Current Issues

Coronavirus

The CDC recommends that organizers cancel or postpone social events of 10 people or more. Examples of events include conferences, festivals, parades, concerts, sporting events, weddings, etc. For health-related information from the CDC about the virus, CLICK HERE.

CLICK HERE for the President’s Guidelines on Opening Up America Again. James was taped by President Trump to advise on his Coronavirus Economic Task Force. CLICK HERE for Oklahoma's plan to reopen. 

For information on the economic impact recovery checks, CLICK HERE to visit the IRS website for more information. 

  • If you filed a tax return in 2018 or 2019, you can check the status of your direct deposit HERE
  • If you were not require to file a 2018 or 2019 tax return, you can enter your payment information HERE
  • If you are a Social Security recipient who did not file a tax return, you do not need to take any action in order to receive your deposit. For more information, CLICK HERE. You can also visit the Social Security Administration website for additional details, HERE.
  • Economic Impact Payments will be issued by prepaid debit card instead of a paper check. The card can be used to make purchases, get cash from in-network ATMs, and transfer funds to their personal bank account without incurring any fees. You can also check the card balance online, by mobile app, or by phone without incurring fees. The card can be used online, at ATMs or at any retail location where Visa is accepted. This is a free prepaid card. 

For information on unemployment insurance, CLICK HERE to visit the Oklahoma unemployment website. If you typically don't qualify for unemployment insurance, OESC has launched the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA). For more information, visit the resources for Oklahoma workers below. CLICK HERE for information on unemployment insurance due to COVID-19. 

Paycheck Protection Program Update:

If you applied and received a PPP loan, SBA and Treasury have released the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. CLICK HERE to review and fill out the form.

SBA will also soon issued regulations and guidance to further assist borrowers as they complete their applications and to provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities. 

UPDATES: 

Check @SenatorLankford on Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram for additional information. Don't forget to turn on notifications for @SenatorLankford for the various platforms so you are alerted about resources and updates Senator Lankford shares on social media.

Resources
  • On May 11, 2020, attorneys for Jimcy McGirt, the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, and the Oklahoma Solicitor General argued their respective sides of a case before the US Supreme Court. on The question in the McGirt case was, in essence, whether the Muscogee (Creek) Reservation (a large section of eastern Oklahoma) was “disestablished” as a reservation by Congress.
  • Attorneys for Mr. McGirt, a tribal member, argued that Oklahoma lacked jurisdiction to try him in Oklahoma state court because they argued his crime was committed on Muscogee (Creek) reservation land. The Major Crimes Act, which covers crimes like rape and murder, gives the federal government exclusive jurisdiction to try these crimes if committed on a reservation and involving a tribal member.
  • On July 9, 2020, in a 5-4 decision authored by Justice Gorsuch, the Court held in McGirt that “for purposes of the Major Crimes Act, land throughout much of eastern Oklahoma reserved for the Creek Nation since the 19th century remains a Native American territory.”
  • CLICK HERE to read the Supreme Court’s opinion in McGirt.
  • McGirt is largely considered a second attempt for the Supreme Court to rule on this issue after the Court did not immediately issue a ruling on a similar case, Sharp v. Murphy, in which Justice Gorsuch recused himself, during a previous term of the Court.
  • The Supreme Court’s decision in McGirt led to the immediate affirmation of the Tenth Circuit’s decision in Murphy, which means the state of Oklahoma did not have jurisdiction to try Mr. Murphy either for the reasons set in the Court’s McGirt opinion. CLICK HERE for more information on Murphy.
  • Senator Lankford acknowledges that work remains to clarify a framework for criminal and civil regulatory jurisdiction that provides consistency and predictability for all people living and doing business within the state.
  • Tribes, state officials, stakeholders, and other members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation must work together to ensure an acceptable solution is reached that promotes the certainty, safety and well-being of all Oklahomans.

Senator Lankford addressed his plan to amendmend a bill to make Juneteeth a federal holiday on his facebook page. To hear from Senator Lankford directly, CLICK HERE

CLICK HERE to read the press release announcing the amendment.

