Sen. Coleman: Federal Funding for COVID-19 Expenses
Mike Seals - August 13, 2020 10:32 pm
By Sen. Bill Coleman
Time is running out to participate in the 2020 Census. The deadline to fill out your form online or by calling in is Sept. 30. It’s so important that all Oklahomans participate soon.
There is so much resting on our state having as high a participation rate as possible. Besides determining how billions of federal dollars are allocated to states, it also determines the states’ congressional representation as well as redistricting for state Senate and House seats.
If all Oklahoma citizens participated, we would more than likely have more U.S. House seats and it would also affect state legislative district lines.
Again, it’s estimated for every Oklahoman who is counted the state will get around $17,000 in additional federal funding over the next 10 years. Every Oklahoman not counted, costs the state those federal funds. However, the government services that our citizens need will still have to be paid for, it just won’t come from the federal government, it’ll come out of our pockets.
If we have a low participation rate, that portion of our federal tax dollars are given to other states with higher participation rates. This means when it comes to repairing roads, providing healthcare and senior services, helping veterans and low income families, improving schools and other vital government services, the state will have to foot the bill. All because Oklahomans didn’t want to take five minutes to fill out their census. It’s as simple as that neighbors.
With 58% of Oklahomans participating, our state is lagging further and further behind the national participation rate of more than 63%. Kay County is currently just over 61% while Osage County is just over 46%.
Both counties need to be as close to 100% as possible but if you live in or have friends or family in Osage County, please encourage them to fill out their form. County funding from the federal government is based on population counts, which is determined by the census.
We need our entire Senate district to have 100% participation. You can call your answers in to 1-844-330-2020, fill it out online at www.2020Census.gov or a census rep will come to your door. Our district desperately needs all the federal funding we can get especially with COVID-19 so please take the five minutes to participate or help others get counted.
Another example of the importance of the census is how some of the COVID-19 federal funds have been allocated. Gov. Stitt announced this past week that more than $250 million of CARES Act Coronavirus Relief Funds will now be distributed based on a formula of $77 per capita. The state will use 2019 census estimates to distribute the funds, which are based on the 2010 census results and we know that around 25% of Oklahomans didn’t participate in the last census so the numbers may not be accurate.
The governor created CARES FORWARD this spring, which is a team of public employees with expertise in federal grants, finance and auditing that is overseeing how Oklahoma’s $1.2 billion in stimulus funds is distributed. It’s critical that these funds are distributed and used efficiently to help speed up our state’s recovery from this health crisis.
In order to participate in the CARES FORWARD reimbursement program, cities, towns and counties must register at governor.ok.gov/crfgrants. So far, around 90 communities and counties have been approved and have received just over $17 million in CRF reimbursements. More are awaiting approval. Roughly 86% of the CRF funds are still available, so please apply and take advantage of this critical federal funding. The deadline to apply for reimbursement for COVID-19 expenses is Nov. 1. Local governments can submit their reimbursement applications during the first 10 days of each month. The state uses the rest of the month to review and validate applications as well as process payments.
If your county or community has sustained any COVID-19 related expenses, please apply for this program so you can save your local funding for other critical needs. Let me know if you have any questions or need help with this or other programs.
You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing [email protected]