In The Know: Gov. suggests cutting budgets, while lawmakers oppose cuts to core services during a pandemic; 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

Oklahoma’s prisons and jails require executive action to combat COVID-19: The COVID-19 crisis is having a terrible impact on prisons and jails across the nation, and Oklahoma’s corrections system desperately needs resources to stave off the risk of an outbreak here as well. Because social distancing is impossible in prisons and jails, those administering these facilities should develop immediate plans for the compassionate release for as many people as possible. [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

The Federal Government has taken significant action to shore up the unemployment insurance program — and there’s more Oklahoma can do: The CARES Act, passed recently by the federal government, includes a significant boost to unemployment insurance to help people who find themselves unable to work right now. Oklahoma could maximize the benefit of this relief package by reestablishing our work share program to better help workers who still have jobs, but with reduced hours. [Courtney Cullison / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Stitt says state agencies may face budget cuts. State lawmakers don’t plan to let that happen: Both Republican and Democratic state lawmakers fired back at Gov. Kevin Stitt after he said Tuesday he believes 1-2% budget cuts are needed to deal with the state’s current revenue shortfall. [The Oklahoman] “The Legislature will not authorize cuts to core services during a pandemic response because the public needs its services right now,” House Speaker McCall said. “The state’s reserves, which exist for emergencies just like this, are sufficient for services to continue uninterrupted.” [NonDoc] Stitt said he was discussing agency cuts and the best way to protect agencies going forward. He added that it was a good thing the Legislature has been fiscally conservative. [CNHI / Enid News & Eagle]

State reminds hospitals, public of strategic PPE reserves: In response to rumors and reports that some Oklahoma health care workers have been asked by their employers to use or re-use personal protective equipment outside of federal guidelines, Gov. Kevin Stitt held a press conference Tuesdayin front of the state’s PPE reserves to emphasize the availability of supplies for hospitals. [NonDoc] “I am cautiously optimistic that our hospitalizations are starting to flatten,” Stitt said. “We are seeing proof here in Oklahoma and across the country that our social distancing is working.” [Tulsa World] Oklahoma coronavirus confirmed cases: 1,472; 67 dead. [The OklahomanVisit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Oklahoma hospitals in ‘critical condition’: As hospitals across Oklahoma and the rest of the nation have had to eliminate elective surgeries and other routine services in order to slow the spread of COVID-19 and marshal resources to battle the pandemic, vital revenue streams also have been eliminated. The financial devastation wrought by the pandemic hasn’t been confined to smaller, rural hospitals. [The Journal Record] Oklahoma has 770 ventilators, 385 ICU beds on hand. [KFOR]

Stitt says his safer-at-home order is the same as a shelter in place, is it?: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday his safer-at-home order is essentially the same as shelter-in-place orders issued by the governors of California and New York. Although the directives share some similarities, Stitt’s safer-at-home policy mandates only those who are over age 65 or have “serious underlying medical conditions” must remain home. Most other governors are asking all residents, not just those who might be more susceptible to COVID-19, to stay home. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Oklahoma State Health Department now reporting new negative COVID-19 numbers from private labs: The Oklahoma State Department of Health announced on Monday more than 11,000 negative COVID-19 tests were processed by private labs dating back to early February. Due to newly reported data, the OSDH has identified 13,148 COVID-19 tests that have been administered in Oklahoma to date, dating back to February. [KFOR]

Oklahoma collected more medical marijuana tax last month than ever before: Tax collections from Oklahoma’s medical marijuana industry set a record high in March. Cannabis dispensaries generated $7.8 million in total tax revenues last month, according to the Oklahoma Tax Commission. It’s the highest total since the first tax dollars were reported in November 2018. [The Oklahoman]

With a drive-through set up for in-person filing at the Capitol, candidates can start signing up Wednesday: Candidate filing begins at 8 a.m. Wednesday for legislative seats, Congress and one Corporation Commission position. Candidates can mail in or use a delivery service to provide the required documents, but the paperwork must arrive by 5 p.m. Friday. [Tulsa World] Oklahomans who want to run for office at the federal or state level can file from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. today, Thursday and Friday this week. [NonDoc]

Criminal Justice News

Crowded prison system could fuel spread of deadly virus. Advocates call for ‘bold action’ from state: The Oklahoma Department of Corrections has stopped accepting nearly all transfers from county jails in a bid to slow the spread of COVID-19 and manage prison occupancy levels. But while arrivals have slowed, officials and justice reform advocates agree it is virtually impossible to practice social distancing in prisons. [Tulsa World] Nine Oklahoma organizations have come together to ask state officials to take urgent action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma corrections facilities. 

Five prison staff, 1 prisoner test positive for COVID-19: So far, five Department of Corrections employees and one prisoner have tested positive for COVID-19. The agency broke the news on the positive prisoner test and four of its employees on Tuesday. The infected prisoner is incarcerated at Jackie Brannon Correctional Center in McAlester. [StateImpact Oklahoma] Four staff members who work inside correctional facilities and one probation and parole officer have also tested positive. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma daycares demand transparency and direction from state leaders: Challenges include being unable to get supplies and not making enough money to stay open, so some daycares have closed because of the pandemic, but the ones that remain open tell Fox 25 Consumer Watch that they don’t know how much longer they can hold on. [KTUL] OK Policy: Child care plays pivotal role during health crisis.

