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Oklahoma County elected officials were on hand Monday for a special meeting of the Board of County Commissioners and shortly following that a special meeting of the County Budget Board. 

Missing was District 3 County Commissioner Kevin Calvey, whose Chief Deputy Myles Davidson sat in as proxy. 

The Commissioners voted to apply for money from the U.S. Treasury for rental assistance, among other business. The Budget Board okayed the extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act deadline to the end of March.

The Budget Board also welcomed new member, Sheriff Tommie Johnson III.

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Rental Assistance

The U.S. Treasury Department recently announced that their new Emergency Rental Assistance Program will be allocating $25 billion across the country to assist households that are unable to pay rent and utilities due to the deadly pandemic ravaging the country. The funds will be provided to state, local, and tribal governments to then allocate in their communities.

On Monday the Board of County Commissioners (BoCC) discussed the program and authorized a representative from the Oklahoma County Home Finance Authority to apply for the program. The application is due by midnight on January 12. The County will not know a dollar amount to be awarded until the application is accepted and the money is allocated to the County.

Provided the money comes to the County, the Rental Assistance Program of the County will look a lot like the program the Oklahoma Industries Authority administered in the late part of 2020. Unlike the CARES Act version, this program strictly limits use of the funds. 90% of the money the County receives must, according to the Treasury, be used in direct assistance, leaving only 10% for administrative costs.

“Direct assistance” in this case means literal direct payments of rent and utility bills.

The Treasury’s guidelines for this program dictate that the prioritized groups for assistance are those who have been unemployed for three months due to COVID-19, or those in the area living at 50% below Area Median Income (AMI). Oklahoma County’s current AMI for households is $54,520

If and when the County receives money from the Treasury for this program, eligibility will only be for county residents outside of Oklahoma City limits. The City of Oklahoma City is able to apply on its own for the federal program.

The process for resident application for assistance will be established after the money is received. Free Press will report on that as the story develops.

Coronavirus Leave

The County Budget Board, made up of all County Elected Officials, also met Monday for two items of business. Most importantly, the Board had to make a decision about accepting the extension of the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). 

The FFCRA required certain agencies and governmental bodies to offer two weeks of paid leave for employees who contract the virus. The Act was set to expire with the new year, however, coronavirus cases have been on the rise over the past many weeks, requiring many people to still need sick leave during a time of emergency.

While the FFCRA is allowed to continue, it is the responsibility of the County to accept the extension or to reject it. Treasurer Butch Freeman clarified for the Board that the County had no choice in honoring the act before, but that now they do.

However, Freeman said, extending the Act would have very little financial impact on the County’s Budget. District 2 County Commissioner, and newly elected Chairman of the Board, Brian Maughan interjected on this point.

Maughan explained that some positions have to be filled when people are out, causing overtime pay to come into the picture for those departments. Maughan gave the example of road crews and Sheriff’s Deputies.

County Assessor Larry Stein pointed out that without recognition of FFCRA that a lot of employees would be in a bad position of having to be home without pay for two weeks, and encouraged everybody to always save some leave for an emergency.

The Board voted unanimously to extend the deadline through March 31, 2021.

The BoCC will meet again on January 19 at 9:00 a.m. The Budget Board will meet again on January 21 at 10:00 a.m.


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