CARES Act

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The Oklahoma Department of Human Services has expanded a free child care benefit for Oklahomans who have lost their jobs.

Three months of fully subsidized child care are now available to parents while they look for work. While the CARES Act–funded program has been around since May 2020, it was previously limited to people who lost their jobs due to COVID, and it covered only 60 days.

OKDHS Adult and Family Services Director Deb Smith said access to child care is an economic issue.

Oklahoma Capitol

Parties to two lawsuits over the state’s early end to enhanced federal unemployment benefits made their arguments on Wednesday before an Oklahoma Supreme Court referee.

One of those lawsuits was decided in Oklahoma County district court last week, when a judge ordered the state to reinstate the program. Oklahoma Employment Security Commission Executive Director Shelley Zumwalt wants the state supreme court to overturn that ruling.

Judge Orders Oklahoma To Resume Extra Jobless Payments

Aug 9, 2021
Oklahoma Employment Security Commission

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — An Oklahoma judge has ordered the state to reinstate a pandemic-related supplemental federal unemployment assistance program that was cut off to thousands of workers in June.

In a letter to attorneys in the case late Friday, Oklahoma County District Judge Anthony Bonner granted a preliminary injunction prohibiting Oklahoma from withdrawing from the program until he issues a final order in the case, or until the program expires in September.

Tulsa Community College is spending roughly $4 million in federal virus relief funds to pay off more than 5,000 students’ outstanding balances.

The institution is notifying current and former students enrolled on or after March 2020 that money they owed as of July 12, 2021, has been wiped out. A survey found about 40% of TCC students reported their financial situation has worsened during the pandemic, and a similar proportion is now struggling to pay for college.

The CDC eviction moratorium protecting renters impacted by COVID ended July 31st. 

 

There may be some additional federal protections on the way, but in the meantime, those seeking legal help can get it at court.

 

On this edition of ST, we discuss the Play Tulsa Music program, an initiative of the Tulsa Office of Film, Music, Arts & Culture (a/k/a Tulsa FMAC). Play Tulsa Music was first launched in September of last year as a pandemic-rooted economic recovery effort made possible by Tulsa County CARES Act funding. More than $190,000 was distributed in 2020 to 26 venues throughout Tulsa County, thereby helping to support 700+ local performances.

Oklahoma State University

A legislative watchdog presented lawmakers with a positive review of how state colleges and universities spent federal coronavirus relief funds.

Institutions of higher education received direct allocations from the Higher Education Emergency Relief Fund, a component of 2020’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act package. Oklahoma got a total of $180.5 million.

Rep. Markwayne Mullin

WASHINGTON (AP) — The House approved a $1.9 trillion pandemic relief bill early Saturday in a win for President Joe Biden, even as top Democrats tried assuring agitated progressives that they’d revive their derailed drive to boost the minimum wage.

A legislative watchdog has issued a report that’s highly critical of how Gov. Kevin Stitt’s administration spent millions of dollars of federal coronavirus relief.

The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency, or LOFT, issued a draft report Wednesday night that criticizes the Stitt administration’s CARES Forward entity for incomplete documentation and spending on pre-existing needs like government modernization.

C-SPAN

Oklahoma's members of the U.S. House of Representatives split Monday night on votes to override President Donald Trump's veto of the National Defense Authorization Act and to support Trump's proposal for $2,000 in direct coronavirus relief payments to Americans.

Twitter / @oescnews

WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. (AP) — President Donald Trump has signed a $900 billion pandemic relief package, ending days of drama over his refusal to accept the bipartisan deal that will deliver long-sought cash to businesses and individuals and avert a federal government shutdown.

The massive bill includes $1.4 trillion to fund government agencies through September and contains other end-of-session priorities such as an increase in food stamp benefits.

2 Tulsa Area Men Accused of Virus Relief Fraud

Dec 21, 2020

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — Two men have been charged after being accused by authorities of fraudulently applying for small business loans intended for coronavirus relief in Oklahoma, according to federal prosecutors.

Authorities allege Rafael Maturino, 40, of Broken Arrow, and Adam Winston James, 44, of Tulsa, worked together on a scheme to apply for Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

TULSA, Okla. (AP) — A former Walmart manager has been sentenced to two years in federal prison for fraudulently seeking more than $8 million in small business loans intended for coronavirus relief in Oklahoma.

Tulsa authorities said Benjamin Hayford, 32, sought forgivable Paycheck Protection Program loans guaranteed by the Small Business Administration under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act.

Tulsa County has approved $1.4 million in federal coronavirus relief funds for the nonprofit Opportunity Project to offer no-cost or low-cost child care.

County spokesperson Devin Egan said officials have heard the need for that right now is great.

Tulsa International Airport

While Tulsa International Airport just had its busiest travel weekend of the coronavirus pandemic, executives say they’re not out of the woods.

Around 3,300 passengers came through the security checkpoint last Friday, up from a daily average of about 2,000 in June and July.

The airport’s fiscal year 2020 revenues were down 13% from FY2019, with June 2020 more than 40% below the same month a year ago.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

City councilors approved on Wednesday more than $2 million in spending from Tulsa’s allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds from the state.

The bulk of the spending approved, $1.5 million, goes to support city efforts to help people experiencing homelessness during the pandemic. That includes things like funding operations at the old juvenile justice center that’s been repurposed as a shelter and continuing to pay for hotel rooms for people who need to quarantine. Those are usually paid for out of other federal funds.

