Indiana businesses welcome new coronavirus economic relief package

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INDIANAPOLIS — President Trump’s signature on the COVID-19 economic relief package over the weekend became welcomed news to businesses in Central Indiana. After a difficult year, owners and employees are anxious to get some financial help.

Trump signed a more than $2 trillion COVID-19 and annual federal spending package which will provide relief for millions of Americans. The president demanded for an increase to direct payments from $600 to $2,000. On Monday, the Democratic-led House is set to vote to increase the payments to $2,000. That will send a new bill to the Senate where Republicans have the majority but oppose more spending.

In addition to direct checks to qualified Americans, the COVID-19 economic relief package boosts weekly unemployment benefits and revives the Paycheck Protection Program. It also extends the eviction moratorium and includes rental assistance.

According to the Indiana Restaurant and Lodging Association, roughly 20% of the state’s restaurants have permanently closed since March. As of late October, InRLA also said an additional 33% of Indiana restaurants said it was unlikely their restaurant will still be in business in six months if there was no additional relief packages from the federal government.

The District Tap opened its downtown location just a few months before the pandemic began. Its owner, Michael Cranfill, thought it was the perfect location since it is near Bankers Life Fieldhouse and Lucas Oil Stadium. Obviously, the last year was not what he and his employees hoped for.

“I am grateful that something got done,” Cranfill said.

He is anxious and excited to apply for another PPP loan. His business received a PPP loan during the first round of COVID-19 relief. The funds were used for paychecks of employees and several bills.

“We would not have been able to stay in business and operate as a company without it,” he said.

He called this financial help a lifesaver for his roughly 200 employees. Cranfill said his business had to reduce hours for employees when COVID-19 reduced the number of customers in his restaurant.

“We don’t have as many servers on, bartenders on, and when we receive these funds we are able to pay them as though they were working normal hours,” Cranfill explained.

Matt Will, an associate professor of Finance at University of Indianapolis, has mixed feelings about this spending package. He sees good and bad in this bill and he’s even against the $600 direct payments.

“It does not specify whether you need it or not because there are some people that are still employed but they are still going to get $600,” he said.

Will added, “I really think they did it wrong. What they should have done is replenish the unemployment pool.”

He supported the enhancement of unemployment benefits and approved the portion on rental assistance.

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