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Monday, October 18, 2021
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Gov State Announces Cutting-Edge Rapid Point-of-Care COVID-19 Tests Being Distributed to Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (Oct. 1, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt today announced Oklahoma has received an initial allocation of roughly 77,000 Abbott Laboratories BinaxNOW rapid point-of-care COVID-19 tests. 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health will prioritize the distribution of these tests and equipment to K-12 schools, high-risk health care workers and other vulnerable populations. More specific details will be available in the coming days. 

“Distributing rapid point-of-care tests across our state will be incredibly valuable to keep our schools open for in-person instruction while protecting Oklahomans from this virus,” said Gov. Stitt. “These tests will also help us keep our frontline healthcare workers and their families safe as they continue their important mission of caring for the sick and our most vulnerable.” 

The BinaxNOW COVID-19 test uses nasal swabs that are simple to administer, inexpensive and can be easily employed by medical personnel or trained operators in certain non-clinical environments operating through a CLIA certificate. OSDH will provide training to locations receiving testing equipment, and those sites will be permitted to conduct tests through OSDH’s CLIA certificate. 

Results are provided on-site in 15 minutes or less. 

“Oklahoma has been on the cutting edge of testing our population for COVID-19 and we are excited to add this test to our arsenal as we combat this disease and keep Oklahomans safe,” said Dr. Lance Frye, Interim Commissioner of Health. “We want the public to know we have plenty of testing capacity, so if you have any fear of exposure, get tested.” 

This allocation is part of 100 million rapid tests scheduled to be distributed by the end of the year to the nation’s governors free of charge from the federal government. 

States will continue to receive allocations from the federal government as more BinaxNOW tests are manufactured. According to Abbott Diagnostics, it plans to make up to 48 million tests available monthly in the U.S. in the coming weeks. 

Free COVID-19 testing continues to be available at more than 80 sites across the Oklahoma. 

While many other states continue to only test patients with symptoms, Oklahoma has made a concerted effort to expand its testing capability to ensure any Oklahoman who wants a test can get one, and in most cases, can now receive a result in as few as 48 hours from test administration. 

Oklahomans can visit coronavirus.health.ok.gov to find testing locations in their area or call 211 for more information. 

From the Desk of Senator Chris Kidd

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We’re gearing up for session with interim studies and meetings with state agencies, organizations, the business community and constituents.  I’ve been busy this month between events around the district and meetings at the Capitol. 

 At the beginning of the month, I had the pleasure of being on a panel to help select new FFA chapter officers at Central High School.  We got to hear some fantastic speeches.  As a former FFA member myself, I always enjoy hearing about the great things our local FFA students are doing to help their communities and the agricultural industry. I want to thank Mr. Curry for including me in this special event.

The Senate Agriculture and Wildlife Committee and the Appropriations Committee have heard three studies so far.

We looked at the rules and regulations of beef processing plants.   Presentations were made by Dr. Rodney Holcomb, OSU Agricultural Economics Professor and Charles B. Browning Endowed Professorship in Food Science; Jake Nelson, Facilities Manager/Meat Processing Specialist at the OSU Robert M. Kerr Food & Agricultural Products Center; Shellie Chard, the Water Quality Division Director at the state Department of Environmental Quality; and Scott Yates, the Food Safety Division Director at the state Department of Agriculture.

In Appropriations, we looked at education funding and specifically bilingual funding, testing, qualifications, school procedures, transparency and accountability.  Speakers included Matt Richmond, the Chief Operating Officer for EdBuild; Dan Ruhl, OSDE’s Executive Director of English Proficiency and Chris Berry, Oklahoma City Public School’s Director of Language and Cultural Services.

We also studied transportation funding in a changing virtual environment, funding for schools utilizing city transit systems and the 1.5-mile rule for transportation.  Presenters included Monty Guthrie, Deputy Superintendent of Finance and Federal Programs; Ron Flanagan with Muldrow Public Schools; Jason Simeroth of Yukon Public Schools; NCSL Senior Fellow of Education, Daniel Thatcher, JD; and EdBuild COO Matt Richmond.

