Oklahoma State Senate
Oklahoma State Senate

I hope everyone had a blessed Easter and are remaining strong through this health crisis. But have faith friends, Oklahoma’s curve is flattening.

REVENUE FAILURE

On Monday, the State Board of Equalization verified a $416.9 revenue failure. Being that the legislature already approved the necessary funding earlier this month, we can now focus on the FY’21 budget. The Senate and House are very close to reaching a deal.

Tough decisions must be made as state revenues have been hit hard by COVID-19 and low energy sector prices.

VIRTUAL PUBLIC COMMITTEE MEETING

The Capitol will remain closed for the time being, but the Senate held its first virtual public committee meeting last week. This was necessary for us to get the updated financial needs of certain public safety agencies in the midst of this health crisis.

One of the things we must finish before the end of session is approving executive nominations for our boards and commissions. This week, we’ll begin working on these in our various committees. You can find our committee schedules online at www.oksenate.gov.

UNEMPLOYMENT BENEFITS

Applying for unemployment benefits has gotten easier with much-needed technical upgrades for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission. The small agency has recruited more than 400 employees from other agencies to help in their call center and with live chat.

As of Monday morning, states were still waiting for guidance from the federal government on how to proceed with unemployment benefits for self-employed individuals. Because Oklahoma hasn’t received the guidelines and criteria for this new assistance program yet, most will more than likely be denied when they apply but know that, if you qualify, you’ll be approved once the program is authorized, which will be any day.

It’s good to go ahead and have all your paperwork turned in to the OESC so they can start processing your claim as soon as they get word from the federal government. If denied, OESC recommends not filing a monetary appeal but instead email, fax or mail your proof of earnings documentation to the agency.

Photo IDs can be submitted to idverification@oesc.state. ok.us. Supporting documentation can be faxed to 405-962-7524, emailed to 4059627524@faxoesc.state.ok.us or mailed to: OESC, PO Box 520006, Oklahoma City, OK 73152-2006.

Just to overview, under the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA), gig workers, independent contractors and other self-employed individuals can receive up to 39 weeks of unemployment benefits going back to Feb. 2, 2020, if needed. This is an unprecedented move for our federal government so it’s taking time to set up the new program. Please continue to be patient but know that financial help is on the way.

BE COUNTED IN THE CENSUS!

In closing, if you haven’t already, please fill out your Census form. This is financially critical for our state. It helps determine Oklahoma’s share of hundreds of billions in federal funding over the next decade.

Around 25% of Oklahomans didn’t participate in 2010, and our state lost a tremendous amount of federal funding because of it. This is funding for healthcare programs, education, transportation, public safety and other important services we depend on daily.

Five minutes is all it takes to answer around 10 basic questions, and it’s estimated that each person counted will bring in more than $1,700 per year for the next decade. Everyone in your household needs to be counted, including infants and anyone who may be temporarily living in your home this month or next. If you have elderly or disabled friends or family members, please reach out to them and see if they need assistance filling out their form.

Oklahoma is currently behind the national average and has the lowest participation rate besides New Mexico when compared to neighboring states. We can do better Oklahoma!

We need an accurate population count in order to receive accurate federal funding. You can fill your questionnaire out at www.2020Census.gov or a paper version will be mailed to you soon, if you haven’t already received one. You can also call in your answers to 1-844-330-2020.

If I can be of any assistance, you can reach me at (405) 521-5563 or Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.

MAKE IT COUNT OKLAHOMA!

An undercount in the census of just 2% can cost the state $1.8 billion in lost federal money over the next 10 years. Fill out your census form, Oklahoma. Learn more at: www.2020census.gov.