COVID information for Veterans

Urgent Care vs Emergency Care for Veterans

Due to COVID-19 many VA clinics have canceled or rescheduled appointments causing an increased number of Emergency room admissions. The MISSION Act has provided an Urgent Care benefit that does not require reauthorization and is available for Veterans that meet the eligibility criteria. 

For more information, CLICK HERE


The VA has expanded virtual services to continue support to Veterans during COVID-19. Many in-person services are already available via the phone or online through virtual options like VA Video Connect. Veterans Benefits Administration has ensured the following resources are available: 

  • Uninterrupted GI Bill payments so students continue to receive their benefits unaffected by any change from in-person to online learning 
  • Supporting students for educational counseling through online and telephone services. 
  • Connecting Veterans to Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment Services through teleconferencing; providing case management and general counseling virtually through VA Video Connect. 
  • Conducting appeal hearings by telephone or video conference when needed. 
  • Collection information to process fiduciary claims by phone. When necessary other accommodations will be arranged. 
  • Collecting information remotely via phone or teleconference when possible to process grant requests for special adaptive housing. 
  • Conducting examinations for disability benefits using tele-compensation and pension or "tele-C&P" exams. If an in-person examination is required, Veterans will be notified of scheduling. 

For more information on benefits and services, the VA will still provide while offices are closed, visit the VA's website for more information and updates. 

VA has provided updated information on VA debt. CLICK HERE for more information. 


The OKC VA facility and clinics are open and continue to care for Veterans. New visitor restrictions are in place. For additional information, please visit the VA's Public Health website. CLICK HERE for more information.

    • Due to the COVID-19 emergency, the Eastern Oklahoma VA Health Care System recommends all Veteran patients refill or renew their routine medications for mail delivery to reduce the risk of community spread. Please order refills at least 14 days in advance using either option below:
      • MyHealtheVet - www.myhealth.va.gov
      • Automated Refill Line- 1- 888-397-8387, press 1 for pharmacy, press 2 for pharmacy staff.
      • Mail Refill Slip
      • Call Center- 1- 888-397-8387, press 1 for pharmacy, press 2 for pharmacy staff.
      • If you have a prescription from a community provider or you are out of a critical medication such as Insulin, Blood Pressure, Mental Health, and Anti-Coagulation medications, you should go to the VA Outpatient Pharmacy in person in either Muskogee or Tulsa. 

With the potential increase in stress and anxiety due to COVID-19, OKC VAHCS is encouraging Veterans to use the Veteran's, Crisis Line.

Veteran's Crisis Line

If you or a Veteran or Armed Service Member is in crisis trained responders are available to assist 24-7. To speak to someone, please: 

  • Dial 1-800-273-8255 and Press 1 to talk to someone. 
  • Send a text message to 838255 to connect with a VA responder.
  • Start a confidential online chat session at VeteransCrisisLine.net/Chat.

Behavioral health and mental health hotline information 

The OKC VA Health Care System has a local hotline available 24/7. To talk to an OKC VAHCS employee about behavior health during COVID-19, dial 405-456-4488.

COVID-19 Hotline

OKC VAHCS has also set up a local hotline to answer general questions regarding COVID-19. The hotline is available from 6 am CT-8 pm CT. Dial 405-456-7119 to ask a question.  


News Updates for Veterans: 

On October 1, 2020, the US Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) announced it is expaning the Caregivers program to Veterans of all eras. This expansion was passed in the MISSION Act, which Senator Lankford supported. 

The expansion will roll out in two phases: 

1. Phase I began on October 1, 2020, with eligible Veterans who served on or before May 7, 1975 which is all qualified veterans from World War II, Korea, and Vietnam

2. Phase II will start October 1, 2022, and will include eligible Veterans who seved between May 7, 1975, and Sept. 11, 2001. 

VA's Caregiver Support Program offers a wide variet of support services for caregivers of Veterans. For more information you can call the Caregiver Support Line at 855-260-3274 or visit the website

Assistance for Oklahoma Small Businesses

The CARES Act unleased unprecedented eligibility criteria for small business loans. With these provisions, employers are able to stay closely engaged with their employees by keeping them on the payroll and keeping their lights on. 

Many Oklahoma businesses have been forced to temporarily or permanently close their doors as our nation manages the response to COVID-19. With the recently passed law, businesses are eligible for loan products to keep employees on the payroll, even if they shut down between February 15, 2020, and June 30, 2020. 

In addition, these loans are available to businesses that have not qualified for SBA loans in the past. Any business with less than 500 employees is eligible. The standard SB revenue-based standards do not apply. 

My office will continue to work closely with SBA to get these programs up to speed as soon as possible. While some questions still remain, we are engaged with getting you the answers you need as quickly as we can.

CLICK HERE for information on the Employee Retention Tax Credit. 

If you applied and received a PPP loan, SBA and Treasury have released the PPP Loan Forgiveness Application. CLICK HERE to review and fill out the form.

SBA will also soon issued regulations and guidance to further assist borrowers as they complete their applications and to provide lenders with guidance on their responsibilities. 

Paycheck Protection Program

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses CLICK HERE to visit the Department of Treasury website for information if you are a lender or borrower. Self-employed and independent contractors are eligible for the program if they meet the size standards. 

CARES Act creates the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under SBA's existing 7(a) program. PPP accomplishes several important goals for small businesses, nonprofits, and houses of worship, their employees, and our overall communities and economy:

  • Provides loan guarantees to cover payroll costs, including paid sick leave, mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments. 
  • Forgives the loan amount spent on the above activities for a period of eight weeks following loan origination, if the borrower does not lay off employees. Keeping employees on the payroll will turn the loan into a grant for eight weeks--borrowers will not have to pay it back. 

The CARES Act also works to increase the number of approved lenders, as well as cut out the red tape to ensure quick loan disbursal. The lender is able to make decisions on the spot, without SBA approval. 

CLICK HERE to find an eligible lender. 

CLICK HERE for a printable document with details on the PPP program. 

CLICK HERE to access the Small Business Administration's website on how you can apply for PPP.

CLICK HERE for the Paycheck Protection Program Borrower Application form. 

Resources for Lenders Participating in PPP

  • CLICK HERE for the Interim Final Rule for PPP Lending Facility and the PPP Loans to Lenders. CLICK HERE for a fact sheet. 
  • CLICK HERE for a PPP Lender information sheet from the US Department of Treasury. 
  • CLICK HERE for the PPP Lender application form (Updated 4/2/2020)
  • CLICK HERE for the PPP New Lender Application Form (Federally Insured Depository Institutions, Federal Insured Credit Unions, Farm Credit System Institutions)
    • As indicated in the information sheet for lenders, email the form to DelegatedAuthority@sba.gov. 

Small Business Administration:

  • Click here to download the Paycheck Protection Program Lender Application Form. Lenders who need assistance accessing SBA's E-Tran system to process loan guarantee requests may call our Lender Customer Service Line at 1-833-572-0502.
  • Click here to view the Lender Agreement and enroll as a participating SBA Lender to make Paycheck Protection Program financing available to your customers.

State SBA Contact: Oklahoma_DO@sba.gov

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

The Small Business Administration also administers the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. On March 20, SBA Administrator approved Oklahoma's eligibility for small businesses to apply for EIDL. The CARES Act approved $10 billion for an "emergency" EIDL program. Eligible entities will now be able to apply for the loan directly through SBA.  

For more information, CLICK HERE for a one-page document on the EIDL program. *Update: Ag Coops are eligible for EIDL. 

To apply for the program, visit SBA's website


Employee Retention Credit

The Employee Retention Credit under the CARES Act encourages businesses to keep employees on their payroll. The refundable tax credit is 50% of up to $10,000 in wages paid by an eligible employer whose business has been financially impacted by COVID-19. 