Matt Trotter / KWGS

The City of Tulsa intends to stand up around a dozen programs over the next few months with its allocation of federal coronavirus relief funds from the state.

In an announcement on Thursday, city officials said spending would fall into five major areas: addressing unbudgeted costs of the public health emergency, safety modifications, supporting vulnerable Tulsans, helping workers displaced by COVID-19 and helping small businesses.

Office of the Governor

As Congress struggles to come up with a fourth coronavirus relief bill, Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday that Oklahoma is good.

"I don’t think we need another stimulus package, no. And so, we’ve told our federal delegation, we’ve told the White House that. We’re more concerned — we want to make sure this $1.2 billion actually gets on target," Stitt said during a news conference.

Courtesy

Gov. Kevin Stitt continues to say Oklahoma is handling the coronavirus pandemic well and is months ahead of other states.

During the Tulsa Regional Chamber State of the State on Tuesday, Stitt compared the state’s hospitalization numbers from earlier in the pandemic to now.

“You know, on March 30, we had 560 people in the hospital being treated for COVID across the state of Oklahoma. Yesterday, we had 504 people in the hospital with capacity well above that,” Stitt said.

Governor's office

Oklahoma will spend $15 million from its share of federal coronavirus relief funding toward establishing Community HOPE Centers across the state to help families in areas where schools are not open full time.

Gov. Kevin Stitt made the announcement Monday at Templo de Alabanza in Oklahoma City, which will be the site of the first Community HOPE Center.

Templo de Alabanza Operations Director Rachel Ramirez said as soon as she heard local schools wouldn’t bring students back until at least November, she knew something needed to be done.

Twitter / @RepKendraHorn

U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn, Oklahoma's lone Congressional Democrat, said that while the two parties in Congress don't see eye-to-eye on much, there is some level of consensus on what should be included in the next coronavirus relief package.

"The areas that I think there is strong, bipartisan agreement is in the need to continue to fund research — research on vaccine development, treatment, PPE and other critical resources for our health care community, as well as funding for state and local governments, because we know the toll," Horn said on a virtual town hall event on Friday.

Oklahoma Watch

Some of Tulsa County’s $114 million in federal coronavirus relief funds may go toward getting personal protective equipment to area school districts before students and teachers potentially return to classrooms next month.

"We think that it’s of vital importance to make sure that we’re allowing for them to have to proper equipment they need to mitigate the spread of COVID-19 heading into the fall," said Tulsa Area Emergency Manager Joe Kralicek.

Some of Oklahoma's $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding is going toward grant programs to help struggling small businesses and families facing eviction.

A small business relief program is getting $100 million, with 20% allocated for businesses owned by people of color. Governor’s Minority Business Council Chair David Castillo said that will help a woman he knows who had to lay off almost all of her restaurant staff and nearly shut down as the pandemic cut into her business.

Wikipedia

Oklahoma cities and counties can apply for federal coronavirus relief funds through an online portal starting June 1.

Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Wednesday that will be the method for them to be reimbursed for eligible COVID-19 expenses under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act, which Oklahoma received $1.2 billion from.

Instagram / @TulsaCountyOK

Tulsa County has begun awarding nearly $114 million in federal funds it received under the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security, or CARES, Act. 

Serge Melki

In lawmakers’ package of 12 budget bills is one that would require daily reports on Oklahoma’s spending of federal coronavirus relief funds.

House Appropriations and Budget Chair Kevin Wallace said Monday it appears the state has $800 million to spend once distributions are made to local governments from Oklahoma's roughly $1.2 billion Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act allocation, and lawmakers want input.

Tulsa Transit

Tulsa Transit’s share of federal coronavirus relief money is roughly $19.7 million.

General Manager Ted Rieck reported the allocation from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security, or CARES, Act to the transit board this week.

"This is a huge amount of money for us. It’s, like, 82% of our annual budget and three times our normal allocation," Rieck said.

Rieck's priority for the funding is offsetting an expected decrease in funding next fiscal year from the City of Tulsa as it deals with a 13% drop in general revenue.

Google Street View

So far, the federal government has approved $660 billion in funding for small business loans through the Paycheck Protection Program. On Thursday, April 30th, Larry Weatherford, Oklahoma district public affairs specialist for the U.S. Small Business Administration, which administers the program, spoke with KWGS about the program's successes and criticisms, and encouraged any Oklahoma small business owners who haven't yet applied for assistance to do so as soon as possible before funding runs out.

In a webinar hosted by the Tulsa Regional Chamber on Monday, U.S. Sen. James Lankford (R-OK) said he fears that the amount of money paid out to Americans as federal unemployment benefits under new coronavirus legislation may be overly generous and bad economic policy.

"That's been the challenge of unemployment during this time period," Lankford said. "That we have a disincentive to get back to work." 

Chris Polansky

While Oklahoma prepares to reopen certain businesses following mandated closures meant to limit the spread of the novel coronavirus, the head of the Oklahoma State Department of Education said on Thursday that students, parents and teachers shouldn't take that to mean schools will be reopening any time soon.

"It is not to pertain to the reopening of schools," State Superintendent of Instruction Joy Hofmeister said of Governor Kevin Stitt's announcement that parts of Oklahoma's economy will begin to reopen on April 24th. 

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