Indiana Senate unanimously passes House business relief bill

Politics

INDIANAPOLIS — Many Indiana small businesses are one step closer to seeing relief from the pandemic.

A bill providing more than $60 million in potential grant money unanimously passed on final reading Monday.

Lawmakers agree HB 1004’s Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Grant Program is needed, but not every small business will have access.

“We can’t open it up so broadly that it waters things down,” said bill’s author, State Rep. Shane Lindauer.

The bill defines several eligibility requirements, like fewer than 100 employees, profitability prior to the pandemic and a revenue cap of $10 million in 2019.

“Our business suffered a 97% decline. We went from 1,213 employees to eight employees. I think a business with eight employees should qualify as a small business,” said Live Nation representative Mark Shublak.

Live Nation asked lawmakers for some flexibility when it comes to qualifying for the grant. The bill says the hospitality industry gets preference, but it isn’t a requirement to qualify.

“The hospitality industry is not going to get back to employment until the live entertainment industry can put heads in beds and seats in restaurants,” said Shublak.

The Indiana Economic Development Corporation will manage the grants. The Senate version of the bill allows the corporation to make changes, as long as it is reviewed by the budget committee. That could mean further eligibility changes are possible.

In a statement, the amendment’s author, State Sen. Ryan Mishler, said:

“There were members on the committee who wanted to lower the thresholds to allow more businesses to qualify. We decided to amend and let the IEDC change the parameters and increased the funding level to $60 million to cover the increase in the number of businesses that may qualify.”

Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association President Patrick Tamm said he is grateful for this bill but still hopes more money goes into the grant.

“They need to make sure that they are really targeting relief to those hardest hit industries,” said Tamm. “I could allocate $60 million to two hotels. We had hotels that were closed for 10 months, 11 months, 9 months. Hotels that used to employ hundreds of people are 30 people, 60 people, even today.”

The bill passed the Senate unanimously, and as long as the House agrees with the changes, it will head to the governor’s desk next.

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