Elected city, county, and town officials had the chance to talk about their issues with State Representative Stephen Bartels and Lieutenant Governor Suzanne Crouch.
Bartels and Crouch hosted the first of two summits at Patoka Lake Winery on Thursday. The first summit focused on community needs.
Bartels says that one of the top issues communities are facing right now are the impacts of COVID 19.
“Well, I think like a lot of folks are frustrated with the slow opening. I think that’s a fair assessment. But you know, I think that we’re looking at this and saying we’re moving forward. We would like to be farther ahead but it is what it is and it’ll eventually go away,” he says.
Bartels says the small businesses are one of the hardest hit by the pandemic.
“It’s pretty significant. Obviously, we’re going to see a financial downfall from a state level and local communities. I think that there’s a lot of small businesses that will not come back. And we all hear the rhetoric: Well, they probably wouldn’t have made it anyways. Well, there’s a difference in my district about small businesses. For a lot of people, it’s a job for them and it’s how they make their livelihood. It’s more than just a profitable thing,” Bartels says.
Like many communities, Bartels says that one of the top concerns reported to his office is about schools reopening.
“I’ve had a lot of calls about how schools are handling this, and I don’t think it’s a school’s corporation issue. It’s more of a local Health Department issue. The intent of the state is to keep kids in school,” he says.
COVID-19 has also shown Hoosiers how important it is to have an internet connection. Lieutenant Governor, Suzanne Crouch explains more.
“What we know and what COVID has brought to life is that being connected is no longer a luxury. It’s essential because of e-learning and Telehealth and teleworking, people have to be connected,” Crouch says.
The next budget cycle will be challenging, but Crouch says the federal government will do what they can to help expand broadband.
“The federal government is going to provide funding to help states and communities get Broadband out there because we don’t have enough state revenues. We aren’t going to have any extra revenues in this upcoming budget cycle to be able to dedicate more money to expand in broadband,” she says.
But broadband, schools, and small businesses are not the only aspects of the communities struggling with the pandemic.
“Right now, we’re really focused on encouraging Hoosiers to get out and experience the destinations that we have here in Indiana. I mean that’s kind of where our focus is right now because we don’t necessarily want to encourage people from the states that have high COVID-19 rates to come to Indiana. But what we really are trying to overcome is the lack of confidence that the consumers have right now,” Crouch says.
This was the first of two summits hosted by State Representative Bartels and Lieutenant Governor Crouch. The second summit took place at Patoka Lake Winery on Friday afternoon and focused on law enforcement.
We will have more information about the second summit in a later newscast.