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How COVID-19 Is Affecting The Local Economy

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>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'm Bob Zaltsberg from WFIU WTIU news. We're doing the show remotely today to avoid the risk of spreading infection from the corona virus and COVID 19. I'm hosting with Sarah Whitmire, The WFIU WTIU news director. And this week as we have for the last several weeks we're gonna be talking about COVID 19 and today specifically how COVID 19 is affecting local economies, how communities are trying to protect themselves. We have four guests who are joining us from all over the community. We have Alex Crowley, the director of the Bloomington Economic Sustainable Development Department, Erin Predmore, the greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO, Andrew Butters, Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the IU Kelley School of Business and Steve Volan, Bloomington City Council District 6, and he is the current council president. You can follow us on Twitter at noon edition. You can send us questions there and you can also send us questions for the show and news at Indiana Public Media dot org. But we can't take your questions by phone today. So I wanted to open the show. There's been a lot of discussion this week. Our congressman Trey Hollingsworth made some comments that got a lot of national publicity, national commentary about opening up the economy. So I'm going to start with Andrew Butters. Is Indiana ready to reopen the economy? What's it going to take? 

>>ANDREW BUTTERS: It's the million dollar question right? And so I am certainly sympathetic with all of the costs and tradeoffs that we're facing in this time, and I think that's really kind of the most important point here. So we have, you know, unemployment rates and initial UI claims that are really unprecedented. They're record breaking. And in a lot of ways these are going to create hardships and costs on communities, businesses, individuals and families that we really haven't experienced historically in quite a long time. But at the end of the day, this is still very much a shock, although it's now being transmitted through the economy that fundamentally is a health and public health and biological shock. And so, you know, in my view, and again I don't want to - these are very, very hard decisions to make, but in my view there's still a very real sense to which we need people to feel safe people to feel like, you know, reentering the economy is not going to put their loved ones and family at risk. And I really strongly believe that it's only going to be after that happens to which even when nonessential businesses can be opened and we can go back to restaurants and bars and other establishments that it's only gonna be when people feel safe that we're going to really truly see the rebound and the recovery that I think all of us are both expecting and hoping can happen sooner rather than later. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I think what you said is really important and I'm going to ask the other three to comment on it too - the government - people who are in governmental roles can say, you know, we think from the science or we think from just our research or whatever that it's time and you can reopen the economy, but it's going to take every individual business, every individual consumer shoppers who are feeling safe to want to go back and participate. So, you know, Erin, what are you hearing from business leaders in Bloomington itself? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: I'm hearing - we've spent the last couple of weeks calling all of our members and I think we had a few more that we were getting to this afternoon. So we've done a lot of talking to business leaders in the community lately, and I would say that we've gotten kind of three different responses. Some of them are doing surprising - they've been surprised that they're doing OK during all of this. They said that things really just dried up to nothing for that first week after we went on the kind of stay home orders, and a lot of that was out of a lot of fear and concern and everyone was just kind of pulling back. But then after that, they said that things have opened back up again. Some of them were surprised that they'd return to the same kind of levels that they were at before. So that's a small group, but not insignificant. The majority of people are somewhere in the middle. Business is coming back but not as much as what they had before, so they're somewhere between kind of a 25 to 50 percent of what they had before all of this happened. And then we had a significant number of members who just aren't having any business at all or are just barely hanging on at this point. And they're concerned about the same things that Andrew just mentioned. You know, they're concerned about safety. They're concerned about their employees making sure that they can have open backup safely for the community, and they're concerned for themselves. I mean, they just don't know what's coming next. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So Alex Crowley is here from the city and Steve Volan from the City Council. Going to ask both of you guys - I know that there've been some steps taken to try to help businesses stay afloat. Can you talk about some of the efforts and how successful you're being? Alex, why don't we start with you. 

