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Donnelly on Five Year Anniversary of Auto Rescue

donnely at auto
(Photo Courtesy of Senator Donnelly's Office)
Indiana US Senator Joe Donnelly held a conference call with Indiana media to discuss the progress seen in Indiana's auto manufacturing industry since the auto rescue five-years ago. Senator Donnelly says in early 2008, the state's automotive employment was at about 102-thousand workers and by June 2009, that number had dropped by 30-thousand due to the economic downturn. Donnelly says since the assistance was given to automakers there has been a rebirth in auto manufacturing in Indiana with over 100-thousand employees. Donnelly, who supported the auto bailout, says Chrysler has since invested almost two-billion dollars in Indiana, General Motors has added almost half a billion dollars and Honda, Subaru and Toyota continue to grow and invest in Indiana as well.
Last week, Senator Donnelly visited seven auto manufacturing facilities around Indiana to recognize the hard work of Hoosiers.  He visited GM plants in Fort Wayne, Marion, and Bedford, visited a Toyota plant in Princeton, a Honda plant in Greensburg, a Subaru plant in Lafayette, and a Chrysler plant in Kokomo....

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Winter Weather Advisory Wednesday from 12am-10am

national weather service
The National Weather Service in Chicago has issued a Winter Weather Advisory from midnight until 10am CST Wednesday. Officials report total snow accumulation of around two to four inches can be expected and may result in treacherous traveling conditions for the Wednesday morning rush hour. ...

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Indiana Extends HIP Benefits Through April

The state is temporarily extending the Healthy Indiana Plan for more than ten-thousand current members through the end of April 2014 to provide more time to obtain new health coverage through the federal marketplace. Indiana's Family and Social Services Administration says many Healthy Indiana members have faced difficulties with the Obamacare website, healthcare-dot-gov. The extension is for those who will no longer qualify for Healthy Indiana due to lower eligibility standards.
Additional information from FSSA:
The HIP members impacted are those between 100-200 percent of the federal poverty level who will no longer qualify for the Healthy Indiana Plan due to lower eligibility standards set forth in the Healthy Indiana Plan waiver authorized by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS). The new discontinuation date for these HIP members is April 30, 2014. FSSA Secretary Debra Minott requested this temporary extension in early November.
“We have a responsibility to assist Healthy Indiana Plan enrollees during this transition period,” said Minott. “The fact of the matter is the health plans HIP members were told would be available starting in October have proven difficult to access due to the federal marketplace’s well-documented technical issues. This extension provides additional time for these Hoosiers to remain on their HIP plans while they complete their enrollment and gain coverage through the marketplace.”
Governor Mike Pence announced in September that CMS had agreed to allow Indiana a one-year extension to continue to offer the innovative, consumer-driven Healthy Indiana Plan through 2014. During the discussions leading up to the extension, Pence administration officials and CMS officials mutually agreed that, in order to avoid duplication of efforts to cover individuals over 100 percent of the federal poverty level, HIP should focus exclusively on those Hoosiers who are beneath this income threshold. Individuals below the poverty line are not eligible for premium tax credits under the Affordable Care Act. The federal government’s position was that those over the federal poverty line could be covered under new subsidized federal policies through Obamacare. As a result of this agreement, approximately 20,000 more low-income Hoosiers will have health coverage in 2014. Indiana currently serves roughly 35,000 Hoosiers through HIP.
In early November, Secretary Minott expressed concerns to CMS about the technical difficulties HIP members may be facing in trying to obtain federal health exchange plans by January 1. Because of these technical issues, FSSA and CMS agreed to allow these HIP members more time to transition to other health coverage. This agreement is necessary because the State of Indiana cannot unilaterally change the terms of a CMS demonstration project waiver. 
The decision to extend HIP benefits while members roll onto federal plans could cost the state up to $11 million, which will be paid from the Healthy Indiana Plan trust fund.
“We still urge these Hoosiers to take action now to enroll in a health plan that will cover them in 2014,” added Minott. “The federal marketplace will require an application and payment long before the end of April. Also, the plans available on the marketplace all have annual deductibles which will start in January. It will help Hoosiers in the long run if they begin paying on their annual marketplace plan deductibles sooner rather than later.”

FSSA is reaching out by mail to all the HIP members expected to transition off HIP letting them know about the temporary extension and transitioning to the federal marketplace, and is encouraging them to call the Healthy Indiana Plan at 1-877-GET-HIP9 for help.

