Gov. Kevin Stitt visited Tulsa to announce more than $30 million in federal relief funds through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act, will be headed to the city.
"Mayor Bynum and his team at the city of Tulsa have done a great job coming up with innovative ways to use this money to continue to fight COVID-19, support local businesses and help educate our children," said the governor, who did not wear a mask at the press conference despite the recommendations of his own health commissioner and a mask ordinance passed by the Tulsa City Council.
Bynum highlighted a number of ways in which the city plans to use the funds, including an initiative meant to improve internet access for families living in Tulsa Housing Authority buildings and families with children in Tulsa Public Schools.
"Through the use of CARES dollars, we will be providing better opportunity and internet access for more than 22,000 Tulsa families, providing a clear path for our children to receive the help they need with their education during this critical time in our city," Bynum said.
Bynum also said much of the funding will go to the Tulsa Police Department, whose services he said are "the largest budgetary allocation for us at the city of Tulsa."
“The digital divide is one of the many inequities that has been exacerbated in the midst of the pandemic," said Carlisha Williams Bradley, executive director of Impact Tulsa, which partnered with the city and several local school districts on the internet access program.
Tulsa Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Deborah Gist said she was grateful to the governor for the allocation, but also stressed that education in Oklahoma is underfunded, and that schools need more federal stimulus money. The governor has said he doesn't think Oklahomans need more federal aid, and that he's passed that message along to the White House and the state's Congressional delegation.
"We have a couple of bills out and in play in Congress right now, and they've been caught in partisan bickering," Gist said. "And the people who get lost in that are families, small businesses, and children. And right now there's funding that is desperately needed in education."
"A second round of stimulus is something that we need all Oklahomans really making sure that our representatives in Washington, D.C., know that we expect for the grownups to get down to business, solve their differences, and get a second round of stimulus out," Gist said.