>>ALEX CROWLEY: Sure. So, I mean, I would echo a lot of what Erin and Andrew said. What we're seeing on our site - so we have law Bloomington's Rapid Response fund loan program that was launched last Thursday. Anybody interested in finding out more about it should go to Bloomington Dot IN Dot gov forward slash business. Basically it's a - and many thanks to Steve and the council, as well as the Bloomington Urban Enterprise Association - about a two and a half million dollar fund that was stood up and we've been receiving applications to try to infuse short term bridge loans into the local economy - city - using a combination of food and beverage monies and the Bloomington Urban Enterprise association's funding. And, you know, what we're seeing in the application flow is exactly what Erin was describing. You know, what we've found to be the case is that some people just, you know, are really suffering from a business perspective and their employees as well. And so, you know, that gap funding is a way to try to bridge into some of the federal monies as it comes in. Some have already hit and some is coming. And we're also seeing that people are either already starting to execute some revenue generating activity or are planning to do that and need some capital investment. So for example, you know, a yoga studio who would want to go remote and online may not have the technology to do that. So, you know, people are getting really creative. And it's interesting to see that, but it's not to diminish the fact that there's been a pretty serious hit to our local economy. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Steve, what can you add? 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: Well, you know, I first of all want to say that the continuity of city government task force led by Fire Chief Jason Moore has been phenomenally important to make sure that the city itself kept functioning. We've all been trying to find our way here. You know, being able to conduct meetings online was crucial to us being able to set up the bulk of money coming from the food and beverage tax, you know, without us being able to meet to agree to transfer that money. That's two million dollars that couldn't be put into the short term economy right away. But it's changing the way we think about everything. I mean, for me, the biggest concern is looming at least for a city like Bloomington, the census was happening just as you and every other college sent all their students home. I'm afraid that this once in a decade thing is going to change the numbers permanently for every college town in America. And that's just one small thing looming on the horizon, even as we're all just trying to get our footing. I don't know. It's strange days that we're still wrapping our heads around. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: You're listening to noon edition on WFIU. This week we're talking with four different guests - four guests about the economy and COVID 19. You can join us through a live tweet by tweeting at noon edition. You can also give us send us a note at News at Indiana Public Media dot org. You can't give us a call though. We're not taking any calls today. So Steve, I want you to follow up a little bit. I mean, you also, you know, your district includes the universities. You have a lot of students that are in your district. You're talking about the impact if they're not here to fill out the census. But just, you know, what about the relationship that the city is having with the university and just, you know, Bloomington without the university is a much different place. And we've had a couple of months of being closed down or almost a couple months of being closed down and there's the prospect that it could go on for quite a bit longer. So can you talk about sort of our long term prospects? 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: District 6 is by no means the only district with students in it. It's just the one that has the most students in it. But students literally make up half the population of the city. For a hundred and fifty years before Lake Monroe was constructed, there was always the question of should Bloomington be the home of IU? And now we're seeing that once unthinkable possibility rearing its head. What if IU doesn't reopen in the fall? What if students don't come back right away? I have heard rumors that other schools are basically planning to not reopen until January 2021. Just the - I can't even imagine what that's going to be like here. But it would be a shock to the system that we have never experienced in our city's history. So, you know, as I'm at a bit of a loss to imagine it, yet we have to think about well what will happen if we do that? How will that affect housing and what's built? How will it affect all the processes that we go through and mostly how is it going to affect the economy. I mean, I think Erin is in a better position to talk about that, but I think that despite my misgivings about the virus, anything we can do to resume some economic processes here is something that I and all my colleagues and City Hall are assiduously concerned about doing. I don't know. I mean I could talk about this for a while. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah I appreciate the answer Steve. It's certainly something that's not that much fun to contemplate. But you sort of pass the baton here to Erin. So Erin what are your thoughts? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah, thanks Steve. You passed me a depressing question. 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: (Laughter) Happy to be of service. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah. So I mean Steve's right. Our economy is - IU and our economy are wrapped around each other. And so both benefit. It's a symbiotic relationship. And both truly do benefit from the other. So if one is down or out for the count then the other is really going to suffer. I think Steve's right. We just don't know yet what what impact that will be. I mean I think it will be great. But I also have to say - I'm going to turn this around in a little bit of a hopeful way. I mean look at how much our businesses have already pivoted. I mean the ones who are out there figuring out what to do and and how to try to you know exist and try to find a way to get to a thriving place in this what this new economy is going to look like, we're seeing that all over town as well. And the community is responding too so people are open to maybe not eating at their favorite restaurant but doing takeout at their favorite restaurant or you know going and doing you know zoom calls with clients. And you know people have this kind of zoom exhaustion at the end of the day. And it's you know - there's obviously lots of articles you could read about people. It's this new life that we're leading online. But people are really responding to that and trying to grab hold of what can be done in this new environment with that hope. Oh go ahead. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: No, no, no, no, you can finish your thought. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: I was just gonna say with that hope I think there is - there's true anxiety about what would happen what this is really going to look like. And we just don't know yet. But I do remain hopeful that we have opportunities to continue to pivot and figure it out. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah I was gonna ask Alex to join in the conversation because of, you know, being the director of Bloomington economic and sustainable development, our economic and sustainable development is much different when you take the the student market out of the out of the equation. So how do you you plan to go forward? 

