In The Know: Emergency budget remains at impasse; first responders to get paid time off if they contract virus; and more

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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

New from OK Policy

More must be done for justice-involved children amid COVID-19 pandemic: While many areas of public concern have been at the forefront of local media coverage, juvenile justice has received far less attention. As our state leaders work to address this pandemic, we cannot leave behind Oklahoma children in custody. [Ashley Harvey / OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Safety net more important than ever: As many of our friends and neighbors lose their incomes, they also likely will lose health care and the financial security tethered to those jobs. For many Oklahomans, this might also be the first time they have experienced the social safety net up close. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Oklahoma News

Legislative leaders say no to governor’s budget cuts: Republican and Democratic leaders in the Oklahoma Legislature were united in opposition on Wednesday to statements made the day before by Gov. Kevin Stitt that state agency budgets could soon be cut as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Journal Record] It remains to be seen what Gov. Kevin Stitt will do with bills to tap Oklahoma’s reserve funds and cover a projected $416.8 million budget gap this fiscal year. [Public Radio Tulsa] Tulsa World editorial: A global pandemic is the wrong time for a state budget fight [Tulsa World Editorial Board]

Death toll goes up by 12 across Oklahoma; cases rise to 1,524: Twelve more people in Oklahoma have died from COVID-19, bringing the total in the state to 79, according to state health data updated Wednesday morning. Oklahoma officials have reported 1,524 cases of the disease caused by the novel coronavirus since March 6. [Tulsa World] New data shows tenfold increase of COVID-19 tests administered in Oklahoma after health commissioner urges private labs report to OSDH. [KFOR] COVID-19 has now killed as many Oklahomans in 3 weeks as the flu has in 7 months [Public Radio Tulsa] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State-level first responders to get paid time off if they contract COVID-19, Stitt says: Gov. Kevin Stitt issued an executive order Wednesday guaranteeing paid time off for first responders working for state agencies if they contract COVID-19. [The Oklahoman] The order also removes barriers that will allow more medical professionals to be on the front lines by encouraging licensing boards to ease requirements on physician assistants, nurse practitioners and retired physicians. [Tulsa World] Following Gov. Kevin Stitt’s announcement, Rep. Chris Kannady, R-Oklahoma City, released the following statement encouraging counties and cities to take similar action: [McAlester News-Capital] OK Policy: All Oklahomans need paid sick leave, and not just during a public health crisis.

State Government News

Hours on hold and a ‘clunky’ website: State trying to fix problems facing Oklahomans filing unemployment claims: The sudden rise in newly unemployed has left the state scrambling to handle a surge in phone calls for assistance. It’s also led to temporary crashes of the website where claims can be filed. State officials say they are addressing both problems and also have scheduled a virtual town hall for 1 p.m. Friday to help with the process and answer questions. [Tulsa World] Oklahomans trying to file unemployment? Register for a free virtual town hall Friday. The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission will host a virtual town hall at 1 p.m. Friday to offer advice and field questions about the claim process. [Tulsa World]

Point of View: Oklahoma needs statewide shelter in place: Implementing a statewide policy will be more transparent and consistent than expecting Oklahomans to follow different policies based on their municipality. We know that states with shelter-in-place orders have a slower spread of COVID-19. This virus does not respect our city, county or state lines. [Carrie Blumert Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma AG Mike Hunter appeals abortion order: U.S. District Judge Charles Goodwin “improperly second-guessed the State’s elected leaders” when he granted a temporary restraining order, undoing parts of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s coronavirus-related abortion prohibition, Hunter wrote. [The Oklahoman]

Amid pandemic, state health department contracts with public relations specialist at rate of $150 an hour: In early March, just days after Oklahoma had recorded its first case of COVID-19, the Oklahoma State Department of Health agreed to pay a local public relations specialist $150 an hour to help manage the department’s response to the upcoming crisis. [The Frontier]

Federal Government News

Lankford fields questions about relief for local government: A $2.2 trillion economic stabilization package carved out assistance for municipalities and counties in large metropolitan areas hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic but makes no mention of cities of more moderate size and in rural areas. [Muskogee Phoenix]

Rep. Horn says ‘lack of effective leadership’ leading to problems in COVID relief funding: Lawmakers in Washington are already working on another COVID-19 relief package for Americans. But Oklahoma Congresswoman Kendra Horn says there’s still work to be done on the most recent plan passed, the $2.2 trillion CARES Act. [FOX25] The Frontier’s podcast talks with Kendra Horn about her work in ensuring federal funds are making their way to Oklahomans and local businesses. [The Frontier Podcast]

Health News

Mobile COVID-19 test sites make adjustments on the fly as state surpasses 1,500 positive tests: The number of Oklahomans who have tested positive for COVID-19 surpassed 1,500 Wednesday — reaching the total just four days after the state Health Department reported the state had reached the 1,000 mark. [The Oklahoman] Oklahoma experts say state is preparing for COVID-19 surge. [KTUL]

