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SHS students raise money for animal shelter

Izzy Martin and Taylor Biggerman have been cooped up at home, stuck courtesy of school moving to virtual learning and unable to go out because of Gov. Eric Holcomb’s stay-at-home order.

Looking for something to do, the Shelbyville High School students came up with an idea. As a result, the Shelbyville/Shelby County Animal Shelter will be the beneficiary.

After watching a post on Tik Tok of someone completing a marathon, the two decided they wanted to do the same.

“It seemed like a cool idea,” Martin said. “We were stuck in quarantine. It gave us something to do.”

Martin’s father, J.D., said she wouldn’t do it, which was all the inspiration Izzy needed. Her father told her he would pay them $1 for every mile they completed, with half of it going to a charity of their choice.

So Martin, who just finished her junior year at the high school, and Biggerman, who finished her sophomore year, decided that they would raise money for the animal shelter.

“It was kind of like the first thing that popped in my head,” Martin said. “I’ve always considered myself to be an animal person.”

J.D. Martin posted the idea on Facebook and it blew up from there. People chipped in their donations, even days after they were done with their walk.

The two lifelong friends, who started their 26.2 mile walk at 6 a.m. May 7, went on to raise $618 from J.D. Martin and donations on Facebook.

By early afternoon, Martin could go no further, suffering blisters on her feet. She made it to 21 miles.

Biggerman kept going and finished the entire distance around 2 p.m., joined by Shelbyville High School track and field coach Whitney Campbell, who biked the final five miles, Martin said.

The two will be setting a date to deliver a check to the shelter.

Job market remains grim even as U.S. tentatively reopens

WASHINGTON — Signs of renewed business activity are surfacing across the country as states gradually reopen economies and some businesses call a portion of their laid-off staffers back to work. Yet with millions more Americans seeking unemployment aid last week, the U.S. job market remains as bleak as it’s been in decades.

More than 2.4 million laid-off workers filed for jobless benefits last week, the government said Thursday, the ninth straight week of outsize figures since the viral outbreak forced millions of businesses to closer their doors and shrink their workforces.

And while the number of weekly applications has slowed for seven straight weeks, they remain immense by any historical standard – roughly 10 times the typical figure that prevailed before the virus struck. Nearly 39 million people have applied for benefits since mid-March.

“There is little evidence that the reopening of the economy has, as yet, led to any sudden snap back in employment,” said Paul Ashworth, an economist at Capital Economics.

Nearly half of Americans say that either their incomes have declined or they live with an adult who has lost pay through a job loss or reduced hours, the Census Bureau said in survey data released Wednesday. More than one-fifth of Americans had little or no confidence in their ability to pay the next month’s rent or mortgage on time, the survey found.

Most economists and business leaders say the lifting of restrictions on business activity won’t likely be enough to spur significant hiring in the weeks and months ahead. Surveys suggest that consumers will remain wary of shopping, traveling, eating out or congregating in large groups until a vaccine is available or they’re otherwise confident they can avoid infection.

For now, workers who do return to their jobs expect far fewer customers.

On Tuesday, Phillip Skunza will be back at his job as a waiter and bartender at the Happy Greek restaurant in Columbus, Ohio. Skunza had been laid off in mid-March after the state shuttered all restaurants and bars.

Skunza said his employer expects sales to reach maybe half their pre-virus level. The restaurant has reduced tables and cut barstools from 10 to four. Skunza, 52, expects to bring home only about 50 percent of what he made before because of fewer tips.

‘When you’re making anywhere between $300 to $500 a week, and that gets cut down to $150 to $250 a week, that’s going to be an issue,” he said.

He said that he’s hopeful of keeping his job and that as business picks up during summer, more workers can be rehired.

During April, U.S. employers shed 20 million jobs, eliminating a decade’s worth of job growth in a single month. The unemployment rate reached 14.7 percent, the highest since the Depression. Millions of other people who were out of work weren’t counted as unemployed because they didn’t look for a new job. Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell has said he expects the rate will peak at 20 percent to 25 percent in May or June.

An additional 1.2 million people sought aid last week under a new federal program for self-employed, contractor and gig workers, who are now eligible for jobless aid for the first time. (These figures aren’t adjusted for seasonal variations, so the government doesn’t include them in the overall number.)

China, the original epicenter of the pandemic, has reopened earlier. Yet ts experience has been mixed. Some employees have returned to factories, restaurants and shops, which are open but with few customers. Movie theaters, gyms and bars are closed.

Fitch Ratings estimates that up to 30 percent of China’s urban workers lost jobs at least temporarily in the first quarter. Another wave of job cuts is possible as global demand for China’s exports weakens.

Some economists see tentative signs that U.S. economic activity is starting to recover, if only slightly, now that all states have moved toward relaxing some restrictions on movement and commerce.

Data from Apple’s mapping service shows that more people are driving and searching for directions. Restaurant reservations have risen modestly in states that have been open longer, according to the app OpenTable. But those numbers are still far below pre-virus levels. In South Carolina, one of the earliest states to reopen, reservations have increased but are still down nearly 69 percent from a year ago.

In most industries, employees are working more hours than in mid-April, the peak of the virus-related shutdowns nationwide. Data from Kronos, a workforce management software company, shows that shifts worked at its 30,000 client firms are up 16 percent since then but still down 25 percent from pre-virus levels.

Even in states that have been reopened the longest, like Georgia, not enough shoppers are visiting stores and restaurants to support significant rehiring, said David Gilbertson, an executive at Kronos.

