OK House of Representatives issue COVID-19 update Tuesday
THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES
- The House operated remotely Monday, and it worked well. Members were working, constituents were in touch with us and staff were performing their regular duties – all remotely. The House continued functioning while following appropriate public health precautions.
- In addition to usual duties and district work, House members participated in a host of conference calls and video conferences with state and federal officials concerning the ongoing COVID-19 response.
- Superintendent Joy Hofmeister is recommending schools stay physically closed the rest of the school year while launching a Continuing Learning Program on April 6 so students can continue their curriculum remotely.
- The State Board of Education meeting will occur virtually, and the public will be able to view it and participate under emergency legislation the Legislature passed last week; participation information will be required to be publicly shared by the State Department of Education.
- All seven state Veterans centers have been closed to public visitation. All essential staff must be checked for COVID-19 symptoms before entering the building, with all non-essential ODVA staff instructed to telework.
- The State Health Department strongly advises Oklahomans who are returning from spring break from a country or a region with widespread ongoing transmission of COVID-19 (Level 3 Travel Heath Notice) to take the following steps to protect yourself and others:
- Stay at home. Do not go to work, school, or leave your house for 14 days. Discuss your work situation with your employer.
- Monitor your health. Take your temperature with a thermometer two times a day and monitor for fever (temperature of 100.4°F/38°C or higher). Also watch for cough or trouble breathing.
- Practice social distancing within the home. Avoid contact with other people for the 14 days. Maintain distance (approximately 6 feet or 2 meters) from family members and others in the home when possible.
18-49 AGE GROUP
- OSDH data indicates Oklahoma is experiencing a high incidence rate of COVID-19 cases in the 18-49 age group. People of all age groups are asked to stay home, reduce person-to-person contact, avoid public gatherings, wash hands frequently, and avoid touching your face.
- If you develop symptoms such as fever, shortness of breath or cough, please contact your medical professional or call the COVID-19 call center at 877-215-8336 or 2-1-1 for assistance.
- State House members on Monday discussed the federal response and pending aid package before Congress with U.S. Senator James Lankford, who reported the following:
- Testing capacity in Oklahoma and nationwide is quickly ramping up and diversifying as legislation Congress passed three weeks ago takes full effect.
- Human trials of a COVID-19 vaccine are underway. Trials will take several months.
- Federal action has led to immediate availability of unemployment insurance, snap funding and mandatory paid sick leave payments for affected employees, with federal reimbursements to businesses.
- The Senate is expected to act as soon as today on a major individual and business AID BILL that increases the social safety net and provides direct payments to individuals while offering support to all types of businesses. The bill could be on the president’s desk within 24 hours.
– The aid bill is expected to include five key sections that are subject to change but at this point include:
1. HEALTH FUNDING for hospitals, healthcare providers, nursing homes, senior centers and more, plus a whole host of state and local health needs.
2. INDIVIDUAL PAYMENTS via checks of $1,200 for every adult with a tax history, and $500 per child (on a sliding scale); households with a combined income of $200,000 would likely not qualify.
3. UNEMPLOYMENT INSURANCE that dramatically increases payment amounts for individuals by an additional $600 a week, with no required state funding match, for the next three to four months.
4. SMALL BUSINESS AID in the form of expedited business loans of up to $10 million for any small business (less than 500 employees) affected by COVID-19, including loans for payroll and rent through June 30 that would be forgiven by the federal government, plus rapid unemployment insurance for employees to keep them connected to their employers.
5. LARGE BUSINESS AID via a stabilization fund allowing large companies that have lost credit access to get federal loans that must be paid back with interest, with several restrictions.
– A FACT SHEET for citizens and businesses on the aid package will be distributed publicly and regularly updated once it becomes law.
– Lankford has been working with Sen. Dick Durbin to try to get more critical access rural hospital aid into the bill; the funding they are seeking has not made it in the bill yet, but still could.
– The aid bill currently would waive penaltiesfor seniors who make unscheduled retirement account withdrawals or decline to make withdrawals.
– The aid bill currently would allow a federal purchase of American oil to put in the U.S. strategic petroleum reserve, which should help bring oil prices back up.
– Any company harmed by the oil price drop would qualify for assistance under the bill because the oil price drop is related to COVID-19.
– The Social Security Administration is expecting disability filings to increase as they did during the 2008 financial crisis and is not anticipating problems handling the increased filings.
– Gig workers, contract workers and tip wage earners whose jobs were affected by COVID-19 should seek unemployment assistance.
– Independent contractors in the cattle industry are eligible for the small business aid.
– Credit card companies aren’t advertising it, but they are offering temporary payment forgiveness and flexibility.
GOVERNOR STITT UPDATE
- State House members on Monday discussed the state response with Governor Kevin Stitt, who reported the following:
- A personal protective equipment coordinator is being identified to ensure healthcare workers have consistent access to Oklahoma’s supply of personal protective equipment to address shortages at some hospitals.
- The state epidemiologist has been preparing modeling of the expected COVID-19 curve in Oklahoma that will help determine when Oklahoma can expect to reach its peak in order to inform planning and response efforts.
- A state budget revenue failure is expected in the current fiscal year, and reserves should be available to address it.
- A state budget gap is expected next fiscal year, and reserves should be available to address at least part of it.
- The state has the largest savings fund balance in state history, at more than $1 billion.
- 18,000 people applied for unemployment in Oklahoma last week; the previous weekly high was 9,000.
- Oklahoma has the nation’s 6th most solvent unemployment fund, and federal aid will be available to assist with unemployment.
- The Stitt administration is coordinating with Superintendent Joy Hofmeister on a continuous learning plan if physical school sites cannot reopen this school year.
- Drivers’ license renewals have been temporarily waived, so people do not need to visit driver’s license examiner sites to renew at this time.
- Senior nutrition centers should stay open.
- Guidance will be given to local counties soon concerning extending property tax filing deadlines.