>>ALEX CROWLEY: Yeah. So I mean there's the immediate. There's the mid-range. And then there's the long range. So I'll break down each one. So in the immediate you know what what the city and the community can do is really help businesses pivot into that new world that Aaron was referring to. So you know a couple of interesting examples are you know there's a website now open for Bloomington dot com. So that's a web site that that was actually built by thirty nine degrees north and in collaboration with mill. And and it's - if you go to it's a map of Bloomington with all the businesses and their status during the COVID crisis and who's doing takeout and all of that, so the resources like that that are available for those companies to make that pivot. There's also the online Farmer's Market which was stood up at breakneck speed by the collaboration between various departments at City Hall and that's been thriving. And you know that's a way to help the growers and the food artisans to pivot. So there are ways to do that in the short term to try to stimulate some commerce under really difficult times. But we also - as a working group which involves Erin and a number of other community leaders, we are we're looking out both into the mid range and the long range. And the mid range is just sort of you know maybe the second half of this year. And the long range is you know 12 plus months. In the mid range you know we have to figure out - you know are there opportunities to reopen slowly and carefully. And if so what can what can be done to plan ahead for that? An example that we all have to be aware of is a lot of the canceled events that would typically have happened in the first half may get pumped in the second half and that creates a whole bunch of contention and scheduling and all of that. And what does that do? What events are possible and how do you stack those for - and events for fund raising and revenue generation? And then in the long range you know it is again - it's an absolute crisis right now. But it does create opportunities. And those opportunities are for a city like Bloomington to get you know - to really think through and tap a lot of resources that are out there to emerge from this stronger than we were when we went in. And you know it's a great city. But it could be an even greater one. And so looking at what that looks like and how do we plan for that and how do we tap those resources so that we can emerge in the long range again as strong as we possibly can. 


>>SARA WITTMEYER: Andrew, could you talk a little bit about what you've noticed about consumer habits in the Covid 19 pandemic? 

>>ANDREW BUTTERS: Sure. Sure. Yeah. No absolutely. So yeah. I actually have been thinking quite a bit about this and just thinking about what might - past experiences and you know and research that that's out there, you know, how that could inform how we think about things going forward. And I think it actually echoes a few of actually some of the themes that have come up already. And so you know we've seen unprecedented shifts in how individuals are consuming. We've already talked about all the shift to the online. We've seen huge run up in expenditures in sort of grocery retail that's I think almost a one for one substitution away from kind of what would have been off premise - of premise consumption. We've seen shifts in how people are consuming their own media content. So like we've seen more streaming services off of mobile onto your computer. We're now working more and more on our laptops. And so we've seen again these are really really fundamental shifts in just all sorts of aspects of our daily lives. And I think what's interesting about that is that there's actually kind of a really, really entrenched literature that suggests that a lot of our daily consumption patterns and a lot of our expenditures are really habit based and that it really takes kind of an abrupt lifestyle change in order for us to sort of deviate much from kind of what our preferred brand is or what our preferred kind of shopping tendency or where we get take out or where we dine and stuff. And so what's sort of unprecedented about what we're experiencing right now is like, unlike in the past where usually the experiences where like when you get married or when you move or when you change jobs or when something like that that would have our preferences be malleable, now we're all being forced to experiment in ways that might actually induce us to find new products or new ways of conducting business or new ways of thinking about how to get things done that might actually end up being, you know, perhaps - the optimistic view would be perhaps much better. And just one case study of this I thought was particularly interesting was research out of Oxford came up - used The London strike, the London Tube workers strike as an instance of when people had to radically shift their commuting patterns using the tube. And what was really really interesting about the results they found - and this came out in the nineties economics journal was that people - and some people ended up not switching back to their preferred route before the strike. And so what they were able to document was that basically, for some of those individuals, this forced experimentation actually led to lower travel times for themselves. And so again I just - you know that's somewhat optimistic spin. And again I think hopefully what that provides is just an example of while there were lots of very predictable changes in the consumption habits that we're now seeing play out in the economy, I think going forward and looking forward it's going to be very important to think about which of these shocks or which of these changes in consumption are going to be perhaps more permanent and will perhaps lead to you know more sort of structural changes and how people behave and how people conduct their work and other social activities in their lives. And so again just some thoughts regarding what you might expect going forward. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. If I could follow up on that - and this may not be in your area of expertise, I'm not sure. But what about the relationship between individuals and in their government? I mean this has been a - you know people are looking to government for certain things. And governments having to make some adjustments to the way that it operates. 

>>ANDREW BUTTERS: Certainly yes. So I mean I don't want to go too far here because this is a little bit outside of my own research field. But, again, certainly the evidence that I've come across - and certainly the patterns that we're seeing indicate that there has been a higher level or a heightened level of engagement just in terms of, again, as I mentioned, you know, the forms of media that people are are consuming and sort of how they're getting their information these days. And so what you've seen. And, again, some of this evidence is very preliminary because the data that's being reported is still kind of at the firm level. And we would like to have broader and more representative statistics on this. But we've seen a really really high surge and engagement and following of local community media outlets and sources as well as sort of web sites and information. Sources like the CDC has seen you know a huge surge in sort of it's web traffic and kind of it's interest level. Whereas the you know other forms of information and media that had been before, more dominant player have seen some substitution against these other outlets. And so again that's a very anecdotal piece I realize. But again what that would seem to suggest - and again we're still very early in on what might be permanent versus transient shifts and how people behave and engage in these different aspects of our lives. But those should all be indications that you know people's involvement and people's engagement with local communities has certainly increased and could transcend going forward. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Erin do you want to add to that? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah. Just as you asked that question to Andrew I was thinking about specifically like Governor Holcomb's doing a daily briefing to 230 every day. And the number of people that I know that are actually - that are watching that would not normally take time in little of their day to you know pause to hear something the governor's going to say are engaged and watching those daily I'm getting updates directly from government officials. And the other thing that occurred to me is the the opportunity to vote by absentee ballot. And I'm going to take just a second to remind individuals that this is the time to to go online. And you can download a form and fill it out, send it in and then be ready to go so that - you don't have to have a reason to need an absentee ballot this year. So those doors are opening. The government is looking at new ways. And we talked about pivoting earlier for our businesses. I think that our government officials are looking for new ways to engage with citizens during the crisis and find the best way to still achieve those goals. So I don't think I ever would have thought that Indiana would have loosened their restrictions around absentee ballots. But the pandemic has done it. So now they're allowing that to happen and everybody in the state could have an opportunity to vote by absentee. So just a reminder to - if you need living for that, we - the community set up a website And on there are lots of different resources but one of those is a link for that downloadable absentee ballot application. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. And I think Andrew Crowley is wanting to join, too. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Alex. Alex. 


>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Go ahead, Alex. 

