A Grand Reopening

Oklahoma’s pre-COVID-19 economy may be slow to return

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Owner Stephanie Hale spends April 25th preparing her Urban Oak on 66, 454 W. Main Street, for the April 27th reopening. (Photo by Carol Mowdy Bond)

By Carol Mowdy Bond
Contributing Writer

Urban Oak on 66, 454 W. Main Street, reopened on April 27th. But owner Stephanie Hale says she’s worried. And emerging reports indicate she has reason to be.

“It’s not been easy,” Hale says of the requirements to close her salon and boutique doors.

Hale took advantage of the U.S. Government’s small business loans. “I got the Payroll Protection Program Loan. It pays my utilities, and for my salon girls’ salaries.”

But Hale is looking forward, and says, “I’m worried. It’s going to take people time to come back to the way things were.” She says the loss of October’s Czech Festival, which has been cancelled this year due to the pandemic, is a devastating blow.

COVID-19 is very real for Hale. She says, “I have a friend in New York City. They’re living in the hot spot. She has cancer. Her husband got COVID-19. He lived in their basement for a month to protect her. He’s recovered now.” Hale’s friend told her that in their area, “it was like every other household had it.”

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Addressing Oklahoma’s lower numbers of COVID-19 patients and deaths, Hale says, “We’re lucky here. We don’t have public transportation, and that helps us.”

Due to the rapid global spread of COVID-19, on March 24th, Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an Amended Emergency Proclamation, taking additional steps to protect Oklahomans. Yukon’s mayor, Mike McEachern, followed Stitt’s lead on March 25th, by issuing a City of Yukon Update to Declaration of Emergency, in which he shuttered businesses not deemed essential. With that, many area business lights went dark, jobs were lost, and free enterprise fell all but silent.

An April 21st story in The Journal Record releases information from the Oklahoma Board of Equalization and the Oklahoma Tax Commission. Predictions for the coming months include that the oil and gas industry will shed an additional 8,000 to 10,000 jobs, which adds to an estimated 180,000 total jobs lost in Oklahoma through the second quarter of 2020.

As well, for a few months, Oklahoma will possibly see a peak unemployment rate of 12-14%.

And reports are now emerging that Oklahoma Tax Commission officials don’t expect Oklahomans to return to pre-COVID-19 levels of employment until the 4th quarter of 2022.

Also, the combination of COVID-19 shutdowns and plummeting oil prices mean state tax collections will be much lower possibly for the next two years.

In the article by Steve Metzer, he says, “The COVID-19 pandemic, which has resulted in a near shutdown of commerce in Oklahoma, has contributed to a near collapse of the oil and gas industry.”