‘Supply delays’ limiting number of COVID-19 tests: Each day, the staff administering COVID-19 testing at the Oklahoma City fairgrounds can’t be sure how many more tests they can administer before supplies run out. LToya Knighten, government affairs liaison for the Oklahoma City-County Health Department, tried to clarify the situation for members of the public who called in to listen to a town hall-style teleconference hosted by members of the Oklahoma City Council late Tuesday afternoon. [The Journal Record]

Hospital officials confirm temporary closure of INTEGRIS Baptist Medical Center Portland Ave., ER to stay open: The postponement of non-emergency surgeries and procedures has led to a declining patient census at both the main INTEGRIS Baptist campus and the Portland Avenue campus. [The Oklahoman]

Watch the ‘Let’s Talk’ town hall: Local mental health experts answer reader questions about pandemic stressors: The extraordinary stressors being caused by the global COVID-19 pandemic mean everyone must attend to their own mental health and stay alert for signs of trouble in those closest to them, local experts warn. [Tulsa World] The Frontier’s podcast talks with Mike Brose, the chief empowerment officer of Mental Health Association Oklahoma, about the impact the coronavirus is having on mental health. [The Frontier podcast]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma Department Of Corrections makes changes for pandemic: Oklahoma Department of Corrections officials are taking steps to be cautious during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Tuesday, officials with ODOC confirmed five staff members and one inmate have tested positive for the virus. [News9] Nine Oklahoma organizations have come together to ask state officials to take urgent action to manage the threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma corrections facilities. 

Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office gets ‘OK’ to apply for federal funding to fight COVID-19: The Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Office is pursuing nearly $60,000 in federal funding to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. The funding would come from a new grant program through the federal Department of Justice to help local governments “prevent, prepare for, and respond to the coronavirus,” according to documents. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

More Oklahoma daycares temporarily closing, struggling: Some of Oklahoma’s daycares are struggling to remain open. More and more are closing. As of April, 734 daycares statewide temporarily closed their doors. COVID-19 is taking its toll on centers. DHS says statewide, 734 facilities have closed, hopefully, only temporarily. [KFOR] OK Policy: Child care plays pivotal role during health crisis.

Paycheck Protection loans are coming, but worries persist about available funding: After hitting a bottleneck last week, banks across the state are processing an influx of applications for the Paycheck Protection Program created to slow down the rapid loss of millions of jobs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

Time to pivot: As unemployment rises and companies furlough, focus turns to transition: Amid skyrocketing jobless claims, businesses that specialize in career transition and counseling are seeing an increase in demand for their services. [The Journal Record]

Cattle markets feeling effects of coronavirus pandemic: Due to market volatility and social distancing driven by COVID-19, ranchers are holding on to cattle longer than usual, which means less cattle are heading to market. [KOSU]

Sean Kouplen: Here’s what you need to know about Small Business Administration loans: Two federal stimulus programs recently launched by the Small Business Administration may be the best opportunity for many small businesses to survive. Businesses may apply for both programs, and I encourage all small businesses to do so. Both programs are a much-needed source of capital and liquidity during this uncertain time. [Sean Kouplen Op-Ed / Tulsa World

Economic Opportunity News

‘Feeling desperate’: COVID-19 looms as the homeless hang on: Government officials and public health experts have asked people to “stay at home” to protect themselves and help slow the spread of COVID-19. But for those who don’t have homes, taking precautions against the virus is a more complicated matter. [NonDoc] Gallery: Outreach continues for people experiencing homelessness amid the COVID-19 outbreak [Tulsa World photo gallery]

General News

Like everything else, candidate filing for state and federal offices is different this spring: Like most things at the state Capitol this spring, filing for state and federal office is a little different than in the past. Because of coronavirus-related distancing policies, election board officials encouraged candidates to file by mail or special messenger. And many did. [Tulsa World] All six members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation who are up for reelection this year filed as candidates on Wednesday, and most drew opponents on the first day of filing in the age of COVID-19. [The Oklahoman] View all filings at the Oklahoma State Election Board website. 

State census results trending up, but rural counties lag: Forty-one percent of households in Oklahoma have completed the nation’s first primarily digital census with one-third of surveys completed online since the count for the 2020 Census began. [Gaylord News / NonDoc] OK Policy: an accurate Census count in the state is vital for Oklahoma to secure its share of federal funding, have fair voting representation, and more.

Muscogee (Creek) culture thrives through education: The Muscogee (Creek) have kept their languages alive since around 900-1000 A.D. Greg Anderson, secretary of education, employment and training and acting tribal administrator, said tribal educators teach Mvskoke and Euchi through their own language programs and in partnership with public schools. [Gaylord News / NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“The Legislature will not authorize cuts to core services during a pandemic. The public needs its services right now (and) the state’s reserves, which exist for emergencies just like this, are sufficient for services to continue uninterrupted.”

-House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka [The Journal Record]

Number of the Day


Oklahoma response rate for 2020 Census, as of April 9, 2020

[Source: U.S. Census Bureau]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

As economy struggles amid coronavirus, low-wage workers of color taking a major hit: Because of a long history of occupational segregation, a term economists use, people of color more often work in industries that provide few benefits and chronically low pay. About 70 percent of the nation’s hotel maids are people of color — as are 57 percent of those working as restaurant head chefs and cooks, and 42 percent of all waitstaff. [NBC News]

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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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