>>ALEX CROWLEY: I just wanted to add that, you know, it does - I heard someone say, you know, it's certainly sort of highlights the role government plays and (unintelligible). And, you know, I just wanted to recognize publicly here the city of Bloomington employees who are out doing their jobs every day challenging situations whether they're first responders, sanitation workers, you know, workers keeping our water clean. You have a lot of people who are out there. The mayor has been really, really terrific in, you know, making that possible by doing things, like, setting up hotel rooms so that employees who can't go back to their families for fear of, you know, spreading anything, you know, are able to help. So there are a lot of city employees out there. And I just think it merits recognizing them. In fact, our garbage is being picked up. I mean, you can just imagine, breakdown in those kinds of services how much worth, of course, all of this gets. So I just want to make that recognition. 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: I want to second everything Alex just said. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Thank you. That was Steve Volan. So let me remind you that you're listening to Noon Edition on WFIU. We have four guests who have joined us today. It's myself, Bob Zaltsberg and Sara Wittmeyer are hosting. We're all doing this remotely, so we're in six different locations for doing this show. That was Steve Volan, member of the Bloomington City Council who was chiming in on what Alex Crowley said. And Alex is director of the Bloomington economic and sustainable development department. We also have Erin Predmore, the greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce President and CEO and Andrew Butters who is Assistant Professor of Business Economics and Public Policy at the IU Kelley School of Business. If you want to ask us a question, please do. You can do that on Twitter today @NoonEdition. You can also send us, email us the question, news at We can't take your calls because we are spread all over Monroe County today. So we talked about - you know, we've talked a lot about businesses being reopened. And I want to, you know, I guess to go a little bit deeper than that and talk about, you know, businesses need to be able to survive a lot. A lot of the reason is because of their employees. So can one of you talk a little bit about, you know, just the job force in Bloomington workforce and how it's doing. What about unemployment rates and about, you know, applying for unemployment benefits during this, you know, shutdown. Erin, do you have any insight into that? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah, so I would say that what we're hearing anecdotally from our members or some of them have laid off their staff so that their staff would be able to go ahead and file for unemployment benefits. And the laying off their staff, you know, it was an economic decision based on lack of customers or income and things like that. But they also realized that they're - with the CARES Act having been passed and the opportunity for them to have extended unemployment and also a little bit additional funds coming through, that would be a good opportunity for their staff to do that. The payroll protection program has also come into play. So those applications have gone through. We did hear yesterday, as everyone did in the nation, that the PPP program has now tapped out, So we've - everybody in the country applied so quickly that the money has been all claimed. And hopefully we'll have some more legislation that will can add more money into that program because that clearly was needed very, very quickly. But those opportunities, businesses that have applied for those will get those funds within 10 days of the notification that they were approved. And then they'll be able to use those funds for payroll and those types of expenses as well. So what we're hearing anecdotally is we have lots of businesses that did lay a lot of their staff off or - and some of them furloughed staff just may be reduced hours or salaries or things like that in order to to be able to keep the doors open a little bit longer. And now you're hearing with the PPP program that some of them are trying to figure out how to bring those employees back on. Because in order to have that payroll protection program, that loan forgiven, you do have to have a certain level of payroll expenses. They do snapshots of different expense periods. So anyway once they do that - so it's encouraging those businesses to bring those employees back on so that they'll be ready to open their doors up when we are ready to go. So it's I think you're going to be a win-win for those businesses that were able to get those funds. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Steve Volan, I want to ask you something, you know, sort of related to that. I mean, as a member of the city council there are two areas I really want to talk about. One is, you know, the city's budget - because that's one of the things the council does is goes in and decides, you know, how we're going to spend our money. And so, you know, question 1 will be how - you know, how are you looking at the budget? How are you making midstream corrections to the budget? Or are you? 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: I was waiting for the second thing. We... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: I'll ask that in a minute, yeah. 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: ...The - our budget process has traditionally started in late April, early May with what we call budget advance - that's scheduled to end about two weeks - where council members get together with Mayor and comptroller and they give us a fiscal picture of the city. And then we talk about, as members, what our priorities are for the coming budget year. The only precedent I have for this is 2010, which was after the recession, where we had, you know, expectations of budget freezes, of no growth. This is going to be a year like that one. We have to rethink everything we take for granted about the budget, which has been very fiscally sound for a long time. We've always run a rainy day fund that has been higher than what the State Board of Accounts wants us to run, trying to find ways to reduce it. Well, we found a way this year and so it's going to be rethinking everything we take for granted about how the city budget should work. We haven't even gotten that far yet, honestly. It's taken us a while just to figure out how to conduct meetings under the governor's executive orders. We've gotten there and that's what allowed us to move to appropriate the money from the food and beverage tax funds to help with the local business crisis, but that process begins - I think that council is probably going to take a more active role in thinking about the formation of the budget because we have to. Like, we don't have a choice. We all have to rethink everything about how we do business. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: So the second part of the question - and everybody else can jump in on this too or people that have a thought - as you can on any of my questions - but as a member of the council, you know, you have to look out for a lot of different areas of importance to the community. One, you know, is the business community. How - how's the economy going? Two is the citizens of Bloomington. And as a part of that, the most vulnerable citizens of Bloomington. What is the council doing to make sure that, you know, people who need the most help are getting the most help? 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: The council is certainly concerned about the most vulnerable. There's not a lot that has been in our power to do in the very short term. Like I said, it was all we could do to meet. The administration has, I think, gone some way to addressing the needs of the most vulnerable. I know that we're, as a city, reappropriating hotel rooms to provide people shelter as an emergency. But this too is like the budget. Like, we haven't even had a chance to really think about long-term policy yet. How are we going to react to it all? But we have to. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Alex Crowley, you want to join this conversation? 

>>ALEX CROWLEY: Sure, I can add a little bit. So I'll point out two things. One is when the mayor announced that the two working groups - the one that I participate with Erin on, and we're focused on economic stabilization or recovery. There's a parallel working group that is focused on social services and the needs of the community. So those two were stood up by the mayor to look at those two aspects of society, and the second one - the social service-focused one is doing a tremendous amount of work to look at those people who are most vulnerable and stand up solutions in the near-term for them to get them through this crisis and then also to really be looking longer-term on what's needed. I would also want to add and tie back to something that Andrew said when we - when he he was talking about employees. And, you know, one thing that comes into pretty stark relief right now is - you know, take a look around and figure out - take a look and see who's being considered an essential employee right now? And those are the - you know, in a lot of cases, the grocery clerks and a lot of - you know, people who are cleaning offices. I mean, they are on the front lines and so, you know, it is a group that can be overlooked. It's a group that can be taken for granted. But in a situation like this, boy, are they important. And, you know, I think that that is a great wakeup call for us all as we think about the future and think about, you know, who are those people out there who, you know, were not necessarily - may not be advocating for themselves in the same way as other people are or other employees are, but boy are they important and what do we do about it, you know, as we come out of this crisis? 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: I will throw in that... 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Oh, go ahead. 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: ...I assigned to the new city council committees to respond to the appropriate working groups. Council member Sue Sgambelluri leads - is the chair of the sustainable development committee and they're the ones interfacing with Alex Crowley's department and counsel member Matt Flaherty leads the resilience - climate action resilience committee and is working with Beverly Calendar-Anderson and company on the social services working group. And we are listening intently to try to figure out what new policy needs to be promulgated by the council to respond appropriately. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: We've gotten a couple of questions about unemployment specifically in Monroe County and employees who've been furloughed. Erin, do you have any sort of data on that here in Monroe County? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: I don't. That's an excellent question. If you want to come back to me in just a minute, I'll see what I can find out through my tech - I can text a couple of my staff members who were followed up on some things like that and see if I can't tell you in just a minute. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: All right. So if you have a question, you can certainly send it to us. is our email address and that's the best way to reach us today. Sara's fielding a lot of questions and asking them. So that's how we're going to have to do it today as we're all dealing with this new reality. So Andrew Butters, you know, you've got probably a little broader view. I mean, I know all of our guests today take a broad view as well as what their local responsibility is, but taking a broader view and looking maybe at the state of Indiana, you know, how is the - can you talk a little bit about the state and Governor Holcomb's desire to work with six other states in order to try to reopen the state alone - as part of a region as opposed to just a standalone? 

>>ANDREW BUTTERS: Yeah. No, I - yeah, I know, I saw that announcement this morning as well and, you know, to do - to be just, you know, honest in my own personal view, I was really welcomed and really felt very good about just the sense that, you know, as we open up this economy - and again, just because of the nature of the shock and that it's really a public health and fundamentally, you know, biological shock - that, you know, as the economy gets reopened, it's very much going to be - just given the way the economy functions - one that's going to be interdependent across communities within states, across communities across states, as well as, you know, the country. And we're obviously participating and a major player in international economy. And so, you know, making sure - and because of the nature of the shopping so tied to, you know, contagion and the public health dimension that's wrapped into this, you know, I think it's crucial and very, very important and also very welcoming that, again, the governors of the Midwest region are clearly communicating and in close contact with each other in terms of what makes the most sense. And - you know, and again the statement that they released was very comforting in the sense that, you know, it's going to be, you know, weighing all the options. And again, going to be very data-driven and, you know, based off of, you know, current and the most timely research. And so just the inherent connection that, you know, this state has with with its neighbors in terms of - you know, the types of products that Indiana is known to produce, you know, go across state lines and the communities in other states are also, you know, vital to the products that we purchase and we consume. And so I think it's a really great sign that as, again, the economy gets reopened, that it's done in concert and with an eye to the region and hopefully, again, the larger country as a whole. 

>>SARA WITTMEYER: Erin, we got a couple more questions here that I'll sort of paraphrase, but it's talking about IU and Cook - talking about IU reducing its budget by 5%, cancelling salary increases, extending a hiring freeze, delaying some construction, and then also the cuts at Cook and just saying the impact that that might have on the economy here since those are some of the better paying places in Bloomington. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah I think we have - we've been considering that as well as we talk to - I mean, those kind of our bellwethers I think for the overall community when those two large entities feel the need to go ahead and make those cuts at this point and start looking at - I mean, to be honest, they're looking at how do they stay well positioned to navigate this complete unknown that's coming? And I think that's a lot of it for us. We talked already about - you know, mentioned impact on government and I think impact on education. The IU - like, whether or not tuition's going to be there, are people going to be there? I know Steve tossed me that hot potato earlier. That's just a real issue for IU and they're wise to look at it that way and to start thinking about, down the road, what they're going to do. When we think about the overall local economy and the impact that Cook and IU together have, I think that the comment or the question as it came in is definitely valid - that looking at those as an - as a bellwether for what may be coming and what we have to expect is a smart way to be looking at it. And those will be - whether or not that ends up being an overreaction and, in fact, then things come back online and everyone's able to adjust back to where they were or if it becomes a really smart strategy to be able to be nimble enough to manage what's coming, we will know in the coming months. And I think that's an important part of this when we think about the economy and the business climate in general just both in our microcosm here in Bloomington and Monroe County and then just more broadly. So much of this is anxiety-based. We just don't know what's coming and we don't quite have - you know, we certainly don't have one approach to manage all these sort of things. Each community is different. But we also don't have one approach to manage our response to the coronavirus - COVID-19. That is adding to a great deal of this unknown and people's concern about - do I need to pull back now in my business to make sure that we can survive? Or is there a clear path forward that I know I just need to hold on for six weeks and then we're going to do X or then we're going to - you know, then this other thing is going to happen? So that's a big part of it right now. If I can, I will say - if I can jump in about the unemployment as well - so the information we have - so they don't have data right now, it just goes through February - which, by the way, in February, it was 3.3%, so we were doing quite well locally in Monroe County. But the week ending April 3rd we had over 1,400 claims and the previous week we had six - 1,627 claims for unemployment. So the highest filings that we've had in comparison to that was in the 20 - 2008 - 2009 downturn. The - any one week during that period of time, the highest was 421. So we have four times as many people filing for unemployment during this period of time than we did during the worst week during the 20 - 2008 - 2009 downturn. So that's a hot potato. I can toss that to whomever wants to catch that one. We can get Steve back. Steve, what do you think? 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: I was going to say something. You know, nine years ago I had occasion to call an official in the city of Tuscaloosa, Ala.. They had just suffered an F-5 tornado and I had some questions about how they had managed. But the key take-home from it was that even - I mean, even a natural disaster that destroyed half the town didn't destroy the town and they found ways, both public and private, to recover from it. And I - that, to me, has been my biggest source of strength in thinking about what is to come - that it does absolutely depend on the relationships that public and private sector members have with each other, our willingness to work together. We can bounce back from this. I mean, the country and the world survived the depression as well. It just - it causes us to focus more locally - that we have to start thinking among ourselves, the people we can get to in a day's drive or less, how can we deal with this? And I am so encouraged by the people on this call and the people I've been having to interact with who I haven't talked to in a while as a result of the crisis - that everyone is responding with that attitude, which is we can fix this, we can do it. We absolutely need help from beyond our boundaries, but it starts with, you know, speaking with the rest of us close to home and saying, what can we do to get through today? And next week? And, you know, pretty soon we can start thinking about next month and next year. So I don't mean to be Pollyanna-ish about it. It's certainly, you know, a daunting moment. I've often thought - I mean, I used to think about Tuscaloosa because we're not far from the New Madrid Fault Line and I was in Eigenmann in - back in 1987 when we had a 5.0 earthquake that shook the building. And I've always thought, well, what would happen to the community if that happens? And the earthquake has come in a different way. It's just a - it's a different kind of natural disaster and now we're being tested, but so far I'm encouraged that we're somehow going to weather the storm. 


