Businesses have protections from pandemic-related lawsuits
Despite new legal protections extended for employers soldiering on with business during the COVID-19 pandemic, some 3,400 pandemic-related lawsuits have been filed across the country. An Oklahoma City attorney who specializes in labor and employment law and the vice chair of the legal reform team at the State Chamber of Oklahoma spoke about legal responsibilities of business owners and offered observations about the pandemic and the current business and legal climate recently as guests at a virtual forum sponsored by The Journal Record. Melissa McDuffey, an attorney at the firm of Crowe & Dunlevy, and Amy Anderson, an active member of the chamber as managing owner of Kipling Strategies, were joined by State Chamber Vice President of Government Affairs Kinsey Westwood in the JR Now forum held online.
Moore wants railroad to pay for underpass
The city of Moore wants to build a railroad underpass at the intersection of Fourth Street and S. Turner Avenue, where city officials say frequent, slow-moving trains are impeding the flow of traffic – and they want to make the railroad company pay for it. The city is taking the unusual approach of asking state regulators to force the business to pay for a project that usually would be funded by city and state transportation funding.
Chaparral files for bankruptcy
Oklahoma City-based Chaparral Energy has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, becoming the latest in a line of corporate victims devastated by COVID-19. Heavily burdened by debt going into 2020, Chaparral gave up its fight to service its creditors amid persistently low commodity prices, filing paperwork in Delaware the company said in a statement released on Aug. 17. In its statement, the company said nearly 80% of its creditors have approved a prepackaged restructuring support agreement that trades $300 million in unsecured debt for $175 million in lending obligations under a reserves-based exit facility. The company also will issue equity through $35 million in convertible notes. At emergence from bankruptcy, the company’s existing equities will be canceled without any distribution to current shareholders, according to Chaparral’s statement. New equities will be distributed to banks and bondholders.
Council OKs $2M to aid venues
The Oklahoma City Council voted to make $2 million available to live performance venues struggling to remain in business during the COVID-19 pandemic. The council also set a vote for Sept. 1 on whether to extend the city’s current mask mandate past its Sept. 8 expiration date. Venues that host live performances face a higher challenge than most businesses seeking to operate safely during the pandemic and require a special assistance program to help them survive, Cathy O’Connor, president of the Alliance for Economic Development of Oklahoma City, said.
Love’s adding electric vehicle charging stations at 7 locations
Electrify America will work with Love’s Travel Stops to add public ultra-fast electric vehicle charging stations to seven locations in six states. The seven charging stations in Oklahoma, New Mexico, Utah, Florida, New York and Arizona will have a combined 28 EV chargers and be available for public use by early 2021 – with five locations already open. The most recent Love’s station opening in Salina, Utah, helped complete a cross-country route of Electrify America chargers spanning from Los Angeles to Washington, D.C.
Wave of evictions imminent statewide
Nonprofits and municipalities are bracing for as many as 500,000 Oklahomans – roughly 13% of the population – to be facing eviction from their homes. And as evictions and homelessness create a ripple of demand for other services, nonprofits need to anticipate the surge in human needs and advocate for legislative and policy changes, nonprofit leaders said.
Survey: Oklahomans are searching for loans in high numbers
In a new WalletHub survey, Oklahoma ranks second in the nation for people who are searching for loans the most. The coronavirus pandemic has affected the U.S. economy, which in turn has resulted in many Americans seeing a drop in income. With layoffs and business closures, the unemployment rate skyrocketed during 2020. Although the job market has begun to improve, the national unemployment rate still sits at 10.2%. Because of the on-again, off-again openings or partial openings, experts say it may take more time to reverse the economic damage done by the coronavirus.
FEMA: Okla. approved for $300 unemployment benefit
Oklahoma’s application for $300-per-week federal unemployment benefits to people left jobless because of the coronavirus has been approved, according to the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Oklahoma became the ninth state to be approved for the program announced earlier this month by President Donald Trump, according to a Tuesday night statement from FEMA Administrator Pete Gaynor. Republican Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Aug. 16 that he had applied for inclusion into the program for the unemployed who are receiving at least $100 in state unemployment benefits.
Data shows masks make a difference in Oklahoma
Mask ordinances have had a measurable effect on reducing the spread of COVID-19 in Oklahoma communities, the chief executive officer at the MyHealth Access Network said. Dr. David Kendrick, who also chairs the medical informatics department at the University of Oklahoma-Tulsa, said the conclusion that masks are effective in helping to curb coronavirus was reached following an evaluation of data collected by MyHealth, a high-tech information exchange created to advance patient care in Oklahoma. Kendrick said that within just one week of mask mandates being adopted, COVID-19 test “positivity” rates recorded in communities with mandates fell slightly below – by 0.47% – positivity rates recorded in communities without mandates. Rates fell much more within two weeks. By the time three weeks had passed, positivity rates in communities with mandates had fallen 5.73% below rates in communities without mandates.
Industry players urge changes to production formula
Things have changed in the natural gas industry, and it may be time for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission to reconsider its approach to regulating the industry, some producers and at least one commissioner argued Thursday. Commissioners discussed the matter with key industry players Thursday but still have not decided how much natural gas production should be limited – if at all – for the six-month period from Oct. 1, 2020 to March 31, 2021. In February, the commission lowered the amount natural gas wells are allowed to produce, from 65% down to 50% of what a well is capable of producing, in an attempt to correct an oversupply in the market and record-low prices. But several large producers, including Devon Energy and Ovintiv Mid-Continent, are asking the commission to remove all limitations on production.
American Airlines to stop service at Stillwater airport
American Airlines said it will end service at Stillwater Regional Airport in October. Stillwater is among 15 smaller U.S. cities that American said it will stop serving in October when a federal requirement to serve those communities ends. The airline blamed low demand during the coronavirus pandemic, which has triggered a massive slump in air travel and huge losses for the carriers. Airlines and their labor unions are seeking billions in new taxpayer relief. American started service to Stillwater in 2016.
Inasmuch Foundation makes lead gift to renovate Crystal Bridge
Inasmuch Foundation has committed $2.5 million to the second phase of a capital campaign to renovate the Crystal Bridge Conservatory at Myriad Botanical Gardens in downtown Oklahoma City. This phase features a complete renovation of the interior conservatory spaces to enhance visitor engagement with a more diverse plant collection, interactive educational exhibits, improved Americans with Disabilities Act accessibility, and a museum-quality gift shop.