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Recovery Act doubles surety bond guarantee for small businesses

WASHINGTON, DC -– Effective today, small businesses that need surety bonds to compete for construction and service contracts can qualify for U.S. Small Business Administration-backed surety bonds of up to $5 million. The higher amount, a result of the Recovery Act, is more than double the previous $2 million maximum surety bond guaranteed by SBA.

Through SBA’s Surety Bond Guarantee program, SBA guarantees bid, payment and performance bonds. Surety bonds protect the project owner against financial loss if contractors default or fail to perform.

Small businesses that need surety bonds to compete for construction and service contracts can qualify for U.S. Small Business Administration-backed surety bonds of up to $5 million.

Small businesses that need surety bonds to compete for construction and service contracts can qualify for U.S. Small Business Administration-backed surety bonds of up to $5 million.

SBA partners with the surety industry to help small businesses that would otherwise be unable to obtain bonding in the traditional commercial marketplace. Under the partnership, SBA provides a guarantee to a participating surety company of between 70 and 90 percent of the bond amount.

“During these difficult economic times,” said Acting SBA Administrator Darryl K. Hairston, “these changes are particularly helpful to small and emerging contractors who need access to surety bonds so they can bid on public construction and service projects. These changes will support small and emerging businesses nationwide, particularly construction contractors who have seen their markets hurt by a poor economy and lagging construction environment.”

Additional program enhancements contained in the stimulus bill will be announced soon in the Federal Register. Among these changes is a provision that will allow SBA to guarantee a bond on a federal contract up to $10 million following certification by the contracting officer that the bond guarantee is required.

In recent years SBA has taken a number of steps to reinvigorate its Surety Bond Guarantee Program and make it easier for small businesses to obtain bonds. In 2007, SBA established a more flexible pricing structure, allowing Preferred Surety Bond Sureties to charge current state rates rather than being locked into rates that were established several years ago.

Industry associations have commended SBA for these new changes and SBA continues to encourage surety bond providers and agents to actively participate in the program.

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First $2,400 of unemployment benefits tax free for 2009

WASHINGTON, DC — All or part of unemployment benefits received in 2009 will be tax free for many unemployed workers, according to the Internal Revenue Service.

“This morning we learned that a record 5.6 million people were receiving unemployment benefits in the middle of March. This underscores the need for the relief provided by the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which includes making the first $2,400 of unemployment insurance exempt from tax,” said IRS Commissioner Doug Shulman. “I urge all unemployed workers to take this special tax break into account as they plan their tax withholding and quarterly estimated tax payments for the year. This change offers a helping hand to millions of Americans who are out of work and struggling to make ends meet.”

Under the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, enacted last month, every person who receives unemployment benefits during 2009 is eligible to exclude the first $2,400 of these benefits when they file their tax return next year. For a married couple, the exclusion applies to each spouse, separately. Thus, if both spouses receive unemployment benefits during 2009, each may exclude from income the first $2,400 of benefits they receive.

The new law doesn’t affect the return taxpayers are filling out now. Unemployment benefits received in 2008 and prior years remain fully taxable.

Unemployed workers can choose to have income tax withheld from their unemployment benefit payments. Withholding on these payments is voluntary. However, choosing this option may help avoid a surprise year-end tax bill or a possible penalty for having paid too little tax during the year. Those who choose this option will have a flat 10 percent tax withheld from their benefits.

Unemployed workers who expect to receive more than $2,400 in benefits this year should consider having tax withheld from their benefit payments in excess of that amount. Those unemployed workers who have already chosen to have tax taken out of their benefits, should consider the $2,400 exclusion in determining whether to continue to have tax withheld.

Use Form W-4V, Voluntary Withholding Request, or the equivalent form provided by the payer to request withholding to begin or end. Form W-4V is also available on IRS.gov or by calling the IRS toll-free at 1-800-TAX-FORM (829-3676).

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Indiana extends leadership in clean coal with synthetic natural gas technology

INDIANAPOLIS, Inc. — Indiana solidified its place as a leader in homegrown clean energy production after Gov. Daniels signed into law today a bill to bring Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) technology to the state, billions in energy savings and new jobs.

Senate Enrolled Act 423 was the first bill the governor signed into law for the 2009 legislative session.

Authored by Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield) the new law allows the Indiana Finance Authority to purchase SNG directly from power plants and sell the gas to utilities dollar for dollar under a 30-year contract. Hershman said through the state’s new contract, Hoosiers may see a significant reduction in their energy bills.

From left to right: Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), co-author of SEA 423, and Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield), author of SEA 423, join Gov. Daniels as he signs the first bill of the legislative session into law which extends Indiana’s leadership in clean coal.

From left to right: Sen. Jim Merritt (R-Indianapolis), co-author of SEA 423, and Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield), author of SEA 423, join Gov. Daniels as he signs the first bill of the legislative session into law which extends Indiana’s leadership in clean coal.

Synthetic Natural Gas (SNG) is created when coal is put through a gasification process which safely removes the vast majority of unwanted pollutants, leaving a clean burning pipeline-quality gas that can be transported and used just as natural gas is used to heat many Hoosier homes. Synthetic Natural Gas is produced with 99 percent fewer emissions than a traditional coal power plant.

Hershman said the measure allows Indiana to use its own coal and pay Hoosiers working at the energy-producing facilities instead of sending money to other states. For example, in southern Indiana this law could help create an estimated 1,000 construction and 500 permanent jobs at a clean coal facility.

“Several years of work went into making this legislation a vehicle for Indiana to be a leader in producing electricity from clean coal,” Hershman said. “Our state has the largest and first facility of its kind for producing clean coal and we are first in producing gas from coal.”

Hershman said Senate Enrolled Act 423 is an essential step in securing the low-cost energy, economic development and environmental benefits of a SNG plant.

“Natural gas markets can be unstable and often fluctuate,” Hershman said. “Since Indiana coal prices have proven to be affordable and more stable than natural gas, this technology will provide Hoosier ratepayers a more reliable and consistently priced gas source.”

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Telecom reform leads to new investment in Indiana

INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Sen. Brandt Hershman (R-Wheatfield) joined AT&T officials in announcing plans to add 35 new cell sites that will deliver third generation wireless broadband across the state, including Lafayette.

Hershman, who authored a 2006 telecom reform law which has been recognized as the best in the nation, said AT&T’s total capital investment in Indiana as a direct result of the bill recently exceeded $1 billion. He cited those numbers as proof Indiana has become an attractive place for technology companies to invest and expand.

AT&T announced plans to add 35 new cell sites that will deliver third generation wireless broadband across Indiana, including Lafayette.

AT&T announced plans to add 35 new cell sites that will deliver third generation wireless broadband across Indiana, including Lafayette.

“Through the reform of our telecommunications laws, many companies including AT&T, Smithville telephone, Embarq, and others have been provided with a strong incentive to invest in Indiana, creating jobs and providing Hoosiers with access to the latest technology whether it’s making a call, surfing the Internet, or using new video services” Hershman said. “Investing in Indiana’s communications infrastructure helps Hoosier families and businesses.”

In recent years, the communications company expanded its TV service, U-verse, and its high-speed Internet services to urban and rural areas across the state. In addition to the $1 billion in investments, more than 33 percent of AT&T’s national video service rollouts occurred in Indiana, and more than 1650 new jobs have been created.

Recently, AT&T included Lafayette and West Lafayette in its 3G Wireless Broadband Network, which delivers typical downlink speeds and faster uplink speeds to users. Hershman said the company plans include a new cell site in Lafayette this year.

“New and enhanced connectivity in our area means more opportunities for commerce, education and consumer choice,” Hershman said. “Indiana must work to continue to enhance technology access for all Hoosiers.”

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Lafayette student named to Virginia Tech Dean’s List

BLACKSBURG, Va., — Chelsey W. Smidler of Lafayette, Indiana has been named to the Virginia Tech dean’s list for the fall 2008 semester.

Smidler is a sophomore majoring in electrical engineering in the College of Engineering.

To qualify for the dean’s list, students must attempt at least 12 credit hours graded on the A-F option and earn a 3.4 grade point average (on a 4.0 scale) during the semester.

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Alting: Farmers’ markets could go high-tech

INDIANAPOLIS, Inc. — Hoosier consumers could soon use debit, credit and food stamp cards to purchase locally-grown produce and other goods at farmers’ markets.

A Senate panel on Commerce, Public Policy and Interstate Cooperation – chaired by State Sen. Ron Alting (R-Lafayette) – unanimously approved a measure today that would provide wireless point-of-sale terminals to vendors at farmers’ markets.

Terminals would allow for consumers at farmers’ markets to use debit, credit and Electronic Benefits Transfer (EBT) cards – an identification card used by food stamp recipients who transfer government benefits from a Federal account to a retailer account to pay for products.

Indiana’s Division of Family Resources (DFR) – a state administration overseeing financial and child care assistance, food stamps, employment and training services for low-income clients – would provide the terminals to the more than 120 markets throughout the state.

Alting said he sees the measure benefiting food stamp recipients, consumers and vendors selling goods at markets.

“Providing various payment options at farmer’s markets could increase the number of patrons frequenting the market, therefore making it more profitable for vendors,” Alting said. “In addition to making it more convenient to purchase items, low-income Hoosiers using food stamps to feed their family could also participate in the markets, support the local economy and purchase healthy foods.”

According to Alting, a large market in Bloomington where consumers can purchase items with food stamp, credit and debit cards is thriving in-part because of the convenience provided by the wireless point-of-sale terminals. In its second year of using terminals, market vendors sold more than $2,100 in card transactions during just eight months.

Alting said in other states like Iowa, vendors purchased and rented equipment or used terminals provided by a contractor. Through the Iowa Wireless Project, farmers were initially reimbursed for a portion of the monthly fees associated with equipment. Iowa vendors made such a large profit due to increased traffic that reimbursements for equipment were discontinued.

“Hopefully the convenience offered at high-tech farmers’ markets will provoke more Hoosiers to purchase healthy, fresh and locally-grown products,” Alting said.

Alting expects House Bill 1535 will now be considered by the full Senate.

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