The COVID-19 pandemic has resulted in many challenges in terms of public health, our economy and the multiple impacts it’s had on our lives. Already busy parents had to figure out how to continue their children’s education through distance learning while working from home themselves, and many were trying to figure out how to make ends meet when one or both parents has been laid off or temporarily furloughed.
Oklahoma, like just about every other state, quickly learned the state unemployment services were not set up to deal with the unprecedented number of people seeking relief. The hardware and the software for the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC) were decades out of date, and not structured to assist the self-employed who normally are not covered by benefits. Thousands of Oklahomans found themselves unable to file for the help they needed, or found their claims denied, and then unable to move to the next step of the process.
Last month, the IT functions at OESC were taken over by the Oklahoma Management Enterprise Services (OMES) and a new interim director named to direct operations at OESC. They’ve announced success in clearing thousands of cases from their backlog, and said they were still focused on resolving thousands more cases that still haven’t been processed.
I know how frustrating this has been for people here in this district. My office, and my executive assistant, Kala Plagg, has been working nonstop to assist as we can, and she has been able to help many constituents. I want to thank Kala for her tireless efforts. We know how difficult the situation has been and we will continue to monitor the progress at OESC and follow through with those we’re attempting to assist.
I want to remind everyone that we have a primary election coming up on June 30. Voting is a right that many people around the world are denied. I would argue it is more than just a right—it is a civic responsibility. Representative democracy relies on citizens taking an active interest and role in those they chose to represent them at the local, state and federal levels and the issues that impact all of us. Please take the time to study the issues and the candidates and cast your ballot on June 30.
I also want to remind every who has not yet completed their census form, please make sure you and your household are counted. Billions of dollars in federal funds for our schools, transportation, health, mental health, public safety and other core services are distributed every year based on population. When people don’t respond to the census, our city, county and state populations are undercounted, and we get shortchanged.
As of June 17, the national average response rate was 61.5%. For Oklahoma, it was 55.9%. For the counties in Senate District 20, the response rates were as follows:
Noble County – 56.9%
Pawnee County – 43.2%
Logan County – 61.4%
Kingfisher County – 52.2%
Among various communities in the district, the U.S. Census reported:
Perry – 60.1%
Pawnee – 44.3%
Guthrie – 60.4%
Hennessey – 53.7%
It only takes a few minutes to complete the census, and you can respond by mail, over the phone by calling 1-844-330-2020, or online at 2020census.gov.
Thank you for the privilege of allowing me to be your voice in the Oklahoma Senate. Please feel free to contact my Capitol office with any questions or concerns you may have about legislation or other issues impacting our state at 405.521.5628 or at Chuck.Hall@oksenate.gov.
Way to screw the pooch, as the old saying goes.