In The Know: Eviction moratorium extended | Virus variant on the rise | Voters still waiting on SQ 781 investments

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

Five years later: Voters still waiting for SQ 781’s investments in mental health, substance use disorders: SQ 780 and its companion measure, SQ 781, were designed in the justice reinvestment mold: reduce spending on prisons, and invest those savings into treatment services for things like substance abuse and mental illness. SQ 780 helped to accomplish the first goal, but the 2021 legislative session marked the third budget without a corresponding investment that voters demanded. Though the Legislature has again failed to fund the treatments that SQ 781 statutorily required, we know that justice reform has measurably reduced the prison population and that mental health remains severely underfunded. There’s no getting around the fact that sustainable progress in public safety will require a much greater investment in substance abuse and mental health services than lawmakers have shown an appetite for so far. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]

OK Policy expands policy, data work through new hires, realignment: The Oklahoma Policy Institute has hired four new staff members to expand its work in child well-being, health care and revenue, and data analysis, as well as elevated two staff members to take new organizational roles, including helping manage policy initiatives for a new criminal justice collaborative. [OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma sees early summer spike in coronavirus cases: After months of declining coronavirus cases, Oklahoma is seeing a small, early summer spike as public health officials want more labs and hospitals to send samples to test for virus variants. The seven-day average of new cases rose to 190 on Thursday after dipping below 100 earlier this month. Several hotspots of active cases have popped up this week in Fort Sill, Miami and Ardmore. [Oklahoma Watch]

  • Oklahoma sees uptick in COVID-19 cases as faster-spreading delta variant alarms officials [The Oklahoman]
  • Increase in northeast Oklahoma COVID-19 cases attributed to neighboring states, Delta variant [Tulsa World]
  • “We are not out of the woods”: Experts warn of COVID-19 spikes in Oklahoma and beyond [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma doctor warns of rising coronavirus rate in state [AP News]
  • For kids too young for a COVID-19 shot, what’s safe this summer? Oklahoma doctors weigh in [The Oklahoman]

‘A breath of fresh air’: Local officials pleased with federal eviction moratorium extension: With the nationwide eviction moratorium now set to expire at the end of July, the city of Tulsa and its community partners are equipped with more time to provide continued support for tenants and landlords who have been uniquely affected during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World] Dr. Rochelle Walensky, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, extended the evictions moratorium until July 31. It had been scheduled to end June 30. [KFOR] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma.

  • Some renters have been waiting for rental assistance for months [Big If True]

Oklahoma remains in bottom 10 for child well-being: Oklahoma children remain in the nation’s bottom 10 when it comes to major health and well-being indicators, according to the 2021 edition of the KIDS COUNT Data Book. Oklahoma ranks 42nd overall for child well-being. The 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book — the most comprehensive annual report on child well-being in the United States — is based on the latest available data for 16 key indicators that include health, education, economic well-being, and family and community. [The Southwest Ledger]

Health News

Thousands of Oklahomans still eligible to register for expanded Medicaid: So far, over 120,000 Oklahomans have signed up online. However, many more citizens and residents who are eligible who have not yet registered for the expanded Medicaid. Oklahomans are being urged to check online if they are eligible. [The Black Wall Street Times]

Two reasons hepatitis C deaths in Oklahoma will likely decline: The hepatitis C situation in Oklahoma is rather dire: The state ranks third in the nation when it comes to deaths caused by hepatitis C, and transmissions are increasingly related to the opioid epidemic and young people who inject drugs who often don’t have health insurance. So why are health officials in the state suddenly optimistic about improving these numbers? As KGOU reports in a series of articles, two changes in Oklahoma have the potential to radically improve the hep C outlook. [Hep Magazine]

State Government News

Want to learn about Oklahoma’s congressional redistricting? Here’s how: State lawmakers and legislative redistricting staff will hold a series of town hall meetings this summer for Oklahomans to learn about the congressional redistricting process. Oklahomans will be welcome to attend, ask questions and offer suggestions at seven public meetings that kick off July 8 in Oklahoma City. There will be five in-person meetings — one in each of Oklahoma’s five congressional districts — and two virtual meetings. [The Oklahoman]

Unemployment report: Initial state claims decline while long-term trend in claims shows increase: Initial claims for unemployment benefits in the state declined by 20% last week from the previous week’s number, although longer-term trends show claims increasing, according to a government report. The U.S. Department of Labor said in its weekly report Thursday that 8,500 initial claims for regular state unemployment benefits were filed during the week ending Saturday, compared to a revised total of 10,614 claims the prior week. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Missing, murdered Indigenous investigations job left unfilled by feds in Oklahoma: The U.S. Department of Justice hasn’t had a missing and murdered Indigenous people case coordinator in Oklahoma since March, and the job may be cut altogether. The months-long vacancy raises questions about the strides the Department of Justice is making to address unsolved killings and disappearances of Indigenous Oklahomans. [The Oklahoman]

Tribal Nations News

Boom in Native American oil complicates Biden climate push: On oil well pads carved from the wheat fields around Lake Sakakawea, hundreds of pump jacks slowly bob to extract 100 million barrels of crude annually from a reservation shared by three Native American tribes. [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Man dies in holding area of Oklahoma County jail: Authorities say a man has died in the holding area of the Oklahoma County jail. The man was detained in the area at about 4 p.m. Thursday when staff saw that he was unconscious and provided medical assistance, jail officials said in a news release. [AP News]

Education News

Oklahoma state regents approve higher tuition, fees for 13 institutions: During the second day of their first in-person meeting of the year, the Oklahoma State Regents for Higher Education approved tuition and mandatory fee hikes this morning for 13 of the state’s 25 public colleges and universities. [NonDoc]

State suspends certificate of Western Heights Superintendent Mannix Barnes: During today’s State Board of Education meeting, board members suspended the educator certificate of Western Heights Public Schools Superintendent Mannix Barnes and requested an investigative audit of the OKC-area school district. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Tulsa City Council begins process to start collections from citywide Tourism Improvement District [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Reduced costs to clear City of OKC warrants extended to Dec. 31 [OKC Free Press]

Quote of the Day

“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, we had less than a third of the number of affordable rental units necessary to meet overall need. With the end of the CDC eviction moratorium, a tsunami of evictions would lead to a tsunami of homeless households.”

-City of Tulsa Housing Coordinator Kristin Maun, who said the latest eviction extension will provide more time for landlords and tenants to use essential resources like rental assistance and mediation to avoid the high cost of eviction to the community. [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Percentage of Oklahoma American Indian children who are uninsured, double the rate of the state average (9%).

[Source: 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book]

Policy Note

Mental Health and Substance Use Considerations Among Children During the COVID-19 Pandemic: During the COVID-19 pandemic, children have experienced major disruptions as a result of public health safety measures, including school closures, social isolation, financial hardships, and gaps in health care access. Many parents have reported poor mental health outcomes in their children throughout the pandemic – in May 2020, shortly after the pandemic began, 29% said their child’s mental or emotional health was already harmed; more recent research from October 2020 showed that 31% of parents said their child’s mental or emotional health was worse than before the pandemic. Some children have also exhibited increased irritability, clinginess, and fear, and have had issues with sleeping and poor appetite. As mental health issues become more pronounced among children, access to care issues may also be increasing. These access issues may exacerbate existing mental health issues among children. [Kaiser Family Foundation]

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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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