In The Know: Examining pandemic’s impact on Oklahoma unemployment; eviction cases backing up in courts; 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.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  Saturday, May 9 | Sunday, May 10

New from OK Policy

Ask OK Policy: How the pandemic has impacted unemployment in Oklahoma (Video): During the last two months, the OK Policy team has been looking at state and federal policies that impact Oklahomans during this national health emergency. We wanted to take an opportunity to do a deeper dive into some of those issues. For this discussion, we provided an opportunity for the public to share questions about unemployment insurance. Executive Director Ahniwake Rose joined our Economic Opportunity Analyst — Courtney Cullison — to answer your questions. [YouTube]

Drafting a budget during uncertain times (Capitol Update): Given the substantial information gap under which legislators were operating, they did a good job of writing and passing the state budget last week. The budget reflects tremendous work by the appropriations committee members — especially the respective chairmen, Sen. Roger Thompson and Rep. Kevin Wallace and their subcommittee chairmen — during the period legislators were marking time at home waiting for the session to resume. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

“We are petrified”: Service agencies prepare for flood of evictions: For the social service agencies working to house struggling Oklahoma County residents, the next several months look grim. Oklahoma County’s district court reopens May 18, meaning eviction cases will be heard again. Homeless Alliance Director Dan Straughan said the economic devastation from COVID-19 will likely “drive the unsheltered homeless number right through the roof.” [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt spars with state AG, lawmakers, tribes during second year: After enjoying a relatively smooth first year, Gov. Kevin Stitt has landed on an increasingly rocky pathway with lawmakers and Attorney General Mike Hunter. During his first year in office, Republican lawmakers enthusiastically granted Stitt, also a Republican, widespread powers over five agencies. [Tulsa World]

Some Oklahomans feel strongly about face masks: In a land where people pride themselves on hospitality and lending a helping hand, where a venerated few are old enough to talk proudly about emerging from the Dust Bowl as a stronger state, where most can recall how the Oklahoma City bombing and devastating tornadoes brought strangers together, Oklahomans are tearing each other apart over a piece of fabric. [The Oklahoman]

Confirmed virus cases in Oklahoma surpass 4,500, 272 deaths: The number of confirmed cases of coronavirus in Oklahoma has surpassed 4.500 and with two more deaths due to COVID-19, the disease caused by the virus, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Sunday. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma’s COVID-19 Death toll climbs; more testing planned. [AP News via US News]  Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

State Government News

State officials dispute assertions that unemployment agency discourages claims: The surge in workers out of a job due to the COVID-19 pandemic has exposed outdated unemployment systems across the U.S. But has it also revealed a system designed to discourage collecting unemployment? While OESC denies such allegations, that seems to be the takeaway from some. [Tulsa World]

OSBI launches unemployment fraud task force: Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation has launched an Unemployment Fraud Task Force, comprised of state and federal partners to investigate fraudulent unemployment claims in Oklahoma and identify those responsible for the criminal activity. [Enid News & Eagle]

Op-Ed: Oklahomans may be less divided on expanding mail-in voting than state lawmakers: Last Monday, the Oklahoma State Supreme Court declared that voters do not need to have their application for an absentee ballot notarized. The ruling removed a key barrier to Oklahomans accessing mail-in ballots for upcoming elections. Requiring notarization is cumbersome during a pandemic, when limited contact with others is needed to prevent the spread of disease. [Matt Motta and Joshua Jansa Op-Ed / Tulsa World] OK Policy: Lawmakers had the opportunity this week to take a stand for election integrity — they chose not to.

Decision time approaches for Oklahoma regulators on question of mandated reduction of produced oil: Oklahoma regulators will hold a hearing Monday whether to support a request of an oil and gas group to order reduced production of crude oil statewide, despite a 1988 Oklahoma Supreme Court ruling that said the Corporation Commission does not have the authority to issue such a ruling. [OK Energy Today]

Federal Government News

McGirt v. Oklahoma arguments set for U.S. Supreme Court: On Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in the case of McGirt v. Oklahoma, a case that will decide whether much of Oklahoma is an Indian Reservation. KOSU’s Allison Herrera spoke with Sarah Deer, a citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation of Oklahoma and a professor at the University of Kansas. Deer co-authored an amicus brief in this case and is an expert in tribal criminal law. [KOSU]

Health News

When outbreak hit Grove nursing home, community’s response was ‘not great.’ Then things changed, administrator says: When the COVID-19 virus hit a Grand Lake nursing home — attacking almost 75% of its population and leaving it with a 30% mortality rate — most of the facility’s workers felt the community’s ire. But that quickly changed. State Rep. Josh West, R-Grove, got involved and the nursing home began receiving personal protective equipment (PPE), he said. West also brought in a 10-person team of National Guard members to the nursing home Thursday. [Tulsa World] Active resident cases of COVID-19 at Grove home down to eight. [Joplin Globe]

Oklahoma nursing homes seek financial relief during COVID-19 pandemic: Care Providers Oklahoma President and CEO Steven Buck said the group is supporting a request by care facilities nationwide for $10 billion out of $175 billion in a provider relief fund created by the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Health officials urge all Oklahomans to get COVID test: The state health department is now encouraging all Oklahomans to get tested for COVID-19. That’s why coronavirus testing is now available at every county health department in southern Oklahoma. [KTEN]

Economy & Business News

Pandemic is having wide-ranging impact on food industry: One of the industries hardest hit by the coronavirus pandemic has been the food industry. From restaurants to meat producers, the impact has been felt across Oklahoma and the United States. [CNHI via Stillwater News-Press

NBA allows facilities to open for players but Chesapeake Arena remains closed: May 8 was the day the NBA said teams could open up facilities to players. The Oklahoma City Thunder had no change as their facility remained closed. [FOX25]

Education News

School districts determined to honor graduating seniors in any way possible as rescheduled ceremonies remain at risk: There’s still a chance to host a traditional ceremony this summer if social distancing sanctions are lifted in time, which would make this extra effort unnecessary. But educators don’t have time to wait and see what happens. Too much uncertainty remains with what the world will look like in a month or two, a Jenks Public Schools spokesman said. [Tulsa World]

General News

In 13 states, Census Bureau To resume hand-delivering forms, hiring workers: Certain local Census offices in Alabama, Alaska, Arkansas, Idaho, Maine, Mississippi, Montana, North Dakota, Oklahoma, Tennessee, Utah, Vermont and West Virginia resumed operations last week, the Census Bureau announced last Monday. [NPR

US Census stirs uncertainty for those displaced by virus: It’s not meant to be a trick question, but many filling out their 2020 U.S. census form struggle to answer: How many people were staying at your home on April 1? The pandemic has fostered sudden, unexpected dislocation, making a typically easy question confusing for the newly displaced. [AP News] 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. Visit to learn more. 

Oklahoma Local News

  • Oklahoma City to decide on incentive package that would bring over 1,000 new jobs [FOX25]
  • Revenue shortfalls impact the City of Lawton budget [Lawton Constitution]
  • Texas County confirms 57 new positive COVID-19 cases [ABC7]

Quote of the Day

“For months and months and months this will be a problem. The system is not equipped, not equipped to handle that.”

-Homeless Alliance Director Dan Straughan speaking about the blacklog of eviction cases filed in Oklahoma while courts were ordered closed [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Eviction cases filed in Oklahoma courts since March 15, when Oklahoma entered a state of emergency

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The $600 unemployment booster shot, state by state: Unemployment benefits are typically meant to keep people afloat but stay low enough to incentivize them to find a job. Now, when seeking work may be both fruitless and dangerous, the incentives have nearly reversed. [New York Times]

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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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