Some challenge Indiana’s relief plan for businesses

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INDIANAPOLIS — Indiana lawmakers are trying to get more relief into the hands of small businesses hit by the pandemic, but some owners say they are making it too difficult for the ones hurting the most.

The Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association is in support of HB 1004. President and CEO Patrick Tamm said 20 percent of Indiana’s restaurants are permanently closed and two-thirds of the state’s hotels are facing bankruptcy.

“This program though is absolutely critical for many industries but particularly restaurants and hotels,” said Tamm.

The bill creates the Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Grant Program which will be led by the Indiana Economic Development Corporation.

It is a part of Governor Eric Holcomb’s Small Business Restart Program. It takes $30 million from the Indiana General Fund as well as donations or other state and federal grants. The bill gives preference to the hospitality industry, but it is not a requirement to qualify.

State Rep. Sharon Negele of Attica shared those details with the committee.

“To be eligible, the business must have fewer than 100 employees as of December 31, 2019, have been established prior to October 1 of 2019, be in good standing with the Department of Revenue and have been profitable during the calendar year of 2019, cannot have greater than 10 million in revenue in 2019 and have to demonstrate an average monthly gross revenue loss of at least 30 percent from 2019 to 2020,” said Rep. Negele. “The goal of these eligibility requirements is to make certain that we are really helping small businesses that were hurt due to COVID-19.”

However, Shodan Karate Academy owner Michelle Guerrero said her small business was really hurt by the pandemic, but it is not eligible because the company was $600 dollars short from being profitable in 2019.

“Mom and pop businesses, the ones that are really struggling, the ones that really should be the ones applying and getting this money are being denied, it’s very, very depressing,” said Guerrero.

She hopes the Indiana Senate will consider an amendment to help. If she qualifies, the bill allows up to $50,000 in relief.

Democratic State Rep. Vernon Smith of Gary spoke on the bill as a citizen who owns his own company. His business also did not meet the requirements.

“Possibly amend this bill to say if you have an exception to one of the qualifications, if you can justify the reason you need the money,” said Smith.

That amendment was not made in the Indiana House, but the Senate is expected to hear this bill in committee on Thursday.

We reached out to HB 1004’s author, State Rep. Shane Lindauer on Tuesday but he was in required ethics training with the rest of the House and was unable to respond to specific questions about potential amendments.

His press secretary sent the following statement Lindauer made after the bill’s passage through the House.

“Our small businesses are often the first to lend a hand to a neighbor in need, support our local schools and provide our communities with high-quality products and services. They are also some of the hardest-hit by the pandemic, with many having to change how they do business over the last year. The Hoosier Hospitality Small Business Restart Fund would build on the state’s existing efforts to help local businesses keep their doors open and bounce back faster.”

State Rep. Shane Lindauer

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