Coronavirus: Indiana's Utility Shutoff Moratorium Extended, BMV Starts Charging Late Fees Again

Jul 1, 2020

Barringer's Tavern, on the near southside of Indianapolis, has remained open for carryout since the beginning of the "Stay-At-Home" order.
Credit (Lauren Chapman/IPB News)

The Indiana State Department of Health reported 21 additional confirmed deaths since Sunday, bringing the state’s total to 2,448. The state announced more than 45,000 total confirmed cases, with more than 484,000 Hoosiers tested.

Utilities Ordered To Keep The Lights On Until Aug. 14 Despite Unpaid Bills

Many Hoosiers who are unable to pay their energy bills won’t face shutoffs for another 45 days. On Monday, the Indiana Utility Regulatory Commission ordered some utilities to continue the moratorium on shutoffs through Aug. 14. 

But that order only applies to the utilities the IURC oversees. Several small, unregulated utilities aren’t under the IURC’s jurisdiction. One day after IURC issued the order, Gov. Eric Holcomb extended the moratorium on shutoffs until Aug. 14 for all utilities in the state. He also extended the hold on evictions and foreclosures until August.

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The IURC also denied a request to let utilities recover revenue from lower energy demand during the pandemic.

Advocates Say PPP Loans Were Less Likely To Help Businesses Owned By People Of Color

The Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) created to help small businesses in response to the coronavirus is set to expire Tuesday. According to some advocates, most businesses owned by people of color did not get the chance to take full advantage of the program.

The more than $600 billion lending program was designed to help keep small businesses afloat and avoid layoffs during state shutdowns.

But research from Stanford University shows that an estimated 40 percent of Black-owned businesses may never reopen, more than double the percentage for White-owned businesses.

Elkhart County Issues Face Mask Order Effective Tuesday

Starting Tuesday, face masks will be required in Elkhart County in public when social distancing of 6 feet cannot be maintained. This order comes after a continued surge of COVID-19 cases in the county.

Elkhart County Health Officer Dr. Lydia Mertz announced the mask order Monday morning during a meeting with County Commissioners and Indiana Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box.

Elkhart County has seen a spike in confirmed positive COVID-19 cases and an increase in the infection positivity rate compared to other Indiana counties. Local hospitals have also reported increased traffic and less ICU bed availability.

BMV Will Begin Charging Late Fees Again On July 1

The Indiana Bureau of Motor Vehicles will begin charging late fees again July 1.

Late fees had been suspended the last few months due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Indiana’s BMV branches shut down in March as the governor issued a “Stay-At-Home” order. And while Hoosiers could still conduct some BMV business online, many transactions that had to be done in-person were put on hold. And so the governor suspended all late fees.

BMV branches began to re-open in May, with a full re-opening earlier this month to walk-in customers. Now, those late fees will also resume – $6 for state IDs and driver’s licenses, $15 for vehicle registrations and $30 for being late to register a title.

All IN: Can We Prevent A Housing Crisis?

A statewide moratorium on evictions has been extended through July due to the pandemic. For some, that’s still not enough time to catch up on past payments. And with expanded federal unemployment benefits set to expire at the same time, some say we're headed for a so-called “eviction cliff.”

What assistance is available to renters and homeowners right now? And will it be enough?

Closed Day Programs Add Pressure on Families Supporting People With Autism

Brandon Duncan describes himself as fearless. So when he first heard news reports about the novel coronavirus, the 30-year-old wasn’t afraid for himself. 

“I’m like, how is this going to affect Danny?” he says.

Danny is Brandon’s younger brother. He’s 25 and has a severe form of autism. He mostly doesn’t speak, which his mother says can make it difficult to tell what he needs or if something is wrong.

“You have to kind of play a guessing game and figure it out,” Connie Duncan says. “It’s a challenge, but we don’t know any different, so it’s normal to us.” 

Connie says Danny is like a toddler – he needs constant supervision. During the week, that used to come from Stone Belt, a Bloomington-based nonprofit that supports hundreds of people with disabilities in south-central Indiana. At Stone Belt, Danny could spend his day doing art projects and playing games with other people with intellectual and developmental disabilities. 

“Even if he didn't want to get up, all you had to do was say, ‘Let's go to Stone Belt’ and he would hop out of the bed,” Connie says.

But Danny hasn’t been to Stone Belt for three months. Like many organizations that support people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, Stone Belt had to stop its day programs in mid-March as concerns grew about the spread of COVID-19. That’s meant major changes for the Duncans and other Midwestern families.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.