The Legislature has not met in floor session for a couple of weeks in an effort to help slow community spread of the COVID-19 virus. However, even though we haven’t been in the Capitol, lawmakers are working remotely in our districts diligently to address the issues that have arisen as a result of this pandemic.
Several times a week, we participate in conference calls with the Speaker and the Governor to receive updates and ask questions on behalf of our constituents. We are in regular contact with numerous state agencies so we can be informed of issues that affect our districts.
I’ve served in this office for two years, and I’ve never had as many constituent inquiries as I have in the past two weeks. I encourage you to continue to reach out to me with questions so I can provide help at the state level during this unprecedented time we are living in.
This week, Governor Stitt amended his previous executive order to close all non-essential businesses through April 30 in counties with confirmed cases of COVID-19. This includes Stephens, McClain and Grady counties, which compromise District 51. As of Friday, April 3, the Health Dept. reported 988 confirmed cases in Oklahoma, with eight in Stephens County, five in Grady County, and ten in McClain County. There were 289 Oklahomans that have been hospitalized by this virus with 38 deaths reported. Visit https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov/ to get more specific details on each Oklahoma county.
On Thursday, the Governor declared a health emergency in all 77 counties for the next 30 days. This would give him broader powers to waive statutory or regulatory requirements that are having adverse effects on Oklahomans during this pandemic.
The Legislature is constitutionally required to meet on the second business day following the date of issue, which is Monday, April 6. Legislators will return to the Capitol to vote confirm the health emergency declaration, and we have established strong health and safety protocols for when we reconvene. Online livestreaming of floor proceedings will continue and can be viewed at www.okhouse.gov.
Oklahoma has seen a dramatic increase in applications for unemployment benefits. At this time, the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is facing a huge amount of unemployment filings and inquiries. If your hours were reduced or cut altogether, you’re eligible to apply. They are experiencing significant delays in their response time as a result, so please be patient.
The State Chamber of Oklahoma has worked with the OESC to answer some frequently asked questions regarding unemployment benefits during the pandemic. This information is available at https://bit.ly/346UFxI.
At the federal level, President Trump signed the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to assist Americans affected by the virus. The stimulus package includes programs and initiatives to aid small business owners with whatever needs they have right now. You can find information on how to apply at www.sbc.senate.gov/public/index.cfm/guide-to-the-cares-act.
Looking ahead, the next few weeks will be critical. Experts are currently predicting the virus will peak in Oklahoma in mid- to late April. If we don’t take precautions now, our healthcare system may be at risk of being overcrowded, which could sadly increase the number of unnecessary deaths from the virus. Please stay home as much as possible to help lessen community spread of this dangerous and unpredictable virus.
Oklahomans faces tough storms every year. We are a resilient people and we will get through this. While we weather this storm, let’s look out for one another and help each other just as we’ve done in past difficulties. We’ve survived every challenge we’ve faced and we will survive this one too.
In the Bible, Jesus Christ says in John 16: 33 says, “I have told you these things, so that in me you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble. But take heart! I have overcame the world.”
Please feel free to reach out to me with any questions or concerns that you may have. Thank you for allowing me to represent you and District 51 at the State Capitol.