make government at all levels more transparent, consistent and accountable. As part of our advocacy efforts on this issue, the Chamber has launched a transparency initiative to track the work of local government and to identify ways that openness and access can be improved.
“Open government gives our members and the broader community the ability to be more informed and to influence decisions, which in turn will help build economic equity, equality and accessibility,” said Erin Predmore, the Chamber’s President & CEO.
The City of Bloomington and Monroe County government already take actions related to these goals. Many public meetings, but not all, are recorded by Community Access Television Services (CATS) and are broadcast live or available later on the CATS website. The agendas, packets and meetings for many public meetings, but not all, are posted online. Many meetings, but not all, are noticed in a timely and accessible way.
The Chamber is tracking 82 councils, boards and commissions that govern and advise the City of Bloomington and Monroe County. We are tracking whether meeting minutes, agendas and packets are posted online in a timely way, and whether contact information is posted for these entities. As of January 2020, 45 are in the “red zone,” with up-to-date information unavailable in at least two of the four categories that we’re tracking. We will continue to monitor these groups and post updates on our Transparency in Government site.
We can do better. Here are some ways that local government can improve.
“Elected officials often encourage residents to get involved in local government, but don’t remove the barriers that prevent people from engaging,” Predmore said. “Easier access to information, a true commitment to transparency, and systemic changes are needed as we aspire to more inclusive decision-making for our community.”
Feb. 7 was the deadline to file as a candidate for the May 5 primary election, and several seats representing parts of Monroe County will have competitive races. See below for a roundup. Click here for a printable one-page list. Click here for the full list of all candidates statewide.
The deadline to register to vote is Monday, April 6. Early voting begins on April 7. Click here for a voter registration form.
Check out the Monroe County Election Central website for more information.
CONGRESS 9th DISTRICT
Incumbent Trey Hollingsworth is unopposed in the Republican primary. Five candidates are competing in the Democratic primary: D. Liam Dorris, Brandon Hood, James O'Gabhann III, Mark Powell, and Andy Ruff.
In District 40, Democrat Mark Stoops is not seeking re-election to this seat. Three candidates have filed to run in the Democratic Party primary: Trent Feuerbach, Shelli Yoder and John Zody. No Republican candidates are running.
In District 44, Republican incumbent Eric Koch is running unopposed in the primary. No Democrats have filed for this seat.
STATE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
Incumbent Democrat Matt Pierce is unopposed in the Democratic primary for District 61, and no Republicans are running.
In District 62, Republican incumbent Jeff Ellington faces Greg Knott in the primary. In November, the winner will face Democrat Alyssa Bailey, who is unopposed in the primary.
Republican incumbent Bob Heaton (District 46) is unopposed in the primary and no Democrats are running for that seat. Republican incumbent Chris May (District 65) is unchallenged on May 5 but in November faces Democrat Paula Staley, who is unopposed in the primary.
Incumbent Peggy Mayfield (District 60) will run against Dave Rinehart in the Republican primary. Tiffany Grant is running unopposed in the Democratic primary for that seat.
MONROE COUNTY COUNCIL AT-LARGE
Five candidates will vie for three at-large seats on the Monroe County Council in the Democratic Party primary: Incumbents Trent Deckard, Geoff McKim and Cheryl Munson, as well as Karl Boehm and Dominic Thompson.
There are two candidates in the Republican Party primary for those at-large seats: James Allen and Zachary Weisheit.
MONROE COUNTY COMMISSIONER
Incumbent Monroe County Commissioners Julie Thomas (District 2) and Penny Githens (District 3) are running unopposed this year in the Democratic primary. No Republicans are running for these seats. Randy Paul has filed as a Green Party candidate in District 2.
OTHER MONROE COUNTY POSITIONS
Incumbents for four countywide offices, all Democrats, are running unopposed: Cathy Smith, auditor; Jessica McClellan, treasurer; Joani Shields, coroner; Trohn Enright-Randolph, surveyor. No Republicans have filed to run for these seats.
Elizabeth Cure isn't seeking re-election for Monroe County Circuit Court Judge, Division 1. Two Democrats – Geoff Bradley and Alphonso Manns – are competing in the Democratic primary. Carl Lamb is also running for that seat, but is unopposed in the Republican primary.
For Division 8, incumbent Republican Judith Benchkart is unopposed, but will face the winner of the Democratic primary – Jeff Kehr or Kara Elaine Krothe – in November.
Incumbent Democrat Valeri Haughton is running unopposed for Division 2, and no Republicans have filed.
Monroe County Election Central is recruiting 350-360 poll workers for the May 5 primary election. Karen Wheeler, election supervisor, gave that report at the Feb. 6 Election Board meeting.
These are paid positions for Election Day.
To be a poll worker in Monroe County, you must meet these requirements:
For more information about the various jobs available – including the student poll worker program – check out Monroe County Election Central or contact their office at 812-349-2612.
As part of our advocacy efforts on behalf of members and the community, the Chamber develops annual guidelines for local public policy and state/federal legislation.
Our 2020 Local Public Policy Agenda provides specific priorities for a positive business climate (regulation, infrastructure and civic engagement) and quality of life (including housing, public safety, parking, parks and the convention center expansion).
Our 2020 State & Federal Legislative Agenda includes priorities for economic development and job creation, quality of place, environmental infrastructure, civic engagement and government accountability, education and workforce development, health care, and business taxation/regulation.
These guiding documents are developed through a member-driven process with our Chamber Advocacy Council and Chamber Legislative Council, and are approved by the Chamber's board of directors. Questions? Contact Mary Morgan, the Chamber's Director of Advocacy & Public Policy, at email@example.com.
Two board members for the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce – Lisa Abbott and Cindy Kinnarney – have been appointed to the Monroe County Redevelopment Commission and the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission, respectively.
Lisa Abbott is executive vice president of the Bloomington Board of Realtors. Cindy Kinnarney is market president for First Financial Bank and serves as first vice chair on the Chamber board.
The Monroe County Redevelopment Commission, on which Lisa Abbott serves, is a five-member board that oversees projects in the county's tax-increment finance (TIF) districts. Three members of this commission are appointed by the County Commissioners and two members are appointed by the County Council. Jim Shelton, the Chamber's government relations manager, is also a member of the county RDC.
Cindy Kinnarney is the newest member of the Bloomington Redevelopment Commission, which oversees the city's Department of Housing & Neighborhood Development (HAND), including the city's TIF districts. Three members of this 5-member board are appointed by the mayor. The other two are appointed by the Bloomington Council.
The Chamber encourages our members to serve on advisory boards and commissions for local government. Click here for more information on how to find vacancies and apply.
Director of Advocacy & Public Policy