 Two weeks ago, I joined Ag Secretary Arthur in presenting a meat processing grant check to 5th Avenue Cattle Processing in Sterling. In total, 40 locations statewide split $10 million in federal funds from the CARES Act to expand processing capacity. It’s important that we do all we can to support our local plants to get local products to stores as efficiently and quickly as possible.

  We also had our monthly Caucus meeting to discuss interim studies and the upcoming session.  We are currently working on our agenda and what issues we’re going to focus on in the 2021 session.

 I also want to thank Chuck Wagner for asking me to speak at Duncan High School.  We had a Q&A session with the students about how the legislative process works.  

  Last week, I joined Office of Juvenile Affairs Director Rachel Holt at the OJA facility in Manitou to work on future plans ensuring the continued success for that facility. 

  I also celebrated with Frederick Elementary School as they were designated by the U.S. Department of Education as a 2020 National Blue Ribbon School.  This is a prestigious honor only awarded to the very best schools in the country. This year, a total of 367 schools were named including six Oklahoma schools.     

  Frederick Elementary was recognized as an Exemplary Achievement Gap Closing School meaning they are among the state’s highest performing schools in closing achievement gaps between their student groups and all students. Student assessment scores, subgroup scores and graduation rates were used to determine this year’s winners.

  Congratulations to the teachers, administrators, faculty, parents and students of this wonderful community and school system.  This award not only reflects on the tremendous education system but the parents who are engaged in their children’s schooling and success. 

 Thank you again for the privilege of serving our district and the State of Oklahoma in the Senate. If I can be of any assistance, you can reach me at (405) 521-5563 or Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.

Capitol Considerations

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with Sen. Chris Kidd

 Oklahoma has received some good news in recent weeks.  In 2004, the state had the 49th worst highway bridge system in the nation with nearly 1,200 (of 6,800) considered structurally deficient.  That number has decreased to only 86 highway bridges needing major rehabilitation or replacement, which are all scheduled in ODOT’s Eight-Year Plan. Oklahoma now ranks 9th nationally according to the Federal Highway Administration giving the state a Top Ten status for the first time in state history.

 The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) has also approved Oklahoma for the Lost Wages Assistance (LWA) program, which will provide an additional $300 a week for unemployed Oklahomans. This replaces the $600 per week that workers received under Federal Pandemic Unemployment Compensation (FPUC), which expired the last week of July. 

 If you’re still waiting for unemployment for dates prior to August, you’ll receive the $600 extra and then the $300 will kick in for dates after that.  Again, please contact my office if you’re having trouble securing your unemployment.  We’re here to help you however we can.

 Our state economy is slowly recovering.  Unemployment rates are lowering, and our July General Revenue Fund (GRF) collections came in nearly $69 million or 9.5% above the monthly estimate at $790.5 million. This was also $290.8 million higher than July 2019 collections. While this was mainly caused by the delayed income taxes and deferred first-quarter payments, it’s still promising news. We must proceed cautiously, though, as the energy and business sectors continue to struggle.  There are still companies facing closure and some considering furloughs and layoffs. On the flipside, there are also companies expanding and relocating to Oklahoma.  Leaders have been working hard in recent years to ensure Oklahoma is a business-friendly state and has the workforce and other assets needed to attract companies.

 One area that needs improvement is our broadband capability statewide. This past session, we approved the Rural Broadband Expansion Act, which created a council to study access around the state.  One of the first things companies look at when considering relocation is a state’s connectivity.  It has also become painfully obvious this year with so many citizens trying to file for unemployment online, people teleworking and many schools going virtual that Oklahoma needs to improve its broadband access. In today’s digital world, everyone must have access to the internet. The 13-member council will work to create a strategic plan to improve connectivity statewide. They will submit their annual report and recommendations by January 31.

 The Legislative Office of Fiscal Transparency (LOFT) also announced its work plan for the current fiscal year, which was approved by its legislative oversight committee. LOFT was created in 2019 to provide the legislature with more in-depth evaluations of state agency budgets and program performance without duplicating work conducted by legislative staff. 

The work plan is modeled on a similar one in Mississippi and will be divided into three categories including –

1)  Rapid response evaluations (90-100 days) – special requests from the oversight committee to inform immediate funding or policy decisions for the legislature.

2)  Priority program evaluations (6-8 months) – part of the work plan included in the annual report provided before the beginning of the legislative session.

3) Secondary program evaluations (long-term) – analysis of large state agencies and programs based on funding and impact.

 LOFT will conduct 7-12 evaluations each year. This fall, they’ll be evaluating the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC), the Board of Equalization, and the Department of Health and use of COVID funding by state health programs.  They’ll also analyze state agency and higher education institutions’ COVID funding allocation, reimbursement and utilization. 

 The office has a full schedule in the coming months, and I look forward to reading their findings in January. The work plan is available at www.okloft.gov.                                                                    

 In closing, please be sure to participate in the 2020 Census. The deadline for self-reporting is Wed., Sept. 30.  Your participation will determine federal funding for your local community, county and the state for vital government programs like healthcare, education and transportation.  You can fill yours out at www.2020Census.gov or by calling 1-844-330-2020.

 Thank you again for the privilege of serving our district and the State of Oklahoma in the Senate. If I can be of any assistance, you can reach me at (405) 521-5563 or Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.

From the Office of State Senator Chris Kidd

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Although the session was cut short by COVID-19, we did get nearly 200 bills signed into law. I’ll be discussing some of these measures in the coming weeks as well as providing updates as our state’s economy works to recover.

One bill that will help our state tremendously in the future is HB 4018 creating the Rural Broadband Expansion Act. Under the new law, a council will be assembled to study rural broadband access around the state and determine the costs for improving access to all Oklahomans. Stakeholders from various industries, officials from both the executive and legislative branches and rural stakeholders will be responsible with devising a plan to help get this basic 21st century need to all Oklahomans.

Sadly, Oklahoma currently ranks 47th in rural broadband access.  This has caused tremendous problems, especially the last few months when students couldn’t access their online studies, unemployed individuals couldn’t file their weekly claim or access their benefits, and families couldn’t order food online.  We are a digital nation. Everything you need is on the internet but many Oklahomans don’t have access to it so this council will work to change that. The council will be assembled and must hold its first meeting by the end of July. 

Just as it was vital to have a land line in the past, it’s now imperative that families be connected to the internet.  The health crisis changed many aspects of our lives including how government services are provided.  While many changes will be temporary, how government services will be provided may be more permanent given the necessary budget cuts that had to be made this year due to low energy prices and the pandemic’s effect on our state’s economy.

One example of how state agencies are modernizing their services while also protecting their staff from furloughs or layoffs is the Department of Human Services (DHS) announcing they’ll be closing offices and allowing their staff to telework. These include the Jefferson and Tillman County DHS offices. There has been some concern over this, but I met with DHS and was assured that they are working through every single issue that may arise following this change. Everyone’s jobs are safe, and this will help the agency continue providing services while making the required 4% budget cut in the coming fiscal year.

Some agencies are still teleworking out of abundance of caution regarding COVID-19.  Given that most state agencies received 4% budget cuts, teleworking may continue to be used in the coming year to help cut costs and protect jobs.

Lots of changes have occurred at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission (OESC).  This small agency is tasked with distributing unemployment benefits and prior to the pandemic only received an average of 1,800 unemployment claims a week but have reached as high as nearly 94,000 in one week. The historic number of Oklahomans filing for unemployment (more than 500,000) uncovered some major problems with the agency’s outdated technology and website.

My heart goes out to those of you who have been unemployed and waiting for assistance the last couple of months. Hopefully, you were able to find assistance from other organizations and charities to help get you through this difficult time.

I’m pleased to say that OESC hired a new executive director and have major tremendous strides in resolving the backlog of cases, especially for those who are self-employed and have been waiting on the federal PUA, FPUC and PEUC benefits. Major technological, website and program upgrades helped OESC successfully resolve more than 70% of the backlog cases leaving only around 3,000 more to address.  Everyone should have their benefits in the next couple of weeks.

Again, if you haven’t received any benefits please contact them to get an update on your case. If you need further help, please don’t hesitate to contact our office and we’ll assist however we can.

Thank you again for the privilege of serving our district and the State of Oklahoma in the Senate. If I can be of any assistance, you can reach me at (405) 521-5563 or Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.

From the Office of State Senator Chris Kidd

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 This year has been one for the books. Between falling energy prices and the COVID-19 outbreak, our state has been through the ringer, which is unfortunate because last year our economy was the strongest it’s ever been. But just as Oklahomans do, we picked ourselves up by the bootstraps and carried on.  It hasn’t been easy, but we’re on the road to recovery.

  For those of you still waiting on unemployment, please know that my office is here to help however we can. 

  The Office of Management and Enterprise Services (OMES) announced this past week that they will be completely taking over the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission’s (OESC) IT division and business practices. OMES has been working tirelessly in recent weeks to help improve OESC’s antiquated website and computer systems, but finally decided consolidation was necessary.  OESC will still make sure claims are processed and paid, but OMES will do the actual work.

  OMES Director Harpe says that all Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) claims will be processed within two weeks.

   I know it’s easier said than done but please continue being patient. This isn’t the state employees’ fault who are answering calls and emails. The technology was created to handle the normal 2,500 or so weekly claims.  It simply couldn’t handle the 440,000 Oklahoma claims that have been filed during this crisis. 

  As for legislative news, the Senate officially adjourned this past Friday. Nearly 200 bills were signed into law.  Please check out the Senate website at www.oksenate.gov to learn more about those.

  I do want to mention that our retired public employees are finally getting a much-needed and well-deserved cost-of-living adjustment after 12 years. Those who have been retired for more than five years will see a 4% increase while those retired 2-5 years will get a 2% bump.  This includes those in the Oklahoma Firefighters Pension and Retirement System, the Oklahoma Police Pension and Retirement System, the Uniform Retirement System for Justices and Judges, the Teachers’ Retirement System of Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Public Employees Retirement System and the Oklahoma Law Enforcement Retirement System.

  While many of my Senate and House bills were still working their way through the process when the pandemic hit, only two ended up moving forward this session.  Both were signed into law and the others we’ll revisit next session.

   SB 1349 updates statutory language within the Oklahoma Public Health Advisory Council Modernization Act to reflect recent legislative changes. The State Board of Health is changed to the State Commissioner of Health as the oversight authority.

  SB 1748, the Patient Disclosure Act, creates a method for patients to be treated for an emergency before they’re asked for payments by all hospitals and know whether their emergency conditions will be paid for by their insurance.  It would require prominent disclosure to patients before medical services are provided.

  Besides approving a balanced budget and passing essential legislation, the Senate also confirmed nearly 200 executive nominations to state boards and commissions. I was honored to carry Lawton resident Keely Cox’ nomination to the State Textbook Committee. Keely will do an outstanding job on this committee. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to participate in the virtual confirmation meeting because my amazing wife, Lindsey, was in labor. 

  We are so excited to announce the birth of our beautiful baby girl Kacey Lou Kidd.  She was born on May 13th at 6:26 p.m. weighing 7 lb. 1 oz. We’re smitten and are so grateful for all the messages, thoughts and prayers.

  Thank you again for the privilege of serving our district and the State of Oklahoma in the Senate. If I can be of any assistance, you can reach me at (405) 521-5563 or Chris.Kidd@oksenate.gov.

Governor Stitt issues Executive Order 2020-13 to protect first responders

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OKLAHOMA CITY (April 8, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt issued [EO]Executive Order 2020-13, ensuring first responders such as correctional officers, law enforcement and fire personnel who work for state agencies will receive guaranteed paid time off if they contract COVID-19.

