Governor Holcomb orders Indiana schools to remain closed until May 1
During a press conference Thursday, Indiana Governor Eric Holcomb announced some additional steps the state is taking to prevent the spread of COVID-19. Among the updates announced, all public schools will remain closed until May 1 and non-public schools have been ordered closed.
“Every day we learn more about how to tackle this monster. We are being thoughtful about how to approach every action we are taking in this national public health emergency and putting Hoosiers’ health and safety first,” said Gov. Holcomb.
Daily COVID-19 testing capacity in Indiana has expanded with the addition of a new partnership between the Indiana State Department of Health and Eli Lilly and Company, and at least one other entity has initiated testing this week. In the past 24 hours, about 200 tests have been completed.
“As we increase the number of tests analyzed each day, no one should be caught off guard that the number of positive cases will increase,” said Dr. Kris Box, state health commissioner. “This will help us know where community spread is occurring in Indiana and help us mobilize resources in affected areas.”
State of Emergency Extension
- The Governor will extend the current state of emergency an additional 30 days when it expires on April 5.
- Mandated Statewide School Closure until May 1 – This mandated closure follows recent Centers for Disease Control guidelines to limit gatherings to less than 10, and may be extended through the remainder of the 2019-2020 school year. Schools utilizing eLearning can continue to do so as determined by their local school administrators and school boards.
- Twenty Day Waiver Extension – As the COVID-19 pandemic continues to shift, the current 20-day waiver may not adequately address the needs of local districts. Therefore, IDOE will work with individual districts and schools to determine the total amount of instructional waiver days necessary.
- Forgiveness from Accountability, Chronic Absenteeism, and Assessment Requirements – Indiana will continue to pursue all federal waivers associated with the forgiveness of accountability, chronic absenteeism, and mandated assessment requirements for the 2019-2020 school year. Currently, IREAD-3, ILEARN, ISTEP+, I AM, WIDA Screener, and ISPROUT have been cancelled. Please note, ISPROUT and WIDA continue to be available for early childhood providers that are operational and districts utilizing eLearning.
- Requirements for Grade 12 Seniors – Understanding the acceptable concerns of Grade 12 seniors and their families, IDOE will continue working to develop a timely and practical solution.
- Food Service Waiver – Providing children access to wholesome and nutritional meals is a priority and an action our schools continue to take. While schools are finding creative solutions to meet the needs of their students, IDOE will vigorously pursue all available federal waivers to ensure zero interruption. To date, 94 percent of Indiana’s traditional public schools are providing or arranging meals.
- The state of Indiana will align with the federal government to delay state income tax payments from April 15 to July 15. The U.S. Treasury extended the deadline to pay federal income tax by 90 days.
- Penalties will be waived for 60 days for property tax paid after May 11. The state will work with counties that may experience cash flow stress because of the delay.
- The state will not immediately move forward with using $300 million in reserves to pay for several capital projects approved in the just-concluded legislative session and instead maintain flexibility to utilize the funds as needed for relief efforts and to maintain current services. The state will consider using bonding authority to move forward with the just-approved capital projects.
- Providers of essential utility services such as gas and electric, broadband, telecom, water and wastewater services are prohibited from discontinuing service to any customer during the public health emergency.
- The state’s application to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was approved on Wednesday. This program provides targeted, low-interest loans of up to $2 million to help small businesses and nonprofits overcome the temporary loss of revenue as a result of coronavirus. See more at SBA.gov/Disaster.
Unemployment Insurance Benefits
- The state will interpret Indiana’s unemployment laws to the broadest extent possible to cover Hoosiers who are out of work because of COVID-19.
- Benefits will be paid to individuals who file their initial unemployment claims late.
- The Department of Workforce Development will allow individuals to continue to accrue unemployment eligibility if they take work leave because of COVID-19.
- DWD will seek federal authorization to provide unemployment benefits for those who are not otherwise eligible for unemployment, such individuals who have recently started a job.
- For employers, DWD will not assess certain experience rate penalties because of employees who receive unemployment benefits because of COVID-19.
- No residential eviction proceedings or foreclosure actions may be initiated during the public health emergency. This does not relieve the individual of obligations to pay rent or mortgage payments.
- All public housing authorities are requested to extend deadlines for housing assistance recipients and required documentation to show eligibility for housing programs.
- The Indiana Department of Financial Institutions and Indiana Community Housing Development Authority are required to work with financial institutions to identify tools to help promote housing stability.
- Participants in the Healthy Indiana Plan (HIP) and the Children’s Health Insurance Program are not required to make premium payments.
- Job search requirements are waived for those applying for Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) benefits.
- The Family and Social Services Administration will seek a federal waiver to extend renewals for existing Medicaid and HIP recipients.
- Telehealth services for mental health, substance use disorder and prescribing for Medicaid covered services will be expanded.
- The commissioner of the state Department of Insurance will request that insurers institute a 60-day moratorium on policy cancellations for non-payment of premiums. This does not suspend a policyholder’s obligation to make payments.
- The commissioner will ask health insurers to cover COVID-19 testing without requiring prior authorization.
- The commissioner will request that health insurers not increase prices or coverage costs that involve medical care for COVID-19.
Bureau of Motor Vehicles
- To limit the number of in-branch transactions, late fees will be waived for several driver’s licenses and identification card renewals, vehicle registrations, titles, and certain other transactions.
- Other operational changes in branches are being instituted to provide for the safety of employees and customers in branches, such as spacing between terminals and limiting the number of customers in the lobby.
- Requirements have been relaxed for veterans to qualify for awards from the Military Family Relief Fund.
- Awards in excess of $2,500 may be approved by the IDVA director during the public health emergency.
Health and Professional Licensing
- Mental health professionals are permitted to practice via telemedicine.
- Advance Practice Registered Nurses are allowed to provide services in multiple locations.
- The state health commissioner may waive requirements of the nursing home certificate of need statute to respond to COVID-19 issues for long-term care facilities.