Community bankers frustrated with PPP rollout: The SBA released guidelines for the loans late Thursday, just hours before the program went live on Friday morning. But on Friday, several community banks were not able to access the system in order to begin processing loans. [The Journal Record]

Staffers of The Oklahoman take unpaid furloughs: The coronavirus pandemic has hit many businesses hard, including newspapers. The parent company of The Oklahoman has instituted one-week unpaid furloughs for all its full-time employees for each of the next three months. [The Oklahoman]

Reasor’s recommends face masks for shoppers at grocery store chain: Reasor’s chain of Oklahoma grocery stores is urging customers to begin wearing face masks. [Tulsa World]

Economic Opportunity

Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. urges Governor and Oklahoma Supreme Court to protect Oklahomans from evictions amid ongoing COVID-19 pandemic: Oklahoma Disability Law Center, Inc. sent a letter Tuesday asking Gov. Stitt and the Oklahoma Supreme Court to investigate why eviction hearings are still taking place despite the Supreme Court’s March 27th order halting all but emergency civil proceedings and further imploring that they issue clear guidance forbidding evictions during this pandemic. [Oklahoma Disability Law Center] OK Policy: Policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Courts issue judgments in evictions cases: Cleveland County District Court is grappling with landlords who are seeking evictions and back payment of rent, court records reveal. Special District Judge Jequita Napoli granted judgment for five cases out of 19 which were filed on March 16 and heard by teleconference on April 1. [Norman Transcript]

Tulsa’s homeless outreach efforts shift into fight against COVID-19: While the rest of Tulsa shelters in place during the COVID-19 pandemic, the homeless population should, too, said Jessica Kelly, who leads the Mental Health Association’s Homeless Street Outreach program. For the time being, the outreach efforts have shifted from trying to help people escape homelessness to simply trying to help them avoid the virus. [Tulsa World]

Need increasing at food banks: “The Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma is in disaster response mode now,” said Cathy Nestlen with the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma during a Zoom interview Monday afternoon. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Death toll hits 16 at nursing homes, long-term care facilities: COVID-19 deaths associated with state nursing homes and long-term care facilities climbed to 16, the Health Department reported Tuesday. Grace Skilled Nursing and Therapy in Norman still has the most deaths. [The Oklahoman]

Local mental health nonprofit offering free therapy to workers on front line: The Green Shoe Foundation, a local mental health nonprofit, is offering free telehealth therapy sessions to medical professionals and first responders who are on the front lines of treating the coronavirus. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

Western Heights spars with state officials over ending meal service: State and city leaders have criticized a decision from Western Heights Public Schools to stop distributing free meals to students, leading the district superintendent to “double dare” two prominent officials to serve meals themselves. [The Oklahoman]

School districts look to end semester early to help students, prepare for possibility of continuing distance learning in 2020-21: Fifteen local superintendents participated in a flash survey last week that asked when they wanted to end the school year for students. Six leaned toward May 8, while five answered May 15. Two chose May 21, and two were undecided. [Tulsa World]

General News

Spanish-speaking residents seeking critical, timely outbreak updates: In all, an estimated 440,000 Oklahomans identified as Latino or Hispanic in 2019, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Hispanics make up the second largest group in the state behind whites. But advocates said the state is failing to provide current COVID-19 health information in Spanish. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

“Canceled” meeting acts on $5.5M in economic aid, land deal, TIFs: The Oklahoma City Economic Development Trust (OKCEDT) took action on $5.5 million in local economic aid, a land deal, and TIF spending Tuesday, March 31 in a meeting that was listed as “canceled” on public notices. [Free Press OKC]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Six COVID-19 cases linked to Oklahoma County party [The Oklahoman]
  • Residents in OKC and Oklahoma County can sign up for text message alerts [The Oklahoman]
  • City of Oklahoma City’s charter is being reviewed for possible changes [Free Press OKC]
  • City of Edmond announces amended Declaration of Emergency [FOX25]
  • Six more Tulsa County deaths reported; 1,472 cases now confirmed in Oklahoma [Tulsa World]
  • Residents should wear cloth face coverings when in public, Tulsa officials urge in COVID-19 update [Tulsa World]
  • 17 cases, 0 deaths: COVID-19 cases continue to climb in Rogers County [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • Pontotoc County cases climb to 9 as Mercy prepares for ‘influx’ [Ada News]

Quote of the Day

“We are seeing new clients, new households who have not dealt with needing food assistance in the past. We’re seeing anywhere from 25 to 35 percent new clients coming to our partner agencies.”

-Cathy Nestlen, Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Number of evictions files in Oklahoma as of April 7 since Oklahoma’s emergency declaration on March 15.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Renters are in a much tougher spot than homeowners: Rent was due for the first time since millions of Americans lost their jobs or incomes as the coronavirus pandemic shut down large swaths of the U.S. economy. There are eviction moratoriums stopping most renters from being tossed into the street. But Congress didn’t give renters a plan to defer payments and then get back on track in an affordable way. [NPR]

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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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