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April 02, 2020

Inhofe in the Muskogee Phoenix: Relief is on the way

A little over two months ago, the first American tested positive for the coronavirus. Since that time, the pandemic has changed our nation and our way of life.

We’re facing a new adversary—a virus unlike anything we’ve ever experienced, but I am confident we will prevail. We’re going to beat it the same way we’ve defeated every other adversary: resourcing the front lines and taking care of our families and loved ones.

It’s no surprise then that health care, families and jobs were the focus of the Senate’s relief package that President Trump just signed into law. I’m pleased to report—help is on the way.

First order of business — get resources to the front lines of our fight against coronavirus: our health care workers and hospitals. We prioritized equipment needs, including beds, emergency facilities, personal protective equipment, testing capabilities and ventilators.

Our legislation also opened up billions for hospitals and health care providers to make sure everyone can get treatment, including veterans and those in rural and tribal communities. Billions of dollars are being sent to these facilities that so many Oklahomans rely on for care. It also invested heavily in research and development of a vaccine.

Next, our legislation recognizes the hardship this crisis is having on families. By providing a boost of financial stability for families in Oklahoma, we’ll help them address immediate expenses, like rent and groceries.

The average Oklahoma family of four should expect to receive $3,400, and seniors, veterans and those on disability aren’t left out. Just be sure to file a tax return, even if you don’t owe taxes, and those under the income threshold should expect to receive a check in a few weeks. For those who have already lost their jobs, the legislation expands unemployment benefits and extends the program for up to 39 weeks.

These benefits are essential, but what is more important is doing all we can to help people keep their jobs. As people take the necessary step of staying home to slow the spread of the coronavirus, many restaurants, retailers, and other small businesses around the state are in a tough place and having to close their doors and are being forced to lay off employees because business activity has dried up.  

To address this, we are providing billions in immediate assistance to keep small businesses going. To take advantage of this, small businesses simply need to work with their Small Business approved lenders and apply for a loan.

Companies and self-employed individuals automatically qualify for the loans if they have fewer than 500 employees — and the loans are completely forgiven when the funds are used to pay for up to eight weeks of payroll and other operating expenses. This matters in Oklahoma, where 99 percent of our businesses are small businesses. What’s more — they hire more than half of our state’s workforce.

Additionally, businesses of all sizes are provided with tax credits for employee retention and delays in when taxes must be paid. All of this is done with the intention of keeping a maximum number of workers on the job so that when the economy reopens, our companies and small businesses roar back to life.

We’re particularly blessed that, because of President Trump, we entered the crisis with the best economy of my lifetime. With his leadership, the economic recovery will happen fast once we win the war against the virus. 

Oklahomans know how to weather a storm—our legislation provides many of the tools we need. We’re not through this yet, but I am confident that, together, we can overcome the crisis. We may be standing apart, responsibly social distancing, but we’ve never been more united as a state or nation. 

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