>>ALEX CROWLEY: Yeah, so - I mean, I would kind of tie together what Steve was just saying and also, you know, the - to the previous point about some of the major employers. You know, look, one of the reasons Bloomington is what it is is because Cook Medical and Bill Cook - I mean, they really kind of invested into the downtown at a time that Bloomington was struggling. And so, you know - and IU has done the same thing. I mean, obviously, you know, we - Bloomington is Bloomington because of all of the cultural and other, you know, intellectual powerhouse that's coming off campus. So, you know, my - as I look at this - and maybe to be a little bit, you know, more pessimistic is, you know, if you have anchor institutions - major dominant anchor institutions in town that are, you know, just trying to figure it out, you know, we as a community need to support them and each other because those were the ones that really helped Bloomington historically when it needed help. So, you know, I - it's not to say that either of those are faltering, but just to the point of how intertwined all of us are and it's happening - as Steve says - on a day-to-day cooperation basis right now. But really long-term as well is - you know, it really - you recognize just how important the anchor institutions, big and small, in town are to the success of the city and how mutually dependent we are with each other and how important, therefore, it is for everybody to be paying attention to everybody here. Because, you know, we will need all of that cooperation moving forward. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Go ahead, Erin. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah, I was just going to add too, I'm actually comforted by the fact that Cook and IU have adjusted as they have. And it's because they're being strategic and they're looking forward to how do they - they're looking down the line, right? They're not just saying what do I do? And, you know, we're not running around like chickens with our head cut off. We're going, oh, wait, something bad's happened, we're going to adjust our approach and be proactive and make sure that we're still here 100 years from now. And that, to me, indicates investment and it indicates that they're led by smart people who are intentionally trying to figure out how they can be - continue to grow and continue to invest in our community, which is what we're going to need to get out on the other side. There's a funny - I will give some some funny - at least tell you about a funny picture. Jeff Mease put on Facebook - so Jeff is one of the co-owners for One World and it says - it's a picture from Bedford, Ind., and it says - it's just a sign outside a shop that says "this too shall pass, probably like a kidney stone." 


>>ERIN PREDMORE: And I think that's great. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: It's going to be painful, yeah. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: It's going to be painful but it's going to pass. And I do think that y'all are right - it's about that engagement with each other and making sure that we're looking out for each other. Those - you know, those adjustments at Cook impact people and their own personal, you know, bank accounts and how that's going to impact them and that - there will be, you know, impacts throughout the community when those types of things happen 'cause it's not just Cook and not just IU, right? There's a lot of adjustments that are going to have to happen around the community. I think as long as we keep looking out for each other and trying to make sure we all get a - get across the finish line, we can do it together, it just will be painful. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: Yeah. We only have about 60 seconds or so to go and I want to ask - I guess I want Erin to follow up on that just a little bit. You know, Bloomington has sort of prided itself on - in a couple of ways. One, it's an arts community. What's this doing to the arts - the people who give - make their living in the arts? And then secondly as - you know, with the Mill and trying to have these new ups, what's this doing to the startup community? And, Steve, you're really involved in that too - I know you and Alex. 

