House committee advances bills to create small business, learning loss grant programs

The Indiana House Ways and Means Committee has advanced legislation that would create a small business grant program and a learning loss grant program for educators.

The committee on Wednesday unanimously voted to approve House Bill 1004, which would allocate $30 million to help small businesses struggling from the pandemic, and House Bill 1008, which would allocate $150 million to help students struggling from learning loss caused by the pandemic.

The grant program outlined in House Bill 1004 would provide grants of $10,000 per month with a maximum award amount of $50,000. The funding could reimburse businesses for up to 80% of non-payroll expenses and 100% of payroll expenses incurred between March 1, 2020, and April 1, 2021.

To be eligible, a business must have fewer than 100 employees, gross revenue of less than $10 million in 2019 and be able to prove a monthly gross revenue loss of at least 30%.

It would be set up as an extension of the existing small business grant program that Gov. Eric Holcomb’s administration established in June with Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funding.

The Indiana Economic Development Corp. would continue to administer the grant program.

The IEDC would be allowed to give preference to businesses in the hospitality industry, but the agency would not be required to do so.

Several business organizations, including the Indy Chamber, the Indiana Chamber of Commerce and the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, spoke in favor of the legislation.

“These types of pieces of legislation will help people get back to work, and also have a brighter future,” Patrick Tamm, CEO and president of the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, said.

Mark Shublak, speaking on behalf of concert and event promoter Live Nation, said the company would like to see the bill amended to allow gross revenue of less than $30 million. Under the $10 million threshold, Live Nation—which has fewer than 100 employees in Indiana—would not qualify for the grant, Shublak said.

“We were the first to close and will be the last to open,” Shublak said.

The committee also discussed and approved the legislation that would establish a grant program to help students.

The program is designed to help students who have fallen behind in grade level academic achievement, have scored below academic standards or are at risk of falling behind.

State Rep. Wendy McNamara, R-Evansville, said she sees the program as an enrichment tool for students.

The Department of Education, along with the State Board of Education, would be responsible for determining the exact criteria for the grants and administering the program.

The program would be in place until June 2023.

Both pieces of legislation are top priorities for Indiana House Republicans. If passed and signed by Gov. Eric Holcomb, the funding would be available immediately because the appropriations would be out of the 2021 budget.

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