In The Know: DHS bombarded with complaints over cuts to heating assistance

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. E-mail your suggestions for In The Know items to You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma DHS is fielding numerous complaints about cuts to a federal program that provides heating assistance to low-income residents during the winter. Gov. Fallin is seeking federal disaster assistance for people affected by recent earthquakes in Lincoln and Pottawatomie Counties. The Governor’s “Feeding Oklahoma” drive collected enough for 1.6 million meals, but food needs in Oklahoma remain dire.

The OKC Council voted to use MAPS 3 use tax funds to pay for a new police headquarters and municipal courts building. The Oklahoma State Department of Health is joining with communities worldwide to promote HIV testing and to put a face to HIV/AIDS in recognition of World AIDS Day on Dec. 1. NewsOK discusses some details of Oklahoma’s No Child Left Behind waiver request.

The OK Policy Blog features a glossary of terms to help you follow the tax debate. The Number of the Day is the average annual health insurance premium for an employer-sponsored family plan in Oklahoma in 2010. In today’s Policy Note, a nationwide poll of small business owners shows that, contrary to claims by lobbyists, very few see taxes and regulation as the biggest barriers to their success.

In The Know will go on hiatus beginning tomorrow. We will return December 5.

In The News

Okla. DHS reports being ‘bombarded’ with complaints over cuts to heating assistance

Officials with the Oklahoma Department of Human Services say they’re fielding numerous complaints about cuts to a federal program that provides heating assistance to low-income residents during the winter. DHS administers the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program, which uses federal funds to help defray the costs of winter heating and summer cooling for low-income Oklahomans. But DHS programs manager Kathie Wright says the program was only appropriated about $16 million this year, about one-third of its budget last year.

Read more from The Associated Press.

Gov. Fallin seeks federal disaster assistance to help with earthquake recovery

A federal disaster declaration is being sought that could help people and businesses in Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties recover from a series of earthquakes this month. The earthquakes began Nov. 5 and have been followed by more than 75 aftershocks. The governor requested federal aid through the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s individual assistance program. It would make funding available for homeowners, renters and business owners in the form of grants, low-interest loans and disaster housing assistance. Other counties could be added to the request as new or further damage is identified. Preliminary damage assessments conducted last week confirmed damage to nearly 200 homes and businesses in Lincoln and Pottawatomie counties.

Read more from NewsOK.

Governor’s food drive collects enough money, food for 1.6 million meals

Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesday announced that her “Feeding Oklahoma” drive raised enough money and food to produce slightly more than 1.6 million meals. “Today, we are going to help a lot of hungry families across the state of Oklahoma,” Fallin said. This year’s food drive began Nov. 1 with a goal of securing 1 million meals. It brought in more than $233,451 and 552,460 pounds of food, the governor said. Last year, the project raised enough for 700,000 meals. Oklahoma is the fifth hungriest state in the nation, Fallin said, and 1 in 4 state children is at risk of hunger. Although the state’s economy is improving, the number of people on food stamps has been on the rise, she said.

Read more from The Tulsa World.

Oklahoma City Council chooses MAPS 3 use tax for police HQ funding

The Oklahoma City Council voted Tuesday to use the MAPS 3 use tax to pay for a new police headquarters and municipal courts building over other options that could have included more expensive speeding tickets. The Oklahoma City Council chose to pay for a new municipal court building and police headquarters, shown here in a drawing, with MAPS 3 use tax money. Provided – Provided The council’s action means the use tax funds will make up the $12 million shortfall the city faced in funding the new headquarters and courts building. Only $38 million of the $50 million project was available from a general obligation bond issue four years ago. City leaders promised the police and firefighter unions, which opposed MAPS 3, that much of the use tax funds would be used for public safety.

Read more from NewsOK.

Oklahoma agencies offer HIV/AIDS testing and promote activities for World AIDS Day, Dec. 1

As many as 1,777 people in Oklahoma are estimated to be infected with HIV and are unaware of their status. The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) is joining with communities worldwide to promote HIV testing and to put a face to HIV/AIDS through various activities across Oklahoma that recognize Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there are about 1.1 million people in the U.S. living with HIV/AIDS, yet 1 out of 5 of those persons do not know they have the disease. OSDH statistics show that by the end of 2010, there were 8,462 cases of HIV/AIDS diagnosed among residents of Oklahoma. Around the world and in Oklahoma, there is a stigma toward people living with HIV/AIDS, which could prevent those who may be at risk from being tested for the disease.

Read more from Native American Times.

NewsOK: Oklahoma request for NCLB waiver should benefit students

Ten years after schools began aggregating student test scores, attendance and graduation rates into performance reports to the federal government, Oklahoma has joined 10 other states applying for an exemption from the No Child Left Behind Act. NCLB has drawbacks. The progress of schools and students isn’t properly recognized in the annual Academic Performance Index. Teachers often spend too much time priming students for the annual tests instead of providing actual instruction. With requirements getting stricter each year, almost all state schools would fall on the needs-improvement list by 2014. State exams still will play a prominent role in categorizing schools based on academic performance. But instead of looking at the numbers of students who pass state math and reading exams, the school assessments will be based in part on how individual students improve over previous years.

Read more from NewsOK.

Read This: A glossary of tax terminology

If all the recent talk about tax credits and exemptions and tax reform have left you scratching your head, you’re not alone. Keeping up with the tax debate – and its accompanying jargon and terminology – can challenge even the most committed news-and-politics-junkie. Fortunately, this glossary of key terms from the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy can help. The glossary accompanies ITEP’s updated ‘Guide to Fair State and Local Taxes‘. Print it out and keep a copy handy for the next time you need to make sense of the state’s tax policies.

Read more from the OK Policy Blog.

Quote of the Day

The disaster of hunger in our state is unparalleled at this particular time.
Rodney Bivens, executive director of the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma

Number of the Day


Average annual health insurance premium for an employer-sponsored family plan in Oklahoma in 2010, up 48 percent since 2003.

Source: The Commonwealth Fund

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Do small-business owners feel overtaxed and overregulated? A survey says no.

Among many small-business advocates, it has become an article of faith that “uncertainty” about new regulations and higher taxes is frustrating the ambitions of small-business owners. A “massive federal regulatory nightmare” is how the head of the National Federation of Independent Business, Dan Danner, puts it on the organization’s Web site, one that “stifles innovation, grinds small businesses down and prohibits job creation.” And Republicans in the House have used these concerns to wage an aggressive campaign against federal regulations sanctioned by existing law as well as any proposal to raise taxes in order to reduce the deficit. But it turns out that these concerns are not shared by as many actual small-business owners as you might expect. That, at any rate, is one finding of a recent poll released by the Hartford Financial Group. According to a summary of the survey, when small-business owners were asked to name the single biggest barrier to success, only 9 percent cited government rules and regulations. Just 2 percent cited “too many taxes or uncertainty related to taxes.” (The Washington Post reported recently that economists say regulation has little impact on job creation over all.)

Read more from You’re The Boss.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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