>>ERIN PREDMORE: Yeah. I'll just briefly say I know the arts community is hurting very much right now. So they've had to pull back - I know Cardinal had to, you know, cancel the rest of their season and they're looking for, you know, ways to plan moving down the road in seasons to come but went ahead and said that they couldn't do any more this year. That's just, again, a microcosm of all the arts community. There are a lot of people out there that can't do performances and can't have shows, so we need to look for opportunities to bring them along. If we want them there at the finish line with them, we've got to reach back and pull them along. We've got to say, we're not - you know, tie a knot in our rope right here and say, we're not going to slide back from here, let's keep moving forward. And we need do that for all of our neighbors and - it's - non-profits are that way, arts community's that way, startups at the mill - I mean, they're going to be impacted too. Some of them are more used to that pivot. They're more used to that - they haven't, you know, cemented who they are yet, and so they may end up changing some of the things that they're doing just because they're responding to this current crisis with entrepreneurial spirit. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: OK. Thirty - we have 30 seconds. Steve, can you can you take this in 30 seconds? 

>>STEPHEN VOLAN: No, but I'll do what I can. 


>>STEPHEN VOLAN: You know, I think that we need to treat the arts community no differently than the business community - that they are all small business people as well and we have to find ways to create rules - I mean, there is, you know, still money in the food and beverage tax fund that we could use to provide relief to artists if we are the community that we pride ourselves on being artistically, now is the time for us, as a government and as a community, to step up and to find a way to provide economic relief to the arts sector in a time that it's important as ever. 

>>BOB ZALTSBERG: We're going to have to leave it at that, but I want to thank Steve Volan from the Bloomington City Council as well as Andrew Butters from the IU Kelley School of Business, Erin Predmore from the Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, and Alex Crowley from the city of Bloomington's Economic and Sustainable Development Department. For Sara Wittmeyer, my co-host, producers Bente Bouthier and John Bailey, Matt Stonecipher and engineer Mike Paskash, I'm Bob Zaltsberg, this has been NOON EDITION. 


>>UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: NOON EDITION is a production of WFIU Public Radio. A podcast of this program is available at Production support for NOON EDITION comes from Smithville - fiber internet, streaming TV, home security, and automation in southern Indiana. More information at And from the Bloomington Health Foundation - partnering with local organizations and citizens to invest in programs that address our community's health needs. Bloomington Health Foundation - improving health and well-being takes a community. More at 






(Seth Tackett, WFIU/WTIU News)

Noon Edition airs on Fridays at noon on WFIU.

This week, Noon Edition will talk about how COVID-19 is affecting local economies and what to expect as the pandemic continues.

Across the country, concerns about financial stability are rising as people shutter themselves in and try to remain in place to avoid contracting and spreading COVID-19.

Since the start of the outbreak, nonessential work has halted and Indiana's unemployment insurance program has seen a significant increase in claims.

Indiana Workforce Development says it takes about 21 days to get a check after a person applies for unemployment benefits.

Local government in Bloomington is trying to ease the impact of COVID-19 by offering loans to local businesses. The goal of the relief fund is to help successful Bloomington businesses get through the next couple of months while foot traffic is halted.

Experts say there is a possibility of economic recession.

And it's unclear if state and national governments can help Hoosiers through the next few months without significant losses.

A federal solvency report published about a month before the pandemic was declared says Indiana only has about half the funds necessary to pay at least one year of unemployment benefits in a bad recession.

The Internal Revenue Service, in conjunction with the Treasury Department, released an online tool Wednesday meant to help Americans get their economic impact payments more quickly.

The one-time payment approved by Congress could be as much as $1,200 for an individual and $2,400 for a couple. If you have children under the age of 17 years-old, you are eligible for an additional $500 per child.

You can follow us on Twitter @NoonEdition or join us on the air by calling in at 812-855-0811 or toll-free at 1-877-285-9348. You can also send us questions for the show at

Note-This week of our guests and hosts will participate remotely to avoid risk of spreading infection. Because of this we will not be able to take callers live on-air.


Alex Crowley, director of Bloomington Economic and Sustainable Development Department

Erin Predmore, The Greater Bloomington Chamber of Commerce, president and CEO

Andrew Butters, assistant professor of business economics and public policy, IU Kelley School of Business

Stephen Volan, Bloomington City Council, District 6

For the latest news and resources about COVID-19, bookmark our Coronavirus In Indiana page here.

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