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Employment credit checks are putting jobs out of reach for Oklahomans

This post is by OK Policy intern Lydia Lapidus. Lydia is a recent graduate from George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs with a concentration in International Politics.

When applying for a job, you might scan your social media profiles and hide or delete any off-putting posts that an employer could see. But what if they look at your credit report? You can’t hide the credit card payment you missed several years ago. Though credit reports were originally designed to help banks determine interest rates on loans, nearly half of all American companies now use credit checks as an employment vetting tool. Job applicants with good credit reports are viewed as responsible; those with poor credit reports may be discarded as unreliable or likely to steal from their employer.

That’s unfortunate, because using credit reports during the hiring process ends up unfairly screening out low-income people and minorities, and it keeps qualified candidates out of work and talent out of Oklahoma’s workforce. A person’s credit history, or lack thereof, says nothing about their work ethic, trustworthiness, or potential job performance. It can, however, reflect the financial misfortunes of long-term unemployment, lack of health insurance, and medical debt. So far, eleven states have passed laws either restricting or prohibiting the use of credit reports in employment decisions; Oklahoma should join them.

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Too many Oklahoma families are one emergency away from financial disaster

This week is America Saves Week when many community organizations promote saving money and encourage people to look at the state of their own finances. For many Oklahoma families, this would be a disheartening exercise. Four in ten Oklahomans don’t have the cash, or property that could be sold for cash, to support themselves at the poverty level for three months. For these families, just one small emergency, from an unexpected medical bill to a car repair, could easily mean debt or financial collapse. But why are so many Oklahomans in such dire financial straits?

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Lunch shaming is real – but we can end it (Guest Post: Effie Craven)

Effie Craven is the State Advocacy and Public Policy Director for the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Imagine you are a child waiting in the school lunch line with your friends.  You laugh and joke as you move through the line and get your trays, enjoying the break from class.  But when you get to the cashier and scan your meal card, there is not enough money for your lunch.  Your tray is taken from you – your hot meal is thrown away and replaced by a cheese sandwich as your classmates look on.

Practices like this, known as lunch shaming, are all too common in schools. And these practices are emotionally damaging to children, who have no control over their family’s financial situation and are often facing food insecurity at home as well. One in four Oklahoma children has inconsistent access to adequate, healthy food. The National School Breakfast and School Lunch Programs provide critical nutrition support to more than 425,000 Oklahoma children every year, but many students are either not eligible or not enrolled in the free and reduced price school meals programs.

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Bill Watch: Ways to help Oklahoma families build wealth this legislative session

This post is the first in a series highlighting key bills in several issues areas that we’re following. 

Last session, working families saw little in the way of help from the Legislature.  As the budget crisis continued, core services suffered further cuts and teachers and state employees did not see the raises that many legislators promised would be a priority. Too many Oklahomans are still struggling with financial instability, but there are opportunities for the legislature to make some strides this session.

We identified several goals related to economic opportunity and security in OK Policy’s 2018 legislative policy priorities. Here are some key bills related to those goals:

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Step Up coalition’s new tax credit is a poor substitute for restoring the EITC

by | February 7th, 2018 | Posted in Poverty & Opportunity, Taxes | Comments (0)

Just a few weeks ago, the Step Up Oklahoma coalition announced their plan for a variety of tax increases and reforms to resolve some of Oklahoma’s long-standing budget problems. Since then, the proposal has attracted support from a broad range of groups representing different parts of Oklahoma’s private and public sectors, and House leaders have promised that they will vote quickly on the package.

Several of the revenue ideas in the Step Up plan have been discussed in Oklahoma for years. The plan includes well-vetted ideas like increasing the cigarette tax to raise revenues while reducing smoking, increasing the gas tax which hasn’t been adjusted for inflation in three decades, and partially rolling back Oklahoma’s unnecessary tax breaks for oil and gas drilling. However, the plan also includes changes like a first-of-its-kind production tax on wind energy and a complex set of changes to the income tax that haven’t been nearly as well-vetted.

