Despite controversy and legal concerns, Oklahoma County will allot nearly all of its coronavirus relief funding to its jail.
Congress passed the CARES Act this spring and authorized $1.2 billion in federal coronavirus relief funding for Oklahoma. Gov. Kevin Stitt sent about a quarter of it directly to cities and counties, allowing their leaders to spend it how they see fit.
Oklahoma County will put $36 million - almost all of its CARES funding - into the county jail, despite protests from several of its elected officials. The vote took place Thursday morning.
The county’s treasurer, Forrest Freeman, told the board he was scared to death that the process was improperly rushed and possibly illegal. Commissioner Carrie Blumert said that her office has been inundated with calls from residents, businesses and nonprofits needing help, and that they should get it.
Commissioner Kevin Calvey, the primary proponent of the decision, said that the county shouldn’t develop new programs and services but stick to the services they already provide, and that the jail is in a funding crisis amid the pandemic.
StateImpact Oklahoma is a partnership of Oklahoma’s public radio stations which relies on contributions from readers and listeners to fulfill its mission of public service to Oklahoma and beyond. Donate online.