CLICK HERE for an FAQ document from the IRS. 


Assistance for businesses

The CARES Act was designed to encourage eligible employers to keep employees on their payroll despite experiencing economic hardship related to COVID-19 with an employee retention tax credit (Employee Retention Credit). The Families First Coronavirus Relief Act requires certain employers to pay sick of family leave wages to employees who are unable to work or telework due to COVID-19. Employers are entitled toa refundable tax credit for the required leave paid, up to specified limits. The same wages cannot be counted for both credits.

CLICK HERE for more information from the IRS. 

The IRS is extending payroll tax credits to eligible small and midsize businesses. CLICK HERE for information from the IRS. 

CLICK HERE for information on the Employee Retention Tax Credit. 


FAQ for Employers

Q: If my business received PPP, is my ability to have the loan forgiven changed if my employees received Pandemic Unemployment Assistance?

A: There is no direct interaction between PUA and PPP. The employer will still need to spend at least 75 percent of its PPP loan on “payroll costs.” If they cannot rehire someone, they can meet that requirement by paying themselves more (up to $100,000 prorated for the 8 week period) or hiring someone else. They will also need to maintain the average monthly full-time equivalent employee and payroll compensation amount requirements, or cure any declines in employment via the rehiring provision by June 30, to get full forgiveness. 

Rehiring is one way to get a PPP loan forgiven, but the CARES Act does not require that the employer hire the exact same person.

Q: As an employer when am I responsible for sick leave payment to employees? 

A: Employers of businesses over 50 employees are required to pay sick leave for 2 weeks (or 80 hours) to full-time employees and the equivalent of a part-time employee’s average work hours wages for 2 weeks. Employers will receive a 100 percent tax credit for qualified sick leave wages paid.

Q: In order to qualify, must a business keep its doors open to the public?

A: As long as a business was operational on March 1, 2020, it can be temporarily closed any time up until the coverage period ends on June 30, 2020. But businesses should get their applications submitted during that time frame as soon as possible. 

Q: I own a small business. How do I get help? 

A: The Small Business Administration (SBA) has 7(a) loans available through the normally certified lenders for coronavirus loss.

  • Oklahoma has applied for and awaits SBA approval on specially designated loans for coronavirus, Economic Injury Disaster loans, as well. 
  • CLICK HERE for SBA’s guide to who is eligible for loans, the size of loans available for given business sizes, and the process to apply and receive the funds.
  • CLICK HERE to read SBA’s fact sheet for businesses on how and where to apply for an Economic Injury Disaster Loan.
  • CLICK HERE to apply for an SBA loan for small businesses.

Q: What types of businesses are considered "essential" in terms of those that should remain open during the coronavirus outbreak?

A: According to the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), if business owners believe their businesses are essential or part of a "critical infrastructure industry," business owners should consider the following guidance about whether businesses should remain open during the coronavirus outbreak: “If you work in the critical infrastructure industry, as defined by the Department of Homeland Security, such as healthcare services and pharmaceutical and food supply, you have a special responsibility to maintain your normal work schedule.”  CLICK HERE to visit CISA's page for additional guidance.

Q: My employee wants to be on UI because of the weekly benefits are higher than their pay. What should I do?

A: There are multiple qualifying circumstances related to COVID-19 that can make an individual eligible for PUA, including if the individual quits his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19. Quitting to access unemployment benefits is not one of them. Individuals who quit their jobs to access higher benefits, and are untruthful in their unemployment application about their reason for quitting, will be considered to have committed fraud. If desired, employers can contest unemployment insurance claims through their state unemployment insurance agency’s process.

If you believe you are a victim of fraud please email OESC at Fraud@oesc.state.ok.us and file a report with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office by completing the online form. CLICK HERE for that document.

To access OESC FAQ for employers, CLICK HERE.

