The following letter was sent to Governor Stitt asking him to act on debts crushing Oklahomans during the COVID crisis. Add your signature below!
VOICE Education Fund, P.O. Box 881, Oklahoma City, OK 73101
April 1, 2020
Governor Kevin Stitt
Oklahoma State Capitol
Sent via email
As leaders of congregations, non-profits, schools, and worker associations, we are deeply concerned with the economic well-being of Oklahoma families in this time of crisis. Because the federal government is asking us to stay home as the first line of defense against the spread of the coronavirus, the federal government must lead the way in keeping families economically viable. That the US Congress would quickly pass a $2 trillion relief package confirms that they are taking seriously their responsibility for keeping families and small businesses afloat.
Unfortunately, so many of our working families have struggled with debt, and they risk taking on more during this crisis. The CARE Act does not do an adequate job of addressing this, and so it falls to states to intervene on behalf of families. Please use your power to:
- Resist lobbyist efforts to classify payday lenders as “essential” businesses during this crisis. Oklahomans already lead the nation in per-capita use of payday loans, but the model is set up to keep families in debt. For Oklahomans who use these loans, they average about nine per year! When it comes time to rev up the economy, we will want people spending locally, not paying fees and interest to out-of-state predators! Please tighten the list of essential businesses to exclude payday lenders.
- Extend the moratorium on evictions and find ways to help landlords with small business loans. If the main objective is to keep people sheltering in place, we cannot risk public health with unemployed people being put out into the streets, searching for new homes, or moving in with friends or family members who may have vulnerable health conditions or exposure to the virus.
- Suspend collection of medical and court-related debt. As people lose jobs and face uncertainties, the unrelenting pursuit of debt collectors will only add to the tensions within homes across our state. Additionally, families will need to focus on their basic needs: food, clothing, and shelter. Reports over the weekend showed Oklahoma police jailing people for unpaid court costs! One-time relief checks meant to aid in survival should not be garnished for medical or justice-involved debt.
We appreciate the many challenges this crisis presents, and we know it’s hard to encourage people to stay in. Hopefully with the new availability of testing and a major effort to get people to shelter in place, we can soon put this disaster behind us and get the economy going again.
Fr. Tim Luschen, Robin Wertz
Pastor, St. Charles Borromeo Executive Director, Exodus House