The Journal Gazette
Saturday, May 23, 2020 1:00 am

Holcomb tells of stress on budget

Education spared so far from 15% cut

NIKI KELLY | The Journal Gazette

INDIANAPOLIS – Gov. Eric Holcomb talked about budget cuts and Indiana's high unemployment rate in his Friday briefing related to the novel coronavirus.

He said the state is looking under every cushion to save money and also has a hiring freeze.

Holcomb called the situation “ever-evolving” as his administration tries to deal with lower tax revenue.

He has asked state agencies to cut 15% of their budgets for fiscal year 2021, which starts in July.

Cris Johnston – who runs the Indiana Office of Management and Budget – said “everything is on the table” including cuts to K-12 and higher education.

But for now he said the 15% cuts are for the remaining 40% of the budget that doesn't impact education.

Holcomb also said the cuts will not be counterproductive in terms of COVID-19 response.

State officials also have yet to say how it will spend about $2 billion in federal aid.

State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box also gave updated numbers Friday – a total of 29,936 positive cases and 1,764 deaths.

An additional 54 Allen County residents have tested positive for COVID-19, bringing the total to 1,182 cases and 65 deaths Friday.

Holcomb also addressed Indiana's April unemployment rate, which was released Friday. Indiana is at 16.9%, which is above the U.S. rate of 14.7%. It's also the highest the state has seen since 1982.

But Holcomb said there are still positive signs for Indiana's economy, noting that manufacturing jobs are coming back online after the shutdown and efforts by businesses to keep workers safe.

Fred Payne, of the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, said the state has paid out $1.7 billion in unemployment benefits since March – with most of that coming from federal dollars.

And he said one internal metric that shows improvement is the number of continuing claims, which has dropped.

That means a person has filed and collected unemployment but is likely now back at work.

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