On Tuesday Oct 6th I was invited to attend a small business forum hosted by The Greater Lawrence Chamber of Commerce and their president Brad Klopfenstein. The event featured three sitting Indiana State Senators, two of which represent parts of HamCo, Jim Merritt and John Ruckelshaus but was nominally led by Senator Andy Zay from Huntington. I would be remiss to not mention that GOP candidate for State Senate District 20 Scott Baldwin was also in attendance along with my friend Abdul- Hakim Shabazz . It is my understanding you can watch the entire event on line here thanks to VITREON Group. The event was held in order to discuss ways the State of Indiana might wish to spend the $1.2 billion federal dollars from the federal CARES Act. Here is the catch. The Indiana General assembly, the legal authority for state spending, will not be in session before the spending deadline of December 1st. Governor Holcomb has taken a "wait and see position" but did form a Covid Spending Task Force that includes former State Senator Luke Kenley. Regardless, at issue is how does the state spend this money and, to his credit, Senator Zay wanted to run his suggestion by some small business owners for their feedback.
He believes a large percentage of the CARES money should be invested in broadband access in underserved communities with the rest being used to directly fund a revolving loan program for small businesses. As a lobbyist I did chuckle when I asked, since the Task Force was making the decisions, do the senators effectively find themselves in the role of lobbyists? I was in the bar/restaurant business for over 25 years. I am now on the HamCo Tourism Commission as a representative of the HamCo County Council. If you watched the video you will learn I made a statement in support of Senator Zay's direct funding to assist small businesses, specifically to my brethren in the bar/restaurant industry that have been decimated by Covid restrictions and shutdowns. You might also notice I put in a special appeal for the state to kick in another $42 million to help cover the budget shortages for the SR 37 project. You have to give Senator Zay credit when he didn't hesitate to inform me that HamCo, specifically Carmel and Fishers, have received nearly $5 million already (see link here) and the short answer was NO !!