Do your part: Respond to Census

Sen. Bill Coleman District 10, Oklahoma Senate

The 2020 U.S. Census is currently underway. As of Thursday, April 9, Oklahoma’s response rate was 41.9% compared to the national rate of 46.7%. In Osage County, the response rate was 19.8% and in Kay County, 46.7%.

Looking at some of the cities in Senate District 10, the response rate in Ponca City as of Thursday was 49% followed by Newkirk at 38.7%, Tonkawa at 56.6% and Pawhuska at 14%.

I want to underscore how important getting a full count is for our communities, counties and our state. Billions of dollars in federal funds for health care, education, transportation and so much more are distributed every year, and it’s based on population as counted in the U.S. Census. If we don’t have a full count, we don’t get the full amount of funding we should receive.

Consider this: An undercount in the census of just 2 percent can cost the state $1.8 billion in lost federal money over the next 10 years.

If you haven’t filled out the Census yet, be on the lookout for a paper form being sent to your home for you to complete. Please remember you can reply by mail, by phone at 1-844-330-2020, or you can also respond online at 2020census.gov.

My fellow legislators and I are continuing to work on issues related to Oklahoma’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as its impact on the budget.

Last week, we returned to the Capitol to take care of some legislative business. A special session was called in order to consider the governor’s declaration of a statewide health emergency, which would temporarily give him expanded powers to effectively coordinate the state’s response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Both chambers affirmed this action, but also voted for an additional check and balance ensuring legislative leaders would be given prior notice by the governor before any specific statutes or regulations were suspended under the health emergency declaration.

The week before that, the governor announced the state was facing just over a $416 million revenue failure in the current budget due the economic impact of the pandemic and much lower than expected oil and gas prices. Fortunately, we had the foresight last year to add another $200 million to our state’s emergency funds, bringing the total to $1 billion. On a bipartisan vote, the House and Senate voted overwhelmingly in favor of accessing these emergency funds to avoid budget cuts as our state works to provide vital services during the COVID-19 pandemic. There will still be resources available to help us as we continue our work on the Fiscal Year 2021 budget.

You can contact me by calling (405) 521-5581 or emailing Bill.Coleman@oksenate.gov.