In The Know: Medicaid support from federal relief bills | Vaccination to be open to all 16 and over | Epic repayment deadline passes

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.

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma getting ‘a significant amount’ more in Medicaid money from federal relief bills: The Oklahoma Legislature’s appropriations chairmen are set to meet this morning with Oklahoma Health Care Authority staff about how additional federal Medicaid funding authorized by Congress and held by OHCA could affect next year’s state budget. The complicated situation stands as a potential X-factor for state leaders tasked with paying for Medicaid expansion, third-party managed Medicaid and a bevy of other budget items. [NonDoc]

Oklahomans 16 and over will be eligible for a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday: Every Oklahoman 16 and older will be eligible to receive a COVID-19 vaccine starting Monday, state officials announced, an expansion that will add an estimated 500,000 people. Tuesday’s announcement comes two weeks after state officials started Phase 3 of Oklahoma’s four-stage vaccine distribution plan, which dramatically expanded eligibility by opening appointments to critical infrastructure workers, as well as teachers and staff of schools outside of preK-12. [The Frontier] While the announcement is another significant step in the state’s COVID-19 response, a health department official said it’s not time to relax, as fewer than 600,000 Oklahomans have completed a full vaccination series. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • Chickasaw Nation Governor Bill Anoatubby: Another milestone toward defeating the pandemic [Op-Ed / The Oklahoman]
  • Chickasaw Nation’s COVID-19 response helped lower infection rates, tribal expert tells Congress [The Oklahoman]
  • Long-term care residents see hope returning after vaccination [KOSU]

State Board of Education’s deadline for $11.2 million repayment by Epic Charter Schools passes with no payment: Oklahoma State Department of Education officials say Tuesday’s deadline for Epic Charter Schools to repay $11.2 million passed without payment and they are considering next steps and reviewing Epic’s latest response to the state auditor’s findings. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Oklahoma extends state income tax deadline until June 15: Following the IRS’ lead, the state Tax Commission has extended the deadline for Oklahomans to pay their state income taxes without penalty by two months. April Gonzalez, a spokeswoman for the Tax Commission, said technically under law, Oklahomans still must file by April 15, however the agency won’t penalize anyone as long as they file their state returns by June 15. The IRS granted federal income tax extensions to Texas, Oklahoma and Louisiana filers following the February’s historic winter storm, which dumped snow and caused arctic temperatures and rolling power outages across much of the region. [CNHI via Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma state senator fires cousin after questions arise: An Oklahoma state senator hired his cousin to serve as his executive assistant, but then fired her after The Oklahoman inquired about whether the two were related. For months, freshman Sen. Shane Jett, R-Shawnee, employed his cousin, TaRena Reece, as his assistant, which may be prohibited by state law. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

State official highlights climate change as challenge for water systems: A top official at the Oklahoma Department of Environmental Quality testified before a U.S. Senate committee Wednesday that climate change threatens water system infrastructure across the country. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Private prison in Oklahoma set to close under Biden executive order: A private prison in Oklahoma is closing after an order from the Biden Administration to scale back the use of for profit institutions to detain federal prisoners. The GEO Group is planning to shut down The Great Plains Correctional Facility, its private prison in Hinton, in May in order to prepare for the federal drawdown. [KOSU]

Economic Opportunity

A year after pandemic hit, Tulsans still line up by the hundreds for free groceries: Food on the Move took over an entire parking lot at Oklahoma State University-Tulsa to mark the one-year anniversary of its drive-through giveaways, launched in March 2020 to help feed Tulsans who had been affected by the economic impact of COVID-19. The lines have grown longer, not shorter over the past 12 months, said the pastor of nearby Vernon AME Church. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Farmers may see dip in income, but experts say there are reasons to be optimistic: Farmers might make less money this year due to less assistance from the government and increased production costs. Farm income is estimated to be $112 billion in 2021 — $9 billion less than last year. In 2020, farmers and ranchers made a total of $121 billion, the highest amount since 2013. [KOSU]

Education News

Her son shared thoughts of suicide in a class paper. The school never told her: Oklahoma doesn’t mandate suicide prevention training in schools but recent cases of student suicides in Edmond has parents believing it should. [The Frontier]

Homeschooling nearly tripled in Oklahoma during the pandemic: During the pandemic, homeschooling grew in popularity for families across the country and more than doubled in 2020. The rate rose especially in Oklahoma. A U.S. Census Bureau survey reveals that Oklahoma had the fourth highest increase in homeschooling of any state. The rate of homeschool households in the state rose from 7.7 percent in the spring to 20.1 percent in the fall. [KOSU]

Editorial: Keep Oklahoma’s Promise to not add burdens to low-income families: The state shouldn’t break its promise to help thousands of low-income students working their way to a college degree. Created in 1992, the Legislature passed the Oklahoma Higher Access Learning Program, commonly called Oklahoma’s Promise, to assist more families in sending their children to college. The program closes the equity gap among marginalized populations. Students have improved their lives — and generations after them — by obtaining college degrees. Senate Bill 639 would change this opportunity by adding an unnecessary penalty. It would require any student in the program who doesn’t graduate within six years be required to pay the scholarship. It passed the Senate and has been sent to the House. [Editorial / Tulsa World]

General News

Commentary: Addressing anti-Asian hatred requires more than words: As the alarming news of hatred and violence has spread, I have been continually anxious for my family, friends and neighbors, worrying about their safety whenever they are in public spaces. The elders in my family, who have lived in Oklahoma since immigrating to the United States from Vietnam in 1983, are scared to go out of their homes alone. [Daniel X. Pham Op-Ed / NonDoc]

Listen To The Third Episode Of Focus: Black Oklahoma: We follow up on the Oklahoma City Black Lives Matter protestors who were charged with domestic terrorism last June and examine the so-called Second Amendment Sanctuary Laws recently passed by state legislators in defense of civil liberties. We also explore the Cherokee Nation ruling regarding the status of Freedmen and investigate the recent trend of racist attacks against Jewish and Asian Americans. [KOSU]

Muscogee (Creek) Nation lifts emergency coronavirus order: The Muscogee (Creek) Nation will lift the state of emergency they declared last year at the start of the pandemic. But even without the order, some safety measures will remain in place. [KOSU]

Oklahoma Local News

  • JoBeth Hamon: OKC at ‘an inflection point of asking what public safety means’ [NonDoc]
  • Oklahoma County Commissioner Carrie Blumert holds virtual town hall on spending, jail, county projects [OKC Free Press]
  • Lawton City Council repeals mask mandate, effective immediately [Lawton Constitution]
  • Phillips 66 cutting 75 jobs in Bartlesville, Oklahoma [Reuters]

Quote of the Day

“CDC reported that the presence of underlying health conditions such as type II diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease and chronic kidney disease significantly increase one’s risk for a severe COVID-19 illness. (American Indian/Alaska Native) populations are disproportionately impacted by each of these chronic health conditions.”

-William Smith of the Indian Health Board [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day

$1.1 billion

Estimated new statewide labor income as a result of Medicaid expansion [Source: National Center for Rural Health Works]

Policy Note

American Rescue Plan Act Strengthens Medicaid, Better Equips States to Combat the Pandemic: The American Rescue Plan Act gives states an additional financial incentive to expand Medicaid, strengthens coverage for current enrollees, and helps states weather the COVID-19 public health and economic crises. States can leverage the new funding and options to chart a course for a stronger and more equitable recovery. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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