Senate leaders and members of the Appropriations Committee and subcommittees are analyzing the federal stimulus package to decipher what financial assistance the state will be receiving.  We’re also analyzing how the virus, energy prices and stock market will impact state revenues. It’s a difficult process but we’re working daily to ensure we approve a fiscally responsible budget that will address the state’s greatest needs, protect vital state services and not duplicate any federal stimulus funding. 

            The governor declared a health emergency statewide on Thursday until May. This will allow him to waive statutory or regulatory requirements as well as coordinate a cohesive statewide response among city and county health departments. It’ll help hospitals meet the medical needs of the public better and increase the number of healthcare workers available around the state.

            The State Board of Equalization will meet Monday, April 6, to certify the FY’20 $219 million revenue failure brought about by falling energy prices and the economic impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.

            The legislature will convene in special session Monday to approve the health emergency declaration and then convene in regular session to approve the use of reserve funds to address the pending revenue failure. 

                    In other news, I hope everyone has filled out their Census form online or called in.  If not, you’ll be receiving your survey in the mail in the coming month.  You can still at any time go fill your survey out online at www.2020Census.gov.  In your first two mailers, you got a Census ID that identifies you.  You can enter that ID or click the link that you don’t have an ID. 

            I can’t overemphasize how important filling out your Census is for our state.  This is how a lot of federal funding is determined by states for services we all depend on at one point or another – street repairs, school books and food programs, more hospitals, senior nutrition programs and much more.

            Unfortunately, 25% of Oklahomans didn’t participate in the 2010 Census. To give you a better idea of how much money we’re talking about, in FY’16 Oklahoma received more than $9.36 billion through 55 federal spending programs.  We could have received another $3 billion had the remaining Oklahomans taken five minutes to fill out their form. We also might have gained more congressional representation.  

            As of Thursday, Kay County was among the top five counties in Oklahoma for responses coming in at over 40%.  Wonderful job!

            If you don’t have access to internet, you can call in your answers to 1-844-330-2020 or you’ll be receiving a paper survey you can fill out and mail back free of charge.  

            As for the health crisis, healthcare experts are forecasting that our nation will see cases peak in two to three weeks and that as many as 250,000 Americans will lose their lives to this horrible illness. Please continue heeding the warnings to stay home and distance yourself socially from others if you do have to go out.  Try to limit your trips to the grocery store or other shopping.  When you do go, have a list so you can get in and out as quickly as possible. 

            Another great option is to consider ordering food online from our local restaurants for pickup or delivery. To find what restaurants are providing such services just check their websites or give them a call.  There are some good eats out there.  Heads up, though, there can be significant wait times so be sure to call your order in an hour or two before you’re ready to eat. Let’s continue supporting our small local businesses and their employees, and, if possible, consider tipping a little more than normal to your wait staff or delivery person. 

            We can also help these local restaurants and businesses by sharing our favorites on Facebook and other social media.  Consider “checking in” on Facebook or snapping a photo of your delicious meals for others to see. These shout-outs mean the world to these businesses and give them some much needed encouragement. We must help and lift each other up as much as possible during these hard times.

If I can be of any assistance, please contact me at (405) 521-5581 or Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.     

Follow me on Twitter @SkiatookJournal.

E-mail lindsey.chastain@skiatookjournal.com

Managing Editor

Lindsey is the managing editor for the Skiatook Journal. She holds an M.A in English from the University of Central Oklahoma. Prior to the start of her news career in 2011, Renuard was a professor of English at the University of Central Oklahoma.