|It’s been a trying and long month across Oklahoma, but we are beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.|
As a result of COVID-19’s impact on our state economy, the Board of Equalization declared a $416.9 million revenue failure for the remainder of Fiscal Year 2020. However, the Legislature had previously approved several bills that would appropriate money from our Rainy Day Fund to state agencies so they can continue to operate and provide essential services for Oklahomans during this pandemic.
Thankfully, the Legislature had saved money into our Rainy Day Fund last year, knowing that an economic downturn would happen in the future. While we couldn’t have dreamed it would be to this scale, I’m thankful we made the wise decision to save some money while our economy was doing well so that we could use it when the economy fell.
Gov. Stitt announced this week his plan to reopen the state. Nonessential businesses have been closed for weeks, but thanks to Oklahomans social distancing efforts, community spread of the COVID-19 virus has slowed and projections show fewer cases in the future.
On April 24, elective surgeries may resume, and personal care businesses, such as hair parlors and nail salons, may open at this time too. The Governor has provided guidelines for each industry to follow to maintain social distancing and a high level of cleanliness.
The first phase of the Governor’s plan will begin on May 1. Although the statewide safer-at-home order will remain in effect for vulnerable Oklahomans, many businesses can reopen on May 1 if they follow strict health guidelines. More details are available at https://www.okcommerce.gov/covid19/.
Restaurant dining rooms, movie theaters, sporting venues, gyms, and places of worship may reopen on May 1. However, places of worship are advised to keep their childcare center closed during worship, and bars will remain closed during phase one.
If our hospitalization rate continues to lower for 14 days, the second phase will launch. Decisions are being made based on the data that we are seeing here in Oklahoma, where the COVID-19 situation is very different than in other states.
As businesses make plans to reopen across the state, it’s important to shop local. Our state’s economy has been heavily impacted by COVID-19 because many of our local businesses have been shut down for weeks. They are struggling and need our support.
These are the businesses owned by your friends and neighbors. These are the businesses in your community that donate to the countless charities and organizations. And now it’s our turn to give back to them by supporting them both now and in the weeks ahead.
It’s important to note that Oklahoma is the only state in the United States that restricts its cities to sales tax revenue for operating expenses. As many businesses have sat empty the past month and a half, the sales tax revenue has declined significantly. This leaves Oklahoma’s municipalities with a significant loss of revenue.
This sales tax helps your city and community by providing public safety services such as police, fire and emergency medical services. Cities also use this sales tax to fix roads and for other important maintenance.
So as businesses begin to reopen, I encourage you to shop local to support our entrepreneurial neighbors as well as support your city or town that provides essential services we all rely on daily.
Many people are still experiencing problems with their unemployment benefits, and my office has assisted where I could to help resolve these issues. Please feel free to reach out to my office with any questions or concerns that you may have regarding issues with unemployment benefits or other problems brought about by COVID-19.
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns that you may have.