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Vigil At Statehouse Highlights Issues Exacerbated By COVID-19

A person places a flower on a temporary memorial to commemorate Hoosiers who died as a result of a COVID-19 infection.

A person places a flower on a temporary memorial to commemorate Hoosiers who died as a result of a COVID-19 infection. (Justin Hicks/IPB News)

Activists and faith leaders gathered at the Statehouse Tuesday for a vigil and call-to-action on the first anniversary of the state’s Stay-At-Home orders.

Tracey Hutchings-Goetz is the policy and communications director for Hoosier Action. She said the group collected a wide range of experiences – from unemployment to substance abuse to maternal health – to demonstrate the full brunt of COVID-19’s effect on Indiana.

"We have lost housing security, economic security, peace of mind – so much more than the 13,000 precious lives," Hutchings-Goetz said.

Hoosier Action also put together a report to highlight specific data trends and what lawmakers have – and have not – done to alleviate the virus’s impact on Hoosiers.

"It’s part of a series of challenges that Hoosiers have had to face, this past year – that have been exacerbated by COVID," Hutchings-Goetz said.

The group planted 1,300 flags on the Statehouse lawn to symbolize the nearly 13,000 Hoosiers who are confirmed or presumed to have died from COVID-19.

Hoosier Action's call-to-action also touched on issues with unemployment insurance during the pandemic. Several speakers noted how many Hoosiers had long, stressful waits to receive unemployment benefits.

Mary McCloskey started a Facebook group last year to support Hoosiers navigating the unemployment insurance system. She said in the absence of clear guidance from the state, people had to help each other.

"I have personally witnessed thousand of people from all walks of life extend help to complete strangers," McCloskey said. “Hoosiers want to see our neighbors be able to buy groceries, have a place to live, and be given the right to pursue happiness.”

McCloskey called for the state to create a better call center for unemployment questions and have more transparency around unemployment eligibility rules.

Contact reporter Justin at jhicks@wvpe.org or follow him on Twitter at @Hicks_JustinM. Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

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