Coronavirus Updates: CARES Funds, Tax Collection Shortfall & Legal Protections

May 13, 2020

Governor Kevin Stitt has formed a bipartisan group of lawmakers to distribute federal relief funds.

The appointment of the 23 lawmakers comes after legislative leaders criticized Stitt for not including them in discussion over the money.

The governor says the legislative advisory group will work with him to distribute $1.2 billion from the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act.

Stitt’s administration is also working on a portal for local governments to submit expenses for reimbursement under the CARES Act.

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A shortfall in tax collections for the state reached record levels during April. Oklahoma’s General Revenue fell short of projections by an estimated 44% – the largest on record.

Much of the shortfall was a result of moving the deadline for paying 2019 state income taxes from April 15 to July 15, but other revenue sources were also off sharply.

Sales taxes were 18% below the estimate and 13% below April 2019, while oil and gas collections were 21% below predictions and 25% below April 2019.

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The Oklahoma Senate passed two bills on Tuesday to protect businesses from lawsuits during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Senate Bill 1946 by Senate President Pro Tem Greg Treat and House Speaker Charles McCall gives liability relief to essential businesses trying to reopen.

Senate Bill 1947, also by Treat and McCall, provides lawsuit protections to those who manufacture or donate materials needed in response to the virus.

Bartlesville Republican Senator Julie Daniels presented the bills, saying it’s important to get businesses open without the fear of getting sued.

“We’ve made sure that if they’re following at least one guidance that’s provide for safe reopening that they will be immune from civil liability for people who come into their business and allege that they contacted COVID from that site,” Daniels said.

She said the bills protect all organizations, including churches and nonprofits.

Both of the measures head to the House for consideration, while a third bill giving limited liability to health care providers and facilities has already been signed into law.