Threats to the Safety Net: Bills affecting low-income Oklahomans

[Click for a list of active bills with recent/pending legislative actions for each bill (3/19/13)]  

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A number of bills targeting safety net assistance to Oklahoma’s poorest families were filed this session. Safety net programs offer help to eligible Oklahomans, caught in turbulent life situations and struggling to afford basic needs.  This page provides information and analysis on the policy implications of these bills.

HB 1909 Forgoes a federal waiver that extends the time limit on SNAP food stamp benefits to ‘able bodied adults without dependents’ (ABAWDs) in areas with high unemployment

Federal regulators allow OKDHS to request a work requirement waiver for ‘able bodied adults without dependents’ (ABAWDs) that live in areas where the average unemployment rate was 10 percent or higher over the past two years.  This bill eliminates Oklahoma’s ability to secure that waiver.

Job seekers in some parts of the state still face stubbornly high unemployment rates and their prospects for living wage employment remain bleak, i.e. in communities of color and many counties in Eastern Oklahoma the unemployment rate is twice as high as the state average.
SNAP and Work Among Low-Income Households  | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
The data indicate that SNAP receipt does not create work disincentives. The overwhelming majority of non-disabled, working-age households that start receiving SNAP do not stop working.

HB 1792 Seizes the license plate of anyone driving without mandatory minimum insurance and requires payment of $125.00 to retrieve license; enrolls them in the new ‘Oklahoma Temporary Motorist Liability Plan’ requiring payments to be made to the county sheriff’s office until they purchase coverage

Low-income car owning households paid an average of about $750 in annual premiums.  Low income households face severe income constraints that make it difficult for them to afford auto insurance.  All households in the lowest-income quintile have incomes below about $20,000 and average incomes, according to the 2010 CES, of just under $10,000.  And all households in the second lowest-income quintile have average incomes of just under $27,000.

HB 1908 Diverts money from TANF or ‘welfare’ to produce advertisements promoting marriage 

The state currently spends $2.7M in federal TANF monies on the Oklahoma Marriage Initiative (OMI), which provides a range of counseling services.  This bill mandates that OMI produce and air public service announcements (PSAs) promoting marriage. There is no evidence that PSAs touting marriage are effective at helping single parents fall in love with a good partner and co-parent.  

During the Great Recession the state hemorrhaged jobs.  Between 2008 and 2010, an additional 41,000 Oklahoma children lived in households where no parent had full-time year-round employment.  Yet during that same period the state’s TANF program took on just 2,081 children  – barely making a dent.
Oklahoma TANF Spending Fact Sheet | Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
Oklahoma is already 1 of only 2 states that spend less than 10% of TANF funds on cash assistance to families.


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