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Tuesday, October 4, 2022
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Oklahoma Supreme Court Shuts Down Privatized Medicaid

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OKLAHOMA CITY, June 1, 2021 – It’s official: managed care in Oklahoma is unconstitutional. The Oklahoma Supreme Court today issued a 6-3 decision in favor of plaintiffs who alleged that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority (OHCA) overstepped its authority by outsourcing the state’s Medicaid program following the passage of State Question 802. 

OHCA announced late last year that the agency would award $2.2 billion in contracts to four insurance conglomerates to run Oklahoma’s expanded Medicaid program.

“The Supreme Court today agreed that the Managed Care contracts were awarded without legislative input and contrary to the plan approved by the voters through State Question 802,” said Lynn Means, executive director, Oklahoma Dental Association. “Medicaid expansion will provide coverage for more than 200,000 of Oklahoma’s most vulnerable citizens. The managed care plan would’ve jeopardized health care for all Oklahomans by driving out providers of general health care, as well as dentists and specialists across the state. This lawsuit was one part of a physician-led effort to ward off privatization to insurance companies and keep Oklahomans in charge of health care in Oklahoma.”

“Oklahoma physicians were virtually united in opposition to this plan,” said Allison LeBoeuf, executive director, Oklahoma Osteopathic Association. “Oklahomans are best served when medical decisions are made between doctor and patient, and without interference from insurance bureaucrats.” 

“Pediatricians and family physicians are trusted by their patients because they know how invested their doctors are in patient care,” said Kari Webber, executive vice president of the Oklahoma Academy of Family Physicians and the Oklahoma Chapter of American Academy of Pediatrics. “The Supreme Court decision protects physicians and preserves patient care in Oklahoma.”

“We are pleased with the Supreme Court’s ruling, and we recognize the heart of this issue is much larger than managed care. It’s about ensuring that state agencies follow the law when spending Oklahoma’s tax dollars. Today’s ruling represents an important victory for transparency in government and Oklahoma taxpayers,” said Mary Clarke, MD, president of the Oklahoma State Medical Association. 

Plaintiffs on the suit are the Oklahoma State Medical Association, the Oklahoma Dental Association, the Oklahoma Osteopathic Association, the Oklahoma Society of anesthesiologists, Inc., and the Oklahoma Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, Inc., plaintiffs who filed suit to stop managed care on the grounds that the Oklahoma Health Care Authority overstepped its bounds by outsourcing the state’s Medicaid program following the passage of State Question 802. 

A copy of today’s Supreme Court ruling can be found here.

More information about the impacts of the proposed managed care plan and the health care providers united against it can be found at www.healthcareholdup.com.

Senator Kidd Sworn in for Second Term

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OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Chris Kidd began his second term in the Oklahoma State Senate after taking the Oath of Office in the Senate Chamber Monday. The Waurika Republican was sworn in by Chief Justice Noma Gurich. 

“I’m honored to be able to continue my service to the great people of Senate District 31 in the Oklahoma Senate,” Kidd said. “We have made great strides to improve our state’s economy the last four years. Although we have many challenges ahead, including another $1 billion revenue shortfall during this historic pandemic, we will work together to support Oklahoma businesses, protect our schools and keeps our state’s economy growing. Like the difficult times we’ve overcome in the past, we will rise above this as well stronger than ever.”

 Traditionally, senators take the oath of office at the same time but to recognize social distancing and safety protocols, the members were split into small groups that were sworn in separately.   

 The Senate will convene for an Organizational Day on Tuesday, Jan. 5 and session will begin on Monday, Feb. 1.

GOVERNOR STITT ISSUES EXECUTIVE ORDER, IMPLEMENTS ACTIONS TO PREVENT THE SPREAD OF COVID-19

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OKLAHOMA CITY (Nov. 16, 2020)— Governor Kevin Stitt today joined Commissioner of Health Lance Frye to announce Seventh Amended Executive Order 2020-20, which increases safety measures for restaurants, bars and state employees in Oklahoma to help prevent the spread of COVID-19.   


“Throughout the entire battle against COVID-19, my first priority has been to protect the health and lives of Oklahomans,” 
said Gov. Stitt. “Two other things are also very important to me. We’re going to keep businesses open safely and we’re going to work to get all kids back in school safely by the end of Christmas Break. However, it’s going to take everyone working together to meet these goals.”   

The new action items under Seventh Amended EO 2020-20 include:    

  • Starting Thursday, Nov. 19, all restaurants will be required to space tables at least six feet apart, unless tables, booths and bar areas are separated by sanitized dividers.  
  • Starting Thursday, Nov. 19, all bars and restaurants will be required to close by 11 p.m. No in-person service of food or alcohol will be allowed after 11 p.m. except for restaurant drive-thru windows or curbside pickup. 
  • Starting Tuesday, Nov. 17, all 33,000 state employees under the executive branch will be required to wear a mask in common areas or when they’re around other people. Allvisitors to state agency buildings will also be required to wear a mask. (The Oklahoma House of Representatives and the Oklahoma Senate also announced today masks will be required for employees and visitors at the State Capitol.) 

“These aren’t our first actions, and they won’t be our last,” continued Gov. Stitt. “Based on the data in our state – specifically the rise in hospitalizations – now is the time to do more. Each one of us has a role to play in this fight. I need every Oklahoman to think about what they can do to slow the spread.”   

The Oklahoma Restaurant Association expressed the industry’s support of the new action items announced today by the governor.   

“We appreciate the leadership of Governor Stitt during these challenging times and the efforts being made to slow the spread of COVID-19. The Oklahoma Restaurant Association and its members want to do our part and at the same time allow our industry to operate safely to protect the health of our employees and customers. We are all in this together and our industry is ready to do its part,” said President and CEO Jim Hopper and Chairman Kurt Fleischfresser in a joint statement.  

The governor and Dr. Frye also stressed the importance for Oklahomans to continue to take precautions seriously ahead of the holiday season.   

“The governor and I have said countless times to wear a mask, watch your distance and wash your hands, and it is critical that you do,” said Dr.Frye. “As we look ahead to Thanksgiving, please don’t forget to practice these safety measures. Small things can make a difference, and Oklahomans are encouraged to be mindful of how you gather this holiday season to ensure the safety of your loved ones and neighbors.”  

Gov. Stitt also reiterated his call for all Oklahomans to do the right thing and wear a mask, watch their distance from others and wash their hands frequently. 

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.