“Our data is suggesting this recovery is going to take a while,” Gilbertson said.

Jimmy Page, a small business owner in San Diego, is a bit more optimistic now than he was two months ago. Page, who owns a digital marketing company, Inseev Interactive, has added back five of the 12 employees he laid off when the coronavirus hit. A loan from the government’s small business lending program helped, he said.

Revenue has slightly increased this month, Page said, compared with April, a faster rebound than he expected. If he can get his company’s sales back to pre-virus targets by fall or winter, he may look to hire more.

“The reality is that it has stabilized,” Page said. “It seems everything is going in the right direction.”

Still, major employers continue to announce significant job cuts. Uber said this week that it will lay off 3,000 employees, on top of 3,700 it has already cut. Vice, a TV and digital news organization tailored for younger people, has announced 155 layoffs globally.

Digital publishers Quartz and BuzzFeed, magazine giant Conde Nast and the company that owns the business-focused The Economist magazine have also announced job cuts.

The depth of the layoffs vary sharply from state to state. Nearly one-third of Washington state’s workforce has been approved to receive jobless aid, according to the government’s data, the highest proportion of any state. Second-highest is in Nevada, where one-quarter of the state’s workers have been approved, followed by Oregon and Florida.

Yet in 14 states, fewer than 10 percent of workers are receiving benefits. In Utah and South Dakota, it’s just 6 percent, the smallest proportion, followed by Nebraska and Wyoming.

COVID-19 testing at SHS this week only

There has again been a change to the testing dates and procedures to have a COVID-19 test performed at Shelbyville High School.

The Shelby County Health Department sent out a media release Thursday morning stating that testing was to be performed Thursday, Friday and Saturday only from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

A second weekend of testing, scheduled for May 28-31, will not happen now according to Robert Lewis with the Shelby County Health Department.

The drive-through testing event is free to those with signs or symptoms of COVID-19, those in the at-risk population category, including being age 65 or older or living in a nursing home or long-term care facility, and those that have been in close contact with a COVID-19 positive patient or co-worker.

There is no pre-registration needed. Those interested in being tested do not need to show proof of insurance.

The only requirement is to show proof of state residency.

Testing is being done west of the auxiliary gym at Shelbyville High School, 2003 S. Miller St.

Lewis was the first one in line Thursday morning to be tested and remarked that the wait for not long during the morning. By 3 p.m., the number of tests performed was nearing 100.

The Indiana State Department of Health’s dashboard listed Shelby County with 303 positive cases as of 2 p.m. Thursday and 20 deaths, which is the same as Wednesday’s report for deaths.

Of the 20 deaths, 14 of the individuals were residents of Morristown Manor, a nursing home facility in northeastern Shelby County. The facility has had two more deaths but the Shelby County Health Department does not yet have death certificates to confirm whether the cause of death was COVID-19.

Three Shelby County residents have died in another county, according to Lewis.

Seven people have died at Major Health Partners Medical Center but were residents of another county.

County Council debates 9-1-1 director salary

The 9-1-1 call centers for the City of Shelbyville and the Shelby County Sheriff’s Department will be combining into one new call center later this year. And there needs to be one voice leading that call center.

The Shelby County Council spent more than 30 minutes Tuesday night debating the starting salary and salary designation for the facility’s director who is yet to be hired.

“We’re starting a whole new program. It’s a clean slate from the ground up. We want the whole 9-1-1 center to be solid,” said council president Tony Titus.

An Executive 2 position has a starting salary of $61,007 compared to an Executive 3 position at $54,297. Council discussion centered around the starting salary and scheduled pay raise structure for each position. The pay structure shown at the meeting had the new director being paid $32,844 for the remaining seven months of 2020.

“(The Executive 3) is a low salary compared to counties around Indianapolis,” said Shelby County Sheriff Louie Koch. “We may need to increase the salary in 2021 because of the specific requirements this person is needed to be efficient at.”

Koch reminded the board that the new director will not only be a department head that manages the new 9-1-1 center but also manager of the 9-1-1 call handling equipment.

The current dispatch centers for both the city and county have battled manpower issues with relation to COVID-19. Koch told the council that two city dispatchers had been off work due to the coronavirus and a county dispatcher had symptoms and was sent home.

“My biggest fear is manpower shortage,” said Koch.

Merging the two call centers will be tricky but is needed, according to Koch.

“We need to collectively rectify this situation to bring people together for more manpower,” said Koch.

Part of the salary for the new director will be paid with Indiana 9-1-1 money from the state.

At the end of the discussion, the question remained, “Is the salary enough to attract the right person?”

“It would be nice to have room classified and qualified to give a little more,” said Koch. “We’re on the lower end of the donut counties (around Marion County) at $64,000. They are all in the $70,000 range on the high end.”

The board passed a recommendation to put the salary in the range of $54,297 to $61,007 and will decide on the salary offer once a qualified candidate is identified.

The Shelby County Council approved a $25,000 payment to cover property taxes on the Scheffler Estate, soil samplings, and appraisal fees for selling of a house on the property. The will of Frank Scheffler donated the 300-plus acres south of Marietta to the county, who is cleaning the property off of structures to cash rent out the farmland.

Five of the seven members of the Shelby County Council were present for the meeting at the Courthouse Annex and did not adhere to social distancing guidelines which are still in place. Board members Ryan Claxton and Terry Smith were on speakerphone during the meeting and not in attendance as the five attending members – Titus, Jordan Caldwell, Linda Sanders, Ben Compton and Leigh Langkabel – sat side-by-side and without face masks for the 75-minute meeting.