April 6, 2020

 

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE – “For the Children” Weekly Column

Contact: Joe Dorman, CEO – Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy

Telephone: (405) 833-1117

Email: jdorman@oica.org

 

For the Children: A Weekly Column by Joe Dorman, CEO – OICA

 

OICA Helping Oklahomans Deal with COVID-19’s “New Normal”

The Oklahoma Legislature returned Monday to pass budget updates under which the state will operate for the remainder of the fiscal year. The estimated shortfall will exceed $400 million to finish out the remainder of the current fiscal year and analysis is continuing for what lies ahead.

This shortfall was caused by current low prices for oil and gas and COVID-19 slowdown in the economy. In turn, estimates of increased services needed due this downturn will add to the demands on state government. Lawmakers are expected to use the state’s “Rainy Day” or Constitutional Reserve Fund to stabilize the current budget.

The Oklahoma Institute for Child Advocacy calls on lawmakers to remember Oklahoma’s children with these and other key issues:

  • Keep the children of our state at the forefront of their plans by providing enough funding to ensure that distance learning reaches all youth in the state. State Impact Oklahoma reports at Least 167,000 students lack home Internet access.
  • That day care providers receive support to continue providing services for those workers currently serving in essential jobs.
  • That insurance is continued without interruption for those on SoonerCare, the state Medicaid program for youth.

We also want to hear from you to learn your priorities. If you have concerns and do not or cannot communicate them to state or federal lawmakers, please reach out to us.

We have prepared a survey so you can share your thoughts with us about critical issues facing Oklahoma’s children. The survey can be accessed at

https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/KZMRVML

These answers will help us encourage lawmakers to take action in the areas which you feel are most important. Also, please go to oica.org and sign up for our weekly “Child Advocacy Chat” to hear from policy experts every Wednesday about COVID-19 updates, U.S. Census information, and other important issues facing our state.

In addition, if you have not filled out your Census forms, please submit your information.  Oklahoma is in the lowest tier for response rates and that is bad news, especially since federal funding levels for the next decade – much of our federal tax money coming back to the state is determined by Census population counts.

While submitting your Census form, also consider applying for an absentee ballot online.  This year, it will be much better for you to mail in your ballot than to wait in line to vote in the upcoming elections. You only need to get your form notarized, rather than risk standing around other people on Election Day. You can request your ballot by mail at

https://www.ok.gov/elections/Voter_Info/Absentee_Voting/

Please also be aware of support programs available for you during these times should you need assistance. If you are unemployed, please understand the office has been overwhelmed and they are trying to keep up with record filings. Go to https://unemployment.state.ok.us/ for how to submit your paperwork.

If you have student loans, consider applying for a disaster forbearance. The same goes for some credit cards, and now is certainly the time to look at refinancing outstanding home mortgages as a way to reduce your monthly payments.

We hope these tips help you. OICA will continue to be active as the voice for Oklahoma’s children. Please help us by joining in the conversation through our survey as we speak with a united message to our policymakers.

This week’s child statistic is sponsored by the Cherokee Nation – Oklahoma is first in the nation in percentage of high schools offering concurrent enrollment at 98.8%.

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