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Two Officers Among 3 Transported After Fiery Incident

Authorities say two officers with the Porter County Sheriffs Police Department were among three people taken to area hospitals this morning after a fiery incident near Hebron. Police say a 48-year-old Hobart firefighter on leave after police allege he threatened his wife with a gun last month allegedly drove his van into their Hebron-area home this morning, and crews responded to put out fire that broke out involving the vehicle and the house. Multiple departments responded. Police say John Wall was taken by ambulance to a local hospital with severe burns to his face and hands. Porter County Sheriffs Police Public Information Officer Sgt. Larry LaFlower says the two officers transported to an area hospital were inside the house investigating a battery complaint and taking a report when the incident occurred. No information was available at this time on the officers' conditions. There are no reports of injuries to the man's wife....

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A Christmas To Remember

This Sunday over 100 kids will have Christmas come early as part of the Lake County Police Association's A Christmas To Remember. Union President Daniel Murchek says the chosen kids and their families will be treated to a shopping day at the Merrillville Meijer with local law enforcement. They will be able to pick out a toy valued around $40, and must spent the rest of the money on essentials like clothing. This year's participants will also be treated to lunch at Outback Steakhouse.
For more on a Christmas to Remember, listen to our full interview with Union President Murchek On Demand here on our website....

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E Porter Co Students Honored for Perfect ISTEP Scores

A full house at Monday night's East Porter County School Board meeting -- about fifty people were there as a special celebration was held December 9 for twelve students from across the school corporation who had perfect scores on ISTEP. The students were recognized by the board and received a certificate, East Porter County water bottle, and $25 gift card to Barnes & Noble.  Cake and punch were served to the students and their family members.  "Celebrating these students' accomplishments is always the highlight of the school year," said Superintendent Dr. Rod Gardin.  Dr. Gardin asked the students how they were able to do so well, and they all had different answers that included teachers, parents, their own hard work.  Dr. Gardin said he summarized for them that it sounded like their achievement took a combination of efforts.
Listed below are the students who received perfect scores (the student's teacher's name is in parentheses after student's name)
3rd grade – Math
Kouts
Liam Combs (Aaron Crague)
Lyndsey Kobza (Christine Paluch)
4th grade – Math
Kouts
Breanna Carlson (Julie Miller)
Hannah Fields  2nd year in  row with a perfect score (Vicki Miller)
Hunter Kneifel (Julie Miller)
Parker Kneifel 2nd year in a row with a perfect score (Julie Miller)
Kaitlyn Reasoner (Julie Miller)
Morgan
Bram Arnett (Mary Riffer)
4th grade – E/LA [English/Language Arts]
Morgan
Maya Vickrey (Patti Howe)
5th grade - Math
Washington Twp
Valerie Churchill (Randy Roberts)
5th grade – Social Studies
Washington Twp
Jennifer Cahillane (Janine Krieger)
(3rd  year in a row with a perfect score)
6th grade – E/LA [English/Language Arts]
Washington Twp. Middle School
Matthew Sears (Christie Campbell)...

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Chesterton Clerk-Treasurer Leaving Dec 31

polakowski
In Chesterton, after a quarter century of service to the town, longtime Clerk Treasurer Gayle Polakowski is resigning effective the end of this year, due to health reasons. Polakowski has been Clerk-Treasurer for Chesterton since 1988. A caucus will be called for Republican precinct committeemen in town to choose Polakowski's replacement. Her term runs through the end of 2015. ...

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Date Changes for Indiana Food Stamp Recipients

