In The Know: Monday meeting could resolve state budget impasse; agencies discuss impacts from cuts; 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

(Guest Post) ‘Safe at Home’ slows virus outbreak, but endangers domestic violence survivors: As Oklahoma families hunker down in their homes because of the COVID-19 outbreak, many domestic violence advocates are bracing for the increase in family violence. While essential for public health, the so-called “safe at home” policies have isolated domestic violence survivors with their abusers under tense conditions making them, ironically, less safe at home. [Molly Bryant of DVIS / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Budget flap between governor and legislative leaders could be resolved MondayThe Board of Equalization is set to hold a special meeting Monday and could consider action preventing cuts to state agencies. If the panel declares a revenue failure, it likely would resolve a lawsuit that legislative leaders filed earlier in the week in a budget dispute with Gov. Kevin Stitt, who chairs the Board of Equalization. [Tulsa World] The Oklahoma Supreme Court on Thursday laid out the next steps in a lawsuit aimed at forcing a resolution on the state budget shortfall, putting the case pitting legislative leaders against the governor on a fast track. Hours after after the Supreme Court order was released, a notice was posted saying a special meeting of the board had been scheduled for Monday at 3 p.m. [The Oklahoman]  

Safety and judicial agencies: Cuts discussed, effects reflect ‘how ill-prepared we were’: Turmoil related to the COVID-19 crisis is disrupting proactive programs, exacerbating budget issues and requiring the re-prioritization of efforts within Oklahoma’s public safety and judicial agencies. [NonDoc] Senate and House lawmakers who are members of a joint appropriations subcommittee on public safety and the judiciary met on Thursday to discuss budget cuts that likely will be unavoidable in fiscal year 2021, which begins July 1. The state already faces a revenue failure for the current fiscal year estimated at $450 million. [The Journal Record]

First-time unemployment claims decline for first time since COVID-19 hits economy: The state has paid out $138 million in unemployment insurance claims so far in April as weekly first-time claims appear to have peaked for the time being. The $138,083,860 disbursed by the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission through Wednesday compares to $33,544,251 paid out in all of March, when first-time claims began to increase to historic levels. [Tulsa World] New claims filed during both March and April dwarf previous months’ claims, which were averaged around 8,200 new claims per month over the past year, according to the data. [The Frontier] Success in dramatically reducing call center wait times has enabled the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission to increase training of Tier 2 claims service agents. [Tulsa World] Meanwhile, various businesses this week announced they are temporarily or permanently cutting their staffs as the coronavirus pandemic and other factors continue to impact the state’s economy. [The Oklahoman]

Budgets for Oklahoma cities could be hardest hit in country due to coronavirus: Cities across Oklahoma are poised to take a worse financial hit than anywhere else in the country due to the economic fallout from COVID-19. That’s because Oklahoma is the only state in the country that ties city budgets so close to sales tax, according to mayors across the state. [News9] When will your city feel the fiscal impact of COVID-19? The Brookings Institute identified Oklahoma City and Tulsa as cities that will most immediately feel the pandemic impacts due to the relative importance of sales tax in their budgets. [Brookings Institute]

Eight more deaths reported in Oklahoma; 2,357 cases confirmed statewide: The Oklahoma State Department of Health said Thursday it received eight more reports of deaths related to the novel coronavirus, three of which occurred within the past 24 hours. [Tulsa World] The Oklahoma State Department of Health has added a new symptom tracker to its website. [KTUL] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.


Health News

Experts: Oklahoma, among nation’s unhealthiest states, faces heightened risks for COVID-19: What concerned Dr. Mark Doescher, who practices family medicine, was the types of patients he was seeing. They tended to be older and had “some major things going on,” he said. Those included cancer, heart or lung disease, obesity and other underlying conditions that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, can heighten the risks of developing a severe illness or dying from COVID-19. [Oklahoma Watch]

Models project less severe toll from virus, but are stalked by unknowns: Three weeks later, the projections remain grim and many people are bracing for a blow. Many politicians and public health experts are optimistic, however, though not without reservations. They say the limits on nonessential businesses, social gatherings and personal interactions are working but must remain at least until the end of April. [Oklahoma Watch]

State Medical Examiner’s Office confirms an increase of 20- to 40-year-old deaths amid pandemic: The Oklahoma State Medical Examiner’s Office has confirmed that they have seen an increase of deaths caused by pneumonia and coronavirus-like symptoms in individuals ages 20-40 in the past few months, who were not tested for COVID-19 before their passing. [KJRH]

Medical groups express strong reservations about elective surgeries: The Oklahoma Hospital Association on Thursday came out against Gov. Kevin Stitt’s goal of resuming elective surgeries next week, saying the focus should remain on preserving resources to fight the pandemic. [The Oklahoman]

PPE orders slow to arrive: Oklahoma is spending millions of dollars on personal protective equipment from as far away as China, but orders — particularly of critical N95 masks — have been delayed. [The Oklahoman]

Nursing homes account for nearly one-third of Oklahoma’s COVID-19 deaths: 36 deaths from COVID-19 in Oklahoma have come from nursing homes and long term care facilities. The most recent death marks the first in a state-run nursing home for veterans. [KOSU]

Strike teams set up to help nursing homes: The Oklahoma Health Department has created “strike teams” to help nursing homes and long-term care facilities as outbreaks continue despite precautions in place for more than a month. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Going back to work? Board of Health deliberates over plan to lift restrictions: With mixed views on how and when “nonessential” businesses should reopen, members of the Oklahoma City-County Health Department’s Board of Health tried on Thursday to pinpoint what criteria should be used in determining when Oklahomans can go back to work. [The Journal Record] ‘Work conquers all’: Protests erupt in state capitals nationwide over coronavirus restrictions. [USA Today]

Oklahoma Senate approves bill coordinating transportation agencies: One bill halfway through the Oklahoma statehouse is intended to improve coordination between the state’s two road agencies. The Senate voted unanimously to advance a bill that is described to coordinate resources of the Oklahoma Turnpike Authority with the Oklahoma Department of Transportation. It now moves to the House. [Land Line]

Oklahoma attorney general anticipates increased litigation against the state due to COVID-19 decisions: Oklahoma Attorney General Mike Hunter said Thursday he anticipates additional litigation stemming from the decisions that were made in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. [Tulsa World]

Recovered legislator donates plasma: On Thursday, Sen. Paul Rosino, R-Oklahoma City, donated plasma at the request of the Oklahoma Blood Institute. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government News

Federal underfunding of public health cutting into Oklahoma efforts: Oklahoma spent almost $172 million on public health in fiscal year 2019 — up 12% from the year before — but cuts at the federal level are undermining progress. Trust for America’s Health Executive Vice President and COO Nadine Gracia said the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s overall funding has been essentially flat since 2011, and its $2 billion a year public health grant fund is getting less than half its intended funding from Congress. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Senators Lankford, Inhofe named to COVID-19 economic recovery task force: Oklahoma Sens. Jim Inhofe and James Lankford have been named to the Task Force on Economic Recovery, according to a news release. The bipartisan group of members from the House and Senate will reportedly advise President Donald Trump on “the re-opening of America in the wake of COVID-19.” [Tulsa World]

Criminal Justice News

Oklahoma inmates tense as prisons become COVID-19 hotbeds: Prison is one of the most risky places to be during a viral pandemic. Doctors around the country who are familiar with prison and jail environments say prison conditions will only accelerate the coronavirus’ spread. [KOSU] Organizations in Oklahoma, including OK Policy, have urged elected officials and state officials to take urgent action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma Corrections facilities.

111 prisoners released in Oklahoma, but not due to COVID-19: Oklahoma state prisons began releasing 111 prisoners Thursday by order of Governor Kevin Stitt. Prompted by a legislative committee question, Department of Corrections director Scott Crow said the releases aren’t related to the COVID-19 pandemic. [KOSU] Oklahoma organizations have urged Gov. Stitt to approve commutations to decrease prison overcrowding and reduce the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak.

Ginnie Graham: Petition reflects concerns about public health outbreaks in Oklahoma prisons: Families of prisoners fear for the health of loved ones behind bars. That’s not an unfounded reaction to the deadly COVID-19 virus. National reports from jails and prisons show difficulties in halting the fast-moving community spread. [Ginnie Graham / Tulsa World]

Group confident about vote on SQ 805: Despite a setback caused by the coronavirus, a vote is likely to be held this year on a state question lobbied for by criminal justice reform advocates, the president of the Yes on 805 Campaign said. State Question 805 would ask Oklahomans if the state should throw out policies of lengthening or otherwise “enhancing” sentences handed down in cases when defendants have previously been convicted of nonviolent felonies. [The Journal Record]

Education News

Coronavirus pandemic will likely shrink Oklahoma Teach for America Corps: The more than 200 Teach for America Corps members working throughout Oklahoma are continuing to work with their students wherever possible. When Oklahoma shifted to distance learning only on April 6, they made the move with the rest of the state. [StateImpact Oklahoma]

TPS’ latest proposal to reorganize Indian Education Committee set to go before board: The Tulsa Public Schools Indian Education Committee endorsed the district’s latest proposal to reorganize its Indian Education Program during a virtual meeting Tuesday evening. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Gov. Stitt joins other governors seeking waiver of renewable fuel blending requirements: Governors from five states including Oklahoma are asking Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Andrew Wheeler to issue an expedited waiver of federally required renewable volume obligations for fuel blending. [The Oklahoman] On Wednesday, the governors of Texas, Oklahoma, Utah and Wyoming asked the Trump administration for a nationwide waiver reducing the oil-refining industry’s obligations to blending laws, adding heft to a similar request made by Louisiana the week before. [Reuters]

General News

The 2020 Census: The necessity of being counted: Black communities across the U.S. have historically been undercounted in the Census, with poverty and housing insecurity being among the top reasons why African-Americans are disproportionately undercounted. When Black communities are undercounted, they end up being underrepresented and resources are distributed to wealthier white neighborhoods. [Tulsa Star] 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. 

Tulsa World editorial: Okahomans need to take five minutes and fill out the census form: Oklahomans are being slow in filling out their census forms. Make sure you count. It takes less than five minutes and can be done online or by phone. Results determine much of what happens in the next decade. [Editorial Board / Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • Detention officer dies after on-duty medical episode at jail, Tulsa County Sheriff’s Office says [Tulsa World]
  • Tulsa’s Sobering Center reopens after temporary closure during COVID-19 outbreak [Tulsa World]
  • