While most members of the state Legislature are not at the Capitol right now, because of the threat of COVID-19, we are at home in our districts answering daily calls on everything from how to keep from being exposed to the virus to when can we all get back to normal.
I’m sent daily updates by the speaker of the House, and we have several conference calls each week with Gov. Stitt to get updates on the spread of the virus, the latest actions being taken by state and health care officials, guidance from the federal government and more.
Let me answer a few of the most pressing concerns. First, I know many are asking about education options for their school-aged children with public school buildings closed for the remainder of this school year. The State Department of Education is working with local school districts on their plans to meet individual student needs. Some students will move to online learning. Others will be able to pick up packets of work each week that they will then turn back into their teachers.
College Board is offering free exam preparation courses for AP students and online, at-home testing. This website has more information: https://apstudents.collegeboard.org/coronavirus-updates.
OETA also has revised its daily schedule to provide curriculum-based programming. More information and program schedules can be found at this website: http://www.oeta.tv/blogs/education/distance-learning-with-oeta/.
Another area of concern is non-essential small businesses that have had to close in counties where positive cases of COVID-19 have been reported or those that have just been negatively impacted by the virus. Small businesses can apply for disaster-relief loans with payments deferred until the end of the year. More information can be found here: https://www.sba.gov/funding-programs/disaster-assistance.
In addition, the federal government’s recent relief package has additional help. Small business owners can apply for a 7(a) loan of up to $10 million through December 31, 2020, to help retain workers, maintain payroll costs and other debt obligations such as paid sick or medical leave, insurance premiums, mortgage payments and utilities. Payroll costs, mortgage payment interest fees, rent and utility payments could be Forgiven from Feb. 15, 2020 through June 15, 2020 if businesses can show they were in business prior to February and retained employees through June.
Additional unemployment benefits and relief checks for taxpayers also are included in the aid package.
For those with questions about the virus itself, the State Department of Health has established a website: https://coronavirus.health.ok.gov.
In the meantime, House and Senate leaders continue to work on the state budget for Fiscal Year 2021. We will have a revenue shortfall, but we have savings to help us continue to provide core services for this coming fiscal year.
As always, if I can help you with something directly, I can still be reached by email, John.Pfeiffer@okhouse.gov, and my office phone has been forwarded and will be answered, (405) 557-7332.