“Our first responders put their lives on the line every day to protect their fellow Oklahomans,” said Gov. Kevin Stitt. “There’s no opportunity to work from home in these jobs, so they need our support. I also encourage cities and counties across the state to provide the same benefits to their first responders.”

“I commend Governor Stitt’s quick action in addressing the needs of our first responders,” said Secretary of Public Safety Chip Keating. “Our first responders personify the Oklahoma Standard through their courage and compassion during this unprecedented crisis.”

Executive Order 2020-13 also does the following:

  • Removes barriers that will allow more medical professionals to be on the front lines by encouraging licensing boards to ease requirements on physician assistants, nurse practitioners and retired physicians.
  • Encourages the boards to increase opportunities for students and recent graduates who are not yet fully licensed to practice.
  • Allows closed health care facilities to be re-opened and remove regulatory burdens that would create lag time in getting bed space to treat patients.
  • Allows stretcher vans and stretcher aid vans to assist with emergencies and operate anywhere in the state.

“It is very important to me to break down the geographic silos that limit stretcher vans from operating anywhere in the state,” said Gov. Stitt. “Right now, ambulances and stretcher vans are limited by arbitrary geographic and population-based limits that do nothing but limit the services people in rural Oklahoma can receive. Now is not the time for burdensome regulations.”

Governor Stitt announces President Trump approves Major Disaster Declaration for the State of Oklahoma

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OKLAHOMA CITY (April 5, 2020) – Governor Kevin Stitt announced today that President Donald Trump has approved his request for a Major Disaster Declaration covering all 77 Oklahoma counties.

The declaration authorizes FEMA’s Public Assistance program, which provides federal funding for emergency protective measures and direct federal assistance for state and local governments as they continue to respond to the COVID-19 emergency.

Gov. Stitt’s request for additional assistance to include crisis counseling, disaster unemployment assistance, disaster legal services and other programs remains under review by the White House. 

Due to the unprecedented scope of the COVID-19 pandemic, Congress has been authorizing some disaster assistance programs on a national level that are traditionally approved by FEMA on a state or local level as well as programs that go beyond what FEMA can normally provide.

State authorities will continue to assess the need for additional federal disaster aid to cover further response and recovery costs. Oklahoma Department of Emergency Management is working with FEMA and local emergency management officials to help local jurisdictions document their eligible costs for reimbursement.

The Legislative Session is Coming

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 It’s time again for the annual migration of lawmakers from across the state of Oklahoma to the State Capitol to take part in the legislative session, which starts Feb. 3. The governor will open the session with his second State of the State Address in which he will outline his budget hopes and his priorities for the coming fiscal year. It will be up to the Legislature, however, to draft the final state budget, determining how much in appropriations each state agency will receive to deliver programs and services to all Oklahomans.

All indications are this will be a flat budget year. With oil and gas revenues slowing down, we will be unable to increase most agency budgets as we have the past two years. The good news, however, is that we are still sitting on a record-high amount for the state budget – $8.3 billion as of the last figures released from the State Board of Equalization. The board meets again in February to give us final certified numbers for how much we should expect to appropriate for Fiscal Year 2021. While we will not have large increases for state agencies, we should be safe from needing to cut anything except for areas where we find efficiencies. We also intend to save more money this year to offset future downturns.

This session looks to be a busy one for a variety of reasons. For one, we had 2,240 new bills filed between the House and Senate. This is in addition to the 2,192 carried forward from the first session of the 57th Legislature. Only a fraction of these bills will become state law, however. But this means both legislative chambers will have much work to do to sift through each bill to determine its merits before advancing it through committee hearings and onto the floor for a vote. Once measures are passed in their chamber of origin, they must go through this process in the opposite chamber. Only the bills that survive get sent to the governor for his consideration of final passage into law.

The Legislature goes through this weeding-out process each year. Your input on bills helps me and other lawmakers determine what is important to you and what should be left on the editing room floor.

One of the areas of intense focus for me this year will be health care policy. State Question 802 – started by an initiative petition of voters, not lawmakers – continues to put pressure on the Legislature to deal with the issue of Medicaid Expansion. No ballot measure to expand Medicaid has failed in any state where it has been proposed. SQ802 seeks to expand Medicaid constitutionally to able-bodied adults who qualify. The governor has promised to unveil his alternative health care plan very soon, which may put a dent in the state question’s popularity. My committee already is prepared for either scenario. We must do everything we can to ensure any health care plan can be paid for, operated in a fiscally responsible way, and help Oklahomans become healthier. 

Please feel free to reach out to me with your questions or concerns at marcus.mcentire@okhouse.gov or (405) 557-7327.

State Senator Chris Kidd Announces Re-election Campaign

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Waurika, OK- Current State Senator and former public school teacher, Chris Kidd, is proud to announce his re-election campaign for Senate District 31.  

“We’ve had a great four years and I can’t tell you how proud I am to have served the hard-working and generous people of this community,” says Kidd.  “I took every opportunity to stand up for our values, find real solutions to everyday problems, and I’m ready to keep fighting.”

Chris grew up on his family farm, where he is still involved in the day to day operations, and understands that agriculture is the backbone of our rural communities.  “As your State Senator, I believe we must stand up for our rural communities for them to thrive. This includes increased support for our farms, public school systems, and rural healthcare needs.” 

Senator Kidd has also been an outspoken advocate for law enforcement and first responders, authoring legislation to provide them with the needed resources to keep our communities safe. 

While in the State Senate, Chris served on the Appropriations Subcommittee on Education as the Vice-Chair, in addition to the Education Committee, Agriculture and Wildlife, Veterans and Military Affairs, and Committee Membership.  He has proven he is dedicated to finding ways to move our state forward. 

“I’m looking forward to earning the vote of my constituents once again.  It has been an honor to serve each of you and I look forward to the work we can continue to do on behalf of Senate District 31 and Southwest Oklahoma.” 

Chris Kidd married his wife Linsdey in 2019 and is grateful to his family for their continued support as he launches his re-election campaign. 

Get Ready for Open Enrollment 2020 What you need to know before applying

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Open enrollment for 2020 individual health insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) starts November 1 and ends December 15. If you want your coverage to start on January 1, you must sign up by December 15. With a new insurer available for the Oklahoma City area, there are some important things you need to know about the 2020 open enrollment before you apply. I urge all Oklahomans who plan to enroll for 2020, to not automatically renew. Look closely for changes. 

In 2017 and 2018, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Oklahoma (BCBSOK) was the only insurance carrier offering plans in the Oklahoma exchange. However, Medica joined the Oklahoma exchange for 2019 with coverage available in all 77 counties. In 2020, Bright Health also joined the Oklahoma exchange and offers plans in Oklahoma, Canadian and Cleveland counties.

  •  If you are currently uninsured: you can visit healthcare.gov to compare plans and enroll in a plan that meets your health care needs.
  •  If you already have health insurance: you will be automatically re-enrolled in your existing plan if it is still available. Even if you are satisfied with your current plan, review your coverage and compare plans to ensure you can select the best option for you.

Keep in mind that cost-sharing subsidies are available only on silver plans and subsidies available on silver plans have changed. Shop around to look for coverage that truly meets your needs. I encourage you to check with your agent to help you sort out your options.

You can visit https://www.healthcare.gov/see-plans/ to view plan options, estimate monthly premiums and total annual out-of-pocket costs for each plan, and learn how to buy a plan. You can also determine if you qualify for Medicaid and the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) at https://www.healthcare.gov/medicaid-chip/.

To help make the application process quicker and easier, make sure you have everything you need to apply by reviewing this checklist (PDF). Also, check out these tips about the Health Insurance Marketplace at heathcare.gov.

In addition to those resources, directly visit or call these insurers available for Oklahoma’s exchange for 2020:

If you have questions about other insurance issues, contact the Oklahoma Insurance Department at 1-800-522-0071 or visit our website at www.oid.ok.gov.