Many Oklahomans do not have the opportunity to return to their jobs and will need to seek new employment before the end of July when PUA is discontinued. The program was designed with the fluctuating economy and potential permanent closure of some businesses in mind. The goal is to help unemployed workers until they can return to their job or find a new job. Some Oklahomans may need to access PUA until the very end of this time period as our economy gets back up and running. This is truly a balance to protect the vulnerable who need assistance while also getting people back to work. UI and PUA are programs designed to help those in need during difficult times. Our office continues to work closely with OESC and nonprofits around the state that are assisting those in great need. 

If an employee chooses to not return to work after being offered their job back the employer will notify the Oklahoma Employee Security Commission (OESC). An employer may send a notification to returntowork@oesc.state.ok.us

Unemployment Insurance

The CARES Act created the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program, which is a new, temporary unemployment insurance program for individuals during COVID-19. PUA allows self-employed individuals to apply for unemployment. The work search requirement for unemployment claims has been waived and the one week waiting period before UI benefits begin as been waived. For more information, visit the OESC website oesc.ok.gov

How do I apply for Pandemic Unemployment Assistance (PUA) program? 

Oklahoma Employment Security Commission is accepting PUA applications, visit oesc.ok.gov for more information.

FAQ sheet on PUA and Oklahoma Unemployment Insurance, CLICK HERE

There are multiple qualifying circumstances related to COVID-19 that can make an individual eligible for PUA, including if the individual quits his or her job as a direct result of COVID-19. Quitting to access unemployment benefits is not one of them. Individuals who quit their jobs to access higher benefits, and are untruthful in their unemployment application about their reason for quitting, will be considered to have committed fraud. If desired, employers can contest unemployment insurance claims through their state unemployment insurance agency’s process.

If you believe you are a victim of fraud please email OESC at Fraud@oesc.state.ok.us and file a report with the Oklahoma Attorney General’s Office by completing the online form. CLICK HERE for that document.


New federal paid leave requirements related to COVID-19

  • US Department of Labor has a fact sheet for employees, which you can access HERE
  • FAQ sheet on paid leave can be accessed HERE.

For questions about the US Department of Labor's guidance and resources on health care benefits and retirement benefits, CLICK HERE for an FAQ for participants and beneficiaries. 

On April 3 the Small Business Administration issued new guidance on the eligibility for faith-based organizations to participate in the Paycheck Protection Program and Economic Injury Disaster Loan (EIDL). CLICK HERE for the policy guidance issued by SBA. 

For an FAQ from SBA on faith-based organizations participating in PPP and EIDL programs, CLICK HERE.

Paycheck Protection Program

Small businesses and eligible nonprofit organizations, Veterans organizations, and Tribal businesses CLICK HERE to visit the Department of Treasury website for information if you are a lender or borrower. Self-employed and independent contractors are eligible for the program if they meet the size standards. 

CARES Act creates the Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) under SBA's existing 7(a) program. PPP accomplishes several important goals for small businesses, nonprofits, and houses of worship, their employees, and our overall communities and economy:

  • Provides loan guarantees to cover payroll costs, including paid sick leave, mortgage interest, rent, and utility payments. 
  • Forgives the loan amount spent on the above activities for a period of eight weeks following loan origination, if the borrower does not lay off employees. Keeping employees on the payroll will turn the loan into a grant for eight weeks--borrowers will not have to pay it back. 

The CARES Act also works to increase the number of approved lenders, as well as cut out the red tape to ensure quick loan disbursal. The lender is able to make decisions on the spot, without SBA approval. 

CLICK HERE to find an eligible lender. 

CLICK HERE for a printable document with details on the PPP program.

CLICK HERE to access the Small Business Administration's website on how you can apply for PPP.

CLICK HERE for the Paycheck Protection Program Borrower Application form. 

Economic Injury Disaster Loan Program

The Small Business Administration also administers the Economic Injury Disaster Loan program. On March 20, SBA Administrator approved Oklahoma's eligibility for small businesses to apply for EIDL. The CARES Act approved $10 billion for an "emergency" EIDL program. Eligible entities will now be able to apply for the loan directly through SBA.  

For more information, CLICK HERE for a one-page document on the EIDL program. 

To apply for the program, visit SBA's website

US Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue announced details of the Coronavirus Food Assistance Program (CFAP), which will provide up to $16 billion in direct payments to deliver relief to America's farmers and ranchers impacted by the coronavirus pandemic. 

USDA's Farmers to Families Food Box program is also partnering with regional and local distributors whose workforces have been significantly impacted by the closure of restaurants, hotels, and other food services, to purchase $3 billion in fresh produce, dairy, and meat to deliver boxes to Americans in need. 

Beginning May 26, USDA's Farm Service Agency will be accepting applications from agricultural producers who have suffered losses. The application form and a payment calculator for producers will be available online once signup begins. A video preview of the payment calculator is currently available.

Non-Specialty Crops and Wool 

Non-specialty crops eligible for CFAP payments include malting barley, canola, corn, upland cotton, millet, oats, soybeans, sorghum, sunflowers, durum wheat, and hard red spring wheat. Wool is also eligible. Producers will be paid based on inventory subject to price risk held as of January 15, 2020. Payment will be made based on 50 percent of a producer’s 2019 total production or the 2019 inventory as of January 15, 2020, whichever is smaller, multiplied by the commodity’s applicable payment rates. 

Livestock 

Livestock eligible for CFAP includes cattle, lambs, yearlings, and hogs. The total payment will be calculated using the sum of the producer’s number of livestock sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020, multiplied by the payment rates per head, and the highest inventory number of livestock between April 16 and May 14, 2020, multiplied by the payment rate per head. 

Dairy 

For dairy, the total payment will be calculated based on a producer’s certification of milk production for the first quarter of the calendar year 2020 multiplied by a national price decline during the same quarter. The second part of the payment is based on a national adjustment to each producer’s production in the first quarter. 

Specialty Crops 

For eligible specialty crops, the total payment will be based on the volume of products sold between January 15 and April 15, 2020; the volume of the production shipped, but unpaid; and the number of acres for which harvested production did not leave the farm or mature product destroyed or not harvested during that same time period, and which have not and will not be sold. Specialty crops include, but are not limited to, almonds, beans, broccoli, sweet corn, lemons, iceberg lettuce, spinach, squash, strawberries, and tomatoes. A full list of eligible crops can be found on farmers.gov/cfap. Additional crops may be deemed eligible at a later date. 

Eligibility 

There is a payment limitation of $250,000 per person or entity for all commodities combined. Applicants who are corporations, limited liability companies or limited partnerships may qualify for additional payment limits where members actively provide personal labor or personal management for the farming operation. Producers will also have to certify they meet the Adjusted Gross Income limitation of $900,000 unless at least 75 percent or more of their income is derived from farming, ranching or forestry-related activities. Producers must also be in compliance with Highly Erodible Land and Wetland Conservation provisions. 

Applying for Assistance 

Producers can apply for assistance beginning on May 26, 2020. Additional information and application forms can be found at farmers.gov/cfap. Producers of all eligible commodities will apply through their local FSA offices. Documentation to support the producer’s application and certification may be requested. FSA has streamlined the signup process to not require an acreage report at the time of application and a USDA farm number may not be immediately needed. Applications will be accepted through August 28, 2020. 

Payment Structure 

To ensure the availability of funding throughout the application period, producers will receive 80 percent of their maximum total payment upon approval of the application. The remaining portion of the payment, not to exceed the payment limit, will be paid at a later date as funds remain available. 

For more information on CFAP, CLICK HERE.

To protect the health and safety of Oklahomans, the operations of the Tulsa, Oklahoma City, and Washington, DC, offices will move to full-time telework until further notice. James's office will continue to respond to telephone calls, casework assistance, email, and mail correspondence, and he will still meet virtually with Oklahomans. Visit the contact page for information on how to reach James or his staff. 

If you are experience symptoms or have questions regarding COVID-19 you can call the Oklahoma State Department of Health COVID-19 call center at 877-215-8336 or 2-1-1. The call lines are open 24-7.