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August 3 - August 8 News Update

The State of Indiana has received more than 24,000 applications for the states’COVID-19 rental assistance program. Lake County has the most applications with 4,427 applications, which is 17% of total applications. St. Joseph has 2593, Allen has 2,074, Tippecanoe has 10100 and Vanderburgh has 957.

Renters may be eligible if they have lost income because of the pandemic. Applicants cannot receive rental assistance from another source during the same month when participating in the state’s program. Renters may be eligible if they are having trouble paying rent and face eviction and payments are sent to landlords on the renter’s behalf.

Call toll free at 1-877 GET HOPE

WFYI Indianapolis reports that Residents in the USS Lead Superfund site in East Chicago are worried that flooding in May could have re-contaminated their homes with arsenic and lead. At the same time, the Environmental Protection Agency is ready to call the soil at several properties clean.

Even before the flood, residents were concerned that contaminated groundwater could be seeping into their basements. In several areas of the Superfund site, the EPA has removed only the top two feet of soil.

On Wednesday, The City of Gary reported after two days of single-digit increases, the city had 26 new positive COVID-19 On Friday, they reported 19 additional cases.

Mayor Jerome prince said officials don’t have enough information to describe the one-day spike as a trend. Unfortunately, there is one new COVID-19 related death, for a total of 66 deaths.

Prince said more COVID-19 testing is occurring in the city, and more people are being tested, which means higher numbers of positive COVID-19 cases. However, the recovery rate from the COVID-19 virus in Gary is well above 90 percent.

The state's health commissioner acknowledged Wednesday reopening Indiana elementary and high schools for in-person instruction will assuredly lead to additional infections of the coronavirus.

But Dr. Kristina Box also is confident the number of new COVID-19 cases among students, teachers and parents can be minimized if Hoosier schools follow state safety guidance.

Unemployment claims, which are filed weekly, show that the pandemic has hit every industry in the seven counties that comprise Northwest Indiana at some level.

By city, Gary tops the region with an unemployment rate of 21.9% in June, with East Chicago close behind at 20.9%. Crown Point's unemployment rate was at 14.2% , Hobart's and Merrillville's at 17.7%, Hammond's at 16.3%, Schererville's at 12.4%, Portage's at 16.8% and Valparaiso's at 12.5%. The report only lists cities or towns with populations over 25,000.

A close confidant and former consultant to ex-Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson who once held various city government jobs during Freeman-Wilson’s reign in Gary has been charged with wire fraud.

Mary Cossey, A close confidant and former consultant to ex-Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson, is accused of concealing more than $250,000 in income and assets as part of her serial bankruptcy filings. Cossey has been charged with one count of wire fraud.

Federal agents added that the “unusual” large, frequent sums of cash deposited to Individual A’s bank account by Cossey came from “an outside or non-legitimate source.”

Former Lake County Sheriff John Bunsich was re-sentenced to 12 years and 6 months in prison on federal corruption charges.

In January 2018, Buncich, 74, was sentenced to 15 years and 8 months in federal prison after he was convicted of bribery and wire fraud, among other charges, for soliciting bribes from county tow operators.

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