Thousands of Oklahomans hang by a financial thread. Rent is due. Refrigerators are empty. Food lines are long. There’s overwhelming stress, fear and uncertainty.
With unemployment claims up 1,612.44% since the first week in January and problems persisting at the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission, the desperation is palpable – especially when it comes to keeping a roof over their heads.
Even before COVID-19 and the latest oil bust wrecked our economy, Oklahoma’s one-sided tenant-landlord statutes left Tulsa with the nation’s 11th highest eviction rate and Oklahoma City with the 20th.
Evictions were put on hold when state courts closed in March as a result of the pandemic. Now courts are reopening – and evictions can restart. The governor’s coronavirus task force committed $10 million of the state’s $1.3 billion federal CARES Act fund to eviction mitigation. But it’s unclear whether that is even close to enough to protect workaday Oklahomans and their families from homelessness.
Is the levy holding back evictions about to break? And what can Oklahomans do, if they need or want to help?
In this week’s Observercast – Episode 24: Ten Days, No Home – we turn for answers to two experts on the subject – Ryan Gentzler, the director of the Oklahoma Policy Institute’s Open Justice Oklahoma program, and Oklahoma City state Rep. Jason Dunnington, a member of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s coronavirus task force.