Food stamp recipients in Indiana will have a different schedule next year. A new state law changes the dates recipients receive their monthly benefits, beginning with a one-month transition in January 2014. This does not affect the amount recipients receive, but the day on which benefits are applied to their Hoosier Works EBT, Electronic Benefits Transfer, cards. The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration says having distribution days spread throughout the month will mean fewer shoppers on those days, making shopping easier for SNAP, Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, clients and easing the demand on grocery stores and other food sellers, allowing merchants to better maintain adequate stock throughout the month.
Here is the news release with details:
INDIANAPOLIS (December 9, 2013) -- The Indiana Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) is informing  the more than 926,000 SNAP Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program  recipients in Indiana about important changes that will impact them starting in January. The changes are the result of Senate Enrolled Act (SEA) 530, passed by the Indiana General Assembly in 2013, and will change the dates recipients will receive their monthly benefits beginning with a one month transition in January 2014.
The amount of recipients’ SNAP benefits is NOT changing – but the day on which benefits are applied to their Hoosier Works EBT (Electronic Benefits Transfer) cards will change.
Payment dates for SNAP depend on the first letter of the client’s last name, and benefits have previously been made to clients during the first 10 days of each month. SEA 530 dictates that, starting in 2014, SNAP payments will be spread from the fifth through the 23rd of every month, on odd days.
However, to phase in the change, in the month of January 2014 only, SNAP clients will receive half of their benefits on their current date and the other half on their new date.
FSSA has developed a website to explain the date change at www.SNAP.IN.gov .There is also a chart (see below) showing clients’ current date and future date, based upon the first letter of their last name. In addition, on the website clients can gain a clearer picture of exactly how SEA 530 will impact them and their families by typing in their last names to determine their exact payment dates.
Having distribution days spread throughout the month will mean fewer shoppers on any of those days, making shopping easier for SNAP clients and for all food shoppers. Additionally, spreading distribution days will also ease the burden on grocery stores and other food sellers, as well, as those merchants can spread demand throughout the month.
This chart and the example below demonstrate the distribution of benefits for SNAP clients and how they will change:

First letter of SNAP recipient’s last name
A or B
C or D
E, F or G
H or I
J, K or L
M or N
O, P, Q or R
S
T, U or V
W, X, Y or Z
Old deposit date
1st
2nd
3rd
4th
5th
6th
7th
8th
9th 
10th
New deposit date
5th
7th
9th
11th
13th
15th
17th
19th
21st
23rd

Here, for example, are dates for a client with the last name “Smith:”
            December 2013 benefits - issued December 8, 2013
            January 2014 benefits – half issued January 8, 2014 and half issued January 19, 2014
            February 2014 benefits – issued on new date of February 19, 2014
In addition to the website, www.SNAP.IN.gov , FSSA has undertaken several different communications to inform SNAP clients of this important change. Those include:
  • FSSA has assembled – and been sharing information with – a team that includes the Indiana Association of United Ways, Indiana 211, Feeding Indiana’s Hungry (a group representing food pantries around the state), the Indiana Retail Council, the Indiana Independent Grocers and Convenience Stores and various individual retailers.
    • These organizations and retailers have begun posting and sharing information about the changes in their various locations.
  • Each SNAP recipient has received at least two mailings announcing the change.
  • FSSA has launched a statewide advertising campaign including radio advertising as well as ads on and inside city buses.
  • FSSA has created two videos to be used as public service announcements and to raise awareness of this important change in social media.
  • SNAP clients will receive a voice recording alerting them to this change, via telephone, sometime between December 14 and December 16.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides food assistance to low and no income people and families living in the United States. It is a federal aid program administered by the Food and Nutrition Service of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), however, distribution of benefits occurs at the state level. In Indiana, the Family and Social Services Administration (FSSA) is responsible for ensuring federal regulations are initially implemented and consistently applied in each county. Approximately 926,000 Hoosiers from approximately 418,000 households across Indiana – or nearly one-sixth of the population of Indiana – receive SNAP benefits.
More information about SNAP is available at  http://www.in.gov/fssa/dfr/2691.htm            ...

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Crash Closes WB 30 Near Valpo

Traffic-Alert
We're getting word this morning (approx. 750am) that westbound US 30 is closed at the Porter County Airport near Valparaiso due to a three-car crash.  No other information is available at this hour. Valparaiso Police report at least one person was injured.

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Saving on Heating Costs in the Bitter Cold

As snow and bitter cold have Hoosiers turning up the thermostat, state officials say there are ways to keep heating costs down. Anthony Swinger with the Indiana Office of Utility Consumer Counselor says a home energy audit can help you reduce use and better manage the bills. He also says many consumers are eligible for a free assessment from Energizing Indiana.  "They'll send someone out, do a walk-through, spend some time with you and actually show you where in your home you can make improvements that can really help and add up," Swinger said.  Other tips include a clean furnace filter, checking your insulation, setting ceiling fans to turn clockwise at a low speed, and using a programmable thermostat – turning down the temperature when you are at work or sleeping.
More information at energizingindiana.com 
Swinger says another easy way to save money is to seek out the “energy vampires” in your house, also referred to as standby power.  "We're talking about a cell phone charger that's plugged into the wall, but no phone is plugged in at the other end," Swinger said.  "Or another small appliance that you might keep plugged in, that doesn't really need to be plugged in, but it is using energy to some degree. "  He also says most Indiana natural gas and electric utilities offer budget billing programs, which all customers to pay specific amounts each month.

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