In The Know: Evictions pose serious issue as courts reopen; next reopening phase begins today; 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

Ask OK Policy: Pandemic worsened Oklahoma’s eviction crisis (Video): Evictions have been a growing problem in Oklahoma, and the COVID-19 pandemic has worsened the issue. Open Justice Oklahoma — a program of the Oklahoma Policy Institute — has been following the issue closely. Ryan Gentzler, Director of Open Justice Oklahoma, joined our Executive Director Ahniwake Rose to answer questions about evictions in Oklahoma. [OK Policy]

Reopening Oklahoma’s courts must be done thoughtfully to avoid a public health disaster: When the courts open, thousands of eviction cases will be awaiting resolution. How Oklahoma deals with these cases safely will determine whether thousands of residents will become homeless. Lacking a statewide solution to address the issue, these questions will be mostly left up to the discretion of each county. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]

Oklahoma schools should use federal Education Stabilization Funds to mitigate learning loss for low-income students: Oklahoma schools received nearly $145 million for PK-12 schools through the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act Elementary and Secondary School Education Relief Fund. Gov. Stitt will also receive approximately $38 million from the Governor’s Emergency Education Relief Fund to spend on significantly impacted school districts or higher education institutions. This funding is a response to the additional costs schools have incurred transitioning to distance learning and state budget cuts in the wake of COVID-19. [Rebecca Fine / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Gov. Stitt says state ready for Phase 2 reopening on Friday: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Thursday that the state is prepared for the second phase of reopening to start Friday in the midst of the coronavirus pandemic. Stitt said the state continues to see a downward trend in the numbers of hospitalizations and positive tests for COVID-19. [Tulsa World] Emphasizing the value of “courage” and “freedom,” Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt reiterated his administration’s belief that Friday is an appropriate day to implement phase two of its Open Up and Recover Safely plan. [NonDoc] Nursing homes should still prohibit visitors, and the elderly and other vulnerable populations should only leave home when necessary, under the Phase Two guidelines. [The Oklahoman]

  • Mayor David Holt has released Oklahoma City’s latest COVID-19 emergency order, allowing bars to reopen and lifting the 10-person limit on social gatherings effective Friday. [The Oklahoman]
  • In a news conference, Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum said Tulsa County now meets the criteria for the next phase of reopening. [Tulsa World]
  • Phase 2 of reopening Oklahoma set to begin Friday; a look at the numbers [Tulsa World]
  • Phase 2 starts Friday: What opens and what changes in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Phase 2 could see resumption of delayed funeral services [The Oklahoman]
  • Sports can start returning Friday, but not how they were before March 12  [Tulsa World]
  • Some Oklahoma casinos reopen with new safety protocols [The Journal Record]

First-time jobless claims filed in Oklahoma down 65% from record-setting high: First-time unemployment claims in Oklahoma declined 65% last week from the record-setting previous week. The U.S. Department of Labor reported Thursday that 32,794 Oklahoma workers filed initial claims for unemployment insurance benefits during the week ending Saturday. [Tulsa World] Nationally, the seasonally adjusted initial claims totaled 2.98 million, a decrease of 195,000 from the previous week’s revised level of 3,176,000. [The Journal Record]

COVID-19: Six more deaths reported as cases rise by 110 in Oklahoma: Six more Oklahomans died from COVID-19, bringing the state death toll to 284. State health officials reported the additional fatal cases Thursday morning, a day before Phase 2 of Gov. Kevin Stitt’s plan to roll back COVID-19 restrictions. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State Government News

Oklahoma House OKs bill to strip power from local officials: The Oklahoma House narrowly approved a bill on Thursday to strip some power during health emergencies from mayors and other local officials. The bill would make several changes to the Catastrophic Health Emergency Powers Act, conferring broad authority on the governor and others during health emergencies if the Legislature agrees. The bill now goes to the Senate. [AP News]

Oklahoma House votes to overturn State Health Department rule on vaccination exemptions: A new State Health Department rule requiring an “educational presentation” before receiving an exemption from childhood vaccinations was shot down Thursday afternoon in the Oklahoma House of Representatives. And, in a decision viewed dimly by many members from the state’s two largest metro areas, the House also moved to restrict the authority of local governments during public health emergencies such as the current COVID-19 epidemic. [Tulsa World]

Senator: Legislature should not ‘preempt’ Medicaid expansion vote: Senate lawmakers this week quietly passed a measure to expand Medicaid that critics say will be funded by squeezing many of the state’s already cash-strapped hospitals. Opponents also complained that lawmakers only approved Gov. Kevin Stitt’s SoonerCare 2.0 Medicaid expansion plan because they’re trying to preemptively thwart a citizen-led expansion question that will appear on the June 30 election ballot. [Enid News & Eagle]