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Oklahoma slips in new economic rankings

Recent good news about gains the national economy – lower unemployment, small declines in the poverty rate, and a booming stock market – is not reflected here in Oklahoma. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard paints a picture of many Oklahoma families struggling to make ends meets and build a better future for themselves. Oklahoma’s 40th place ranking is a decline from our 37th place score last year – which itself was a decline from 34th the year before.

The Prosperity Now Scorecard uses the most recent data available from several sources to offer the most comprehensive look available at Americans’ ability to save and build wealth, move out of –and stay out of – poverty, and create a more prosperous future. It also evaluates 53 different policy measures to determine how well states are addressing the challenges facing their residents.

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Our top priorities in Oklahoma’s 2018 legislative session

With the 2018 legislative session fast approaching, today we released OK Policy’s top policy priorities for the coming year.

OK Policy is committed to supporting fair and adequate funding of public services and expanded economic opportunity for all Oklahomans through research and advocacy. During the 2018 legislative session, we will work with lawmakers, community partners, and concerned citizens to promote an ambitious but achievable policy agenda in the areas of budget and taxes, economic opportunity and security, education, criminal justice, and health care.

We have identified the following issues as our top 2018 policy priorities. These are the issues on which we expect to devote the bulk of our energy and resources and to play a leading role in working with legislators in favor of good legislation and in opposition to harmful legislation. Our priority issues were selected based on numerous criteria, including their consistency with our mission, our experience and expertise on the issue, their importance for the citizens of Oklahoma, and our likelihood of success.  There are many other issues on which we expect to conduct research and contribute to policy campaigns, and issues may move on or off our top priority list as events unfold.

You can read a summary of all of our priorities here, or follow the links below for more detailed explanations. As the Legislative session develops, you can also check our advocacy alerts page to hear about ways to take action on these priorities, and check out our advocacy toolkit for more resources to stay informed and get involved during the legislative session.

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Watch This: Ending Hunger in Oklahoma Schools

by | January 9th, 2018 | Posted in Education, Poverty & Opportunity | Comments (1)

One in four Oklahoma children are at risk of not having enough to eat, yet the state leaves over $400 million in child nutrition funding on the table each year because of our low participation in federal assistance programs. By expanding access to federal school meal programs, we can get students the nutrition they need to develop and learn. 

Hunger Free Oklahoma, a nonprofit advocacy group in Tulsa, has a plan to help low-income schools feed more kids and increase their revenue. This video by OETA describes Hunger Free Oklahoma’s  initiative to get more Oklahoma schools and districts involved in options to minimize food insecurity, like in the Community Eligibility Provision (CEP.

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Hunger by the Numbers: How many football stadiums…

This fall, the US Department of Agriculture released its annual report on household food security, which measures the share of households who don’t have enough food to lead an active, healthy life in the last year. For the three-year period from 2014-16, an average of more than 1 in 7 Oklahoma households, or 15.2 percent of the population, experienced food insecurity, the 8th-highest rate in the nation, tied with Indiana. 

But what does this mean for Oklahoma? Given Oklahoma’s population of 3.92 million, and assuming that households experiencing food insecurity are the same size as the average of all households, this means 595,000 Oklahomans live in households that struggle with basic access to adequate food. 

Now imagine that on a Saturday afternoon this fall, everyone who experienced food insecurity in Oklahoma were all invited down to Norman and Stillwater to attend football games.

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2016 Oklahoma Poverty Profile

Download the 2016 Poverty Profile as a PDF Fact Sheet

624,042 Oklahomans had incomes below the poverty level in 2016.

That’s 16.3 percent of Oklahoma’s population, or about one out of every 6 Oklahomans.

The poverty rate in Oklahoma continues to be above the national average

Since 2008, Oklahoma’s poverty rate has been higher than the national average, and that didn’t change in 2016.  In fact, the gap between Oklahoma and the nation widened a bit in the most recent years.  In 2013, Oklahoma’s poverty rate was 1 percentage point above the national average. Last year, we were 2.3 points above the national average.  In the country as a whole, the poverty rate has been declining since 2012.  But in Oklahoma, the poverty rate increased last year.


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