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DHS Director: Oklahoma budget cut scenarios range “from the terrible to the unthinkable”

OKDHS Director Ed Lake

Unless lawmakers find new revenues to close their budget shortfall, Oklahoma is looking at unprecedented cuts to the most basic services of state government, including those for the most vulnerable seniors, children, and people with disabilities. Even before next year’s budget, the Oklahoma Department of Human Services (OKDHS) will run out of money in May to pay for in-home care of 25,000 seniors and individuals with severe disabilities unless the Legislature acts quickly to provide supplemental funds.

Yesterday, OKDHS Director Ed Lake sent a message to all employees of the agency stating that further cuts would threaten the elimination of entire programs serving very vulnerable adults and children. The cuts could even undo the progress made under court order to improve our child welfare system. Here is Director Lake’s message in full:

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Oklahoma DHS is about to run out of money to pay for care of vulnerable seniors and people with disabilities

by | March 22nd, 2017 | Posted in Blog, Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (4)

There are honest arguments and discussions to be had about the place and role of government. However, we generally agree that the government has an important role in protecting the lives and health of Americans who aren’t able to protect themselves, including those who are elderly or have significant disabilities.

However, in Oklahoma, years of budget cuts have now compromised our Department of Human Services’ ability to fulfill this core function of government. As a result, thousands of Oklahomans who are elderly or have disabilities could lose access to vital services in just a few months. Without a supplemental appropriation, DHS doesn’t have the funds to pay providers for the care of more than 25,000 Oklahomans after April.

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In a tight budget year, HB 1270 would grow administrative waste and punish families who try to save for the future

by | March 16th, 2017 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

​Oklahoma legislators have big challenges this session to deal with another revenue failure and​ budget shortfall. Regular Oklahomans are struggling to support their families in a state where too many jobs still don’t pay a living wage.​​ In this context, you’d think our lawmakers would want to avoid squandering taxpayer money or demonizing families struggling to get by. Unfortunately, HB 1270, which has passed out of a House committee and awaits action by the full House, would simultaneously waste state dollars, punish families for trying to save for the future, and feed ugly, unfounded stereotypes about people ​making low wages.

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“Small loan” bill would mean big debts for Oklahoma families

For many Oklahomans in a financial trouble, payday loans can seem like a quick and easy fix. Borrowers can take out a payday loan for up to $500, secured by a post-dated check, usually for a period of 12 to 14 days. Under Oklahoma’s deferred deposit lending act, payday lenders can charge $45 in fees for a $300 loan, which amounts to an APR (annual percentage rate) of 391 percent.

While some borrowers turn to payday loans for an emergency car repair or other one-time needs, the industry’s successful business model is built on repeated borrowing by customers facing chronic financial difficulties. Data from Oklahoma’s payday loan database revealed that a majority of all loans went to borrowers who took out twelve or more loans over the course of a year — or an average of more than one loan a month.1 Fifty-three percent of all borrowers took out seven or more loans in a year, compared to just 28 percent who took out three loans or less. The average customer who comes up chronically short of being able to pay their monthly bills paid $324 in fees to payday lenders in 2014.

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Increasing breakfast in the classroom participation can help kids learn while strengthening school budgets

Maggie Den Harder is an intern with Oklahoma Policy Institute and a Masters of Public Administration student at the University of Oklahoma – Tulsa.

Experts agree that a healthy breakfast is crucial for children to grow and learn. However, in many families factors like hectic morning schedules and pinched finances mean that children don’t get a nutritious start for the day. This is where the School Breakfast Program comes in. Like the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program allows low-income students to receive meals for free or at a reduced price. A new report shows that Oklahoma’s school breakfast participation as a percentage of School Lunch Participation outpaces the national average. Maintaining and building on this success would bring a wealth of benefits to Oklahoma students while improving the finances of school nutrition departments.

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Don’t go there: Block grants for Medicaid and SNAP could wreck America’s safety net

by | February 7th, 2017 | Posted in Healthcare, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

A fundamental part of the American social contract is that when times get tough, we help our friends and neighbors out. In Oklahoma, the biggest ways that we do this is through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly known as food stamps) and SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s Medicaid program. Each of these programs help hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans get on their feet and stay there every year.

However, Congressional Republicans are pushing to end these programs and replace them with block grants in order to cut federal spending, possibly by as early as this summer. Block grants would threaten to dismantle effective, efficient anti-poverty programs and leave Oklahoma families without access to adequate food or medical care.

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Watch This: 9 myths about food insecurity in Oklahoma

by | November 22nd, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity, Watch This | Comments (2)

Feasts with family and friends are a key part of the holiday season. However, 1 in 6 Oklahomans, including 1 in 4 children, don’t always know if they’ll have enough food for their next meal. In this video, we bust some myths about hunger in Oklahoma, breaking down what people get wrong, what we need to get right, and what we can do to make Oklahoma a state where everyone has access to enough good food — no matter the season.

New factsheet shares the data on what poverty really looks like in Oklahoma

by | November 16th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (2)

poverty-profileYou may not be surprised to learn that, despite some progress in lowering the poverty rate the past three years, more than 600,000 Oklahomans lived in poverty in 2015. But did you know that two in five Oklahomans in poverty had been employed in the past year? Or that nearly two in three Oklahomans in poverty are white? These, and other takeaways, are summarized in our 2015 Poverty Profile, a two-page fact sheet examining the state’s poverty statistics from multiple angles. 

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Answering the Call: Food Security among Military Service Members and Veterans (Guest post: Effie Craven)

by | November 11th, 2016 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (0)

Effie Craven serves as the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Oklahoma Food Banks — the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma and the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma — where she advocates for programs and policies that promote access to nutritious foods and economic security for all Oklahomans.

One in six Oklahomans struggles with hunger, 25 percent of Oklahoma children are at risk of going to bed hungry at night, and 16 percent of our population live at or below the federal poverty line. These staggering figures highlight the critical problem of hunger in Oklahoma. Unfortunately, our military service members and veterans are not immune.

With more than 300,000 veterans in Oklahoma, the Oklahoma Food Banks are deeply concerned that tens of thousands of our state’s former service members may be struggling with hunger. According to a study published in 2015, more than one in four Iraq and Afghanistan veterans nationwide reported being food insecure in the past year. A separate 2015 study found that 24 percent of veterans who have accessed care through the Veterans Health Administration (VA) reported being food insecure. Feeding America’s Hunger in America report included data on veteran and military status among food pantry clients across the nation for the first time in 2014. The study found that than 1 in 5 households served by the Feeding America food bank network reported having at least one member who has served in the U.S. military.

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America’s racial wealth gap was 397 years in the making; we shouldn’t take that long to close it

man jumping across gapChattel slavery of African-Americans lasted for 246 years, from when the first slaves were brought to Virginia in 1619 to when it was finally abolished in 1865. Another 99 years passed until the 1964 Civil Rights Act ended Jim Crow laws that had systematically denied equal opportunity to African-Americans. Even after the end of Jim Crow, discrimination against African-Americans has continued in numerous well-documented ways, and all people of color in the United States continue to lag well behind whites when it comes to income and wealth.

The impact of this history is very much with us today. As a recent report from the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) points out, if the wealth of average Black families continues to grow at the same pace as it is growing today, it will take 228 years to reach the wealth of average White families today — nearly as long as the 246-year span of slavery. And that’s just to reach the current wealth levels of White families, not to catch up with White family wealth that is still growing at three times the rate of the Black population. For the average Latino family, it would take 84 years to reach the amount of wealth that White families have today.

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