Senator: Bill to allow use of campaign funds for personal expenses was offered to ‘prove a point,’ now withdrawn: A measure introduced in the Oklahoma Legislature this week that, if passed, would have allowed politicians to use campaign money for personal expenses was an attempt to prove a point in budget negotiations, its author told The Frontier. Hours after The Frontier published a story on Thursday evening about a proposed amendment by Sen. Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, to House Bill 3996 that would have removed the state’s prohibition on politicians using campaign money for personal expenses, Thompson withdrew the amendment from consideration. [The Frontier]

Stitt on veto overrides: ‘I’ve moved on’: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Thursday said he has “moved on” after Oklahoma’s Republican-controlled Legislature overturned his veto of the $7.7 billion budget for the upcoming fiscal year and several related bills. [The Oklahoman] “That kind of is in the past for me,” Stitt said. “And I wasn’t going to put my name on a budget that had a $1 billion structural deficit, so I am glad that is in the past. They overrode it. The Legislature owns that budget. The facts are the facts.” [Tulsa World] The governor particularly objected to decisions made by lawmakers to reduce the state’s contributions to pension funds over the next two years and to pull money away from road and bridge maintenance funds to redirect toward education. [The Journal Record]

Opponents of cut to affordable housing tax credits warn it will cost the state millions in new housing: A bill awaiting signature by Gov. Kevin Stitt would cut the affordable housing tax credit in half and could kill construction of several projects in Oklahoma City. [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Department of Public Safety to resume driving tests amid state reopening: The Oklahoma Department of Public Safety will resume driving tests at offices Friday as the state continues reopening. The agency will allow walk-ins for driver’s license and state ID processing after operating on appointments-only since May 1. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

Feds agree to help with COVID-19 outbreak tied to Texas County pork processing plant: State officials asked for federal help as they deal with a COVID-19 outbreak in Texas County, which has a population of less than 20,000. Oklahoma Air National Guard State Air Surgeon Col. Lance Frye said on Thursday the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention responded and will process up to 3,000 additional tests for the area if needed. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Horn opposes her party’s $3 trillion coronavirus relief package: U.S. Rep. Kendra Horn came out Thursday against her Democratic leaders’ latest coronavirus relief package, saying the $3 trillion bill was partisan and contained “political pet projects.” [The Oklahoman]

Federal court halts sale of product touted to treat COVID-19: A federal court in Muskogee on Thursday halted the sale of an unapproved colloidal silver product to treat COVID-19, the Department of Justice announced. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma County courts have 52 eviction cases on Monday docket: When the courts open Monday, 52 eviction cases will be on the docket in Oklahoma County. This is according to Judge Ray Elliott, presiding judge for Oklahoma and Canadian Counties who talked with Free Press by phone Thursday afternoon. [Free Press OKC]

Economy & Business News

State steps in to help beef producers: Oklahoma’s legislators are stepping in to assist the meat industry with what economists have called the worst supply chain problems it has ever faced. The state Senate on Tuesday unanimously passed House Bill 2008, meant to allow cattle producers to take processed products directly to the market, allowing virtual inspections and cataloging. [The Journal Record]

Oklahoma agriculture secretary speaks with KWGS about virus’ impact on meat processors: Blayne Arthur, Secretary of the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food and Forestry, spoke with KWGS about a new amendment to Governor Kevin Stitt’s coronavirus executive order, the COVID-19 outbreak at a pork plant in Guymon, and what her department is doing to try to maintain the food supply chain. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

State offers five calendar options for school year: The disruption COVID-19 has caused to schools is likely to continue into the new school year, and the state Education Department is asking school leaders to begin planning for it. Schools should adopt multiple calendars, one primary and others as contingencies, to adapt to the unfolding public health situation, according to recently updated guidance from the department. [Oklahoma Watch]

TPS, other districts to continue offering free meals to students this summer: Tulsa Public Schools and other local districts will continue to provide breakfast and lunch for students through the summer months. They began offering grab-and-go meals in March to prevent child hunger during the pandemic and the resulting school closures. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Two-thirds of Tulsa County COVID-19 deaths are people over age 65 [Tulsa World]
  • OKC streetcar ridership has plunged amid pandemic [NonDoc]
  • Facebook comment toward Norman mayor triggers threat probe [AP News]

Quote of the Day

“I fear that our non-profits will be further burdened. But, those who see people experiencing homelessness as problems won’t have had made the connection that the decision to not implement policy to protect against evictions is contributing to increased numbers experiencing housing instability.”

-Oklahoma City Ward 6 Councilwoman JoBeth Hamon [Free Press OKC]

Number of the Day


Eviction cases filed in Oklahoma courts since March 15, when Oklahoma entered a state of emergency, as of May 14, 2020. 

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Cancel the rent: Threadbare protections against many forms of destitution exist, whether it be unemployment assistance, Medicaid, or food stamps, but there are virtually no programs people can turn to in a housing emergency. There are charities here, or an emergency grant from a public agency there, but millions of ordinary people staring down the first of the month are on their own. [The New Yorker]

You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.


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.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.