In The Know: Budget cuts reducing access to state services | Testing for lead in water at schools, day cares | Turning the tide on evictions

In The KnowIn The Know is your daily briefing on Oklahoma policy-related news. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. Some stories included here are behind paywall or require subscription. OK Policy encourages the support of Oklahoma’s state and local media, which are vital to an informed citizenry. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

Turning the tide on evictions: Using federal aid, support to reduce Oklahoma’s eviction crisis: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently extended its eviction moratorium until the end of July, giving renters and governments another month to organize efforts to prevent mass displacement after the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have warned for months of an eviction wave coming when the moratorium lifts and millions of renters owe a combined billions in back rent. Eviction has devastating effects on a family’s long-term well-being, and a wave of family displacements would be a serious threat to public health. Fortunately, rent assistance funds from federal COVID-19 relief bills are still available, and this will be the most important tool in preventing displacement and making landlords financially whole going forward. Combined with the Advance Child Tax Credit that will send cash directly to families with children starting in July, the financial supports put into place in recent months may help Oklahoma avoid an eviction wave in the short term, and building upon them could help turn the housing crisis tide over the long term. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Budget cuts have reduced access to social services in some of Oklahoma’s poorest communities: The administrative team at Stilwell Public Schools needed their newly full-time student counselor to quickly figure out one major task: Which local social workers had cell phone service and when? When the pandemic forced the Oklahoma Department of Human Services to close offices last spring, successful remote working in Stilwell, the seat of rural Adair County, depended heavily on how close someone lived to town where there was more reliable internet and cell service. School Superintendent Geri Gilstrap said she knew of only one DHS social worker that could consistently answer the phone when the school had a child in need. [The Frontier]

Is there lead in the water? Thousands of schools and day cares haven’t found out: Oklahoma does not require schools’ water to be checked for lead and few have volunteered for a free testing program implemented a year ago. More than 3,700 school and child care facilities are eligible, yet only six have applied, according to the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality, which administers the program. Only one, Central Oak Elementary in the Crooked Oak Public Schools district, has completed testing and remediation. The testing is available to any school, licensed public or private child care facility, residential care center, children’s hospital or Boys & Girls Club in the state. [Oklahoma Watch]

Delta variant update: Vaccine efficacy studies, sequencing and herd immunity: With more COVID-19 cases being sequenced by Oklahoma’s public lab, more infections due to the delta variant have been found as that most-contagious mutation of the virus now represents more than 50% of all new U.S. cases. For the one-week period that ended Saturday, Oklahoma saw 1,824 new cases, a weekly increase of about 400. Active cases in Tulsa County saw a week-over-week jump from 388 to 512. [Tulsa World]

  • Health officials warn Delta coronavirus variant poses several risks to Oklahomans [KOSU]
  • Concern grows as Oklahoma’s coronavirus test positivity rates rise [KOSU]
  • COVID test positivity in Tulsa hits 10%, testing Volume Remains Low [Public Radio Tulsa]

State Government News

Senate, House Republicans issue public call for State Board of Ed action on HB 1775; education department says action coming Monday: The Oklahoma State Board of Education next week will take up rules on a controversial new law that limits in-school instruction on race, gender and history. On Wednesday and Thursday, a host of Republican lawmakers from both the House and Senate signed onto news releases publicly calling for state board action on rules so that House Bill 1775 can be implemented immediately. [Tulsa World]

Lawmakers question wisdom of closing correctional facility: Two rural Oklahoma lawmakers have called on Gov. Kevin Stitt to delay the slated closing of a minimum-security prison in Woodward County. Sen. Casey Murdock of Felt and Rep. Carl Newton of Cherokee both said closing the William S. Key Correctional Center near Fort Supply would deal severe economic hardship to small communities in that area. The minimum-security facility opened in 1988 and has a 1,105-inmate capacity. [The Journal Record]

Unemployment claims decline as state’s return-to-work incentive is implemented, but many applications hit snags: As the date approaches for release of the first incentive payments for returning to work, continued unemployment claims — those filed after at least one week of unemployment — are declining. Workers filed 32,660 continued unemployment claims the week ending June 26, compared to an upwardly revised figure of 34,714 the prior week, the U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday. [Tulsa World]

State begins redrawing congressional seats in redistricting process like no other: The state of Oklahoma is redrawing congressional districts, and it’s doing so out in the open. It’s a system that has been criticized for years. But this year, public input is encouraged. One set of lines everyone is watching is the suddenly competitive District 5, which includes Oklahoma City. Advertisement There’s never been a redistricting process quite like this one in the state. COVID-19 takes much of the credit for that. The pandemic delayed a lot of Census data, which is why lawmakers are drawing the districts much later than usual – this fall. [KOCO]

Dozens of states target Google’s app store in antitrust lawsuit: Dozens of states, including Oklahoma, are taking aim at Google in an escalating legal offensive on Big Tech. This time, attorneys general for 36 states and the District of Columbia have filed a lawsuit targeting Google’s Play store, where consumers download apps designed for the Android software that powers most of the world’s smartphones. [The Journal Record]

Federal Government

Federal protection for health care workers raises concerns: A new federal rule that requires health care employers to take certain steps to protect their workers in settings where suspected or confirmed COVID-19 patients are treated has raised concerns. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the emergency temporary standard June 21, setting a July 6 deadline for employers to comply with most provisions. [The Journal Record]

Tribal Nations News

On eve of McGirt anniversary, murder conviction tossed and tensions flare between tribes and Stitt: The Oklahoma Court of Criminal Appeals on Thursday reversed the conviction of a man serving a life sentence for killing his stepfather, ruling that he should not have been tried by the state because he is a Cherokee Nation member and the crime occurred on the tribe’s reservation. [The Oklahoman]

  • ‘McGirt v. Oklahoma Community Impact Forum’ set for Tuesday; tribal leaders irked [Tulsa World]

Seminole Nation General Council will have 16 seats decided Saturday: Sixteen of the 28 seats on the Seminole Nation of Oklahoma General Council are up for grabs in Saturday’s election. The other 12 seats have either already been decided by default or will be decided subsequently because fewer than two candidates filed for the election. [NonDoc]

Cherokee Nation Participates In Transportation Program That Gives More Autonomy, “Seat At The Table”: The Cherokee Nation will become the first tribe to participate in a new transportation program. This will let them plan and execute road projects without having to get approval from the federal government. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

‘The opportunity to be American’: Citizenship is for kids, too: How do you explain the significance of American citizenship to an 8-year-old? Tara Glenn chose these words for her son, Sullivan Glenn. “You don’t lose your identity as a young man of Lesotho, but you also get to be a part of all of this,” Glenn said. “It’s not losing — it’s gaining.” Sullivan was among the 25 youngsters hailing from 11 countries who took the naturalization oath of allegiance to the United States at the city of Tulsa’s first-ever citizenship ceremony for kids. [Tulsa World]

Vista Shadow Mountain apartments cited for four violations of city’s fire code: The fire marshal cited Vista Shadow Mountain apartments on Thursday for four violations of the city’s fire code, a move that could force tenants at the complex to be out by July 21. The violations include open walls in apartments, open ceilings, electrical hazards and generally unsafe conditions. [Tulsa World]

General News

Descendants “exhausted” after finding 35 bodies, bullet wound from Tulsa mass grave: The digging is done, but the 1921 Tulsa Race Massacre Mass Graves Investigation carries on. Descendants of Tulsa Race Massacre survivors removed remains of bodies from mass grave a few weeks ago at Oaklawn cemetery, and as of now their investigation team found 35 bodies out of the original 15 bodies they were looking for. So far, they have only excavated 20 bodies. Nine individuals have completed forensics analysis, with one set of remains found to have multiple gunshot wounds. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Library board meeting, first since pandemic, veers to debate of LGBTQ book display [Enid News & Eagle]

Quote of the Day

“Had I been able to go face to face with them at an office and convince them that this is serious? I definitely would have gotten answers in person if there was the option. They aren’t taking me seriously.” 

-Maggie Smith, a grandmother in a town near Tahlequah, raised concerns for months that her young granddaughter was being exposed to drugs and neglect. She called the local DHS office, her state representative, higher up DHS officials. She said it felt like she was being brushed off. [The Frontier]

Number of the Day


Nearly 1 in 4 renters who have “a lot of difficulty” or “cannot” see, hear, or walk or climb stairs reported that their household was behind on rent, according to data collected April 14 – May 24. [U.S. Census Data via CBPP]

Policy Note

Extending Eviction Moratorium Helpful Now, But Long-Term Housing Crisis Requires Voucher Expansion: Extending the eviction moratorium will protect the 10 million-plus adult renters who live in a household not caught up on rent while giving states additional time to implement emergency rental assistance they’ve been given. But with evictions and other housing instability looming well past July for millions of families, and people of color disproportionately, policymakers must enact a more enduring solution to the nation’s long-term housing crisis — with a sharp expansion of the Housing Choice Voucher program. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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Jessica joined OK Policy as a Communications Associate in January 2018. A Mexican immigrant, she was a Clara Luper Scholar at Oklahoma City University where she obtained a B.A. in Political Science and Philosophy. Prior to joining OK Policy, Jessica worked at a digital marketing agency in Oklahoma City. She is an alumna of both the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute (2013) and OK Policy's Summer Policy Institute (2015). In addition to her role at OK Policy, Jessica serves as a board member for Dream Action Oklahoma in OKC and communications director for Dream Alliance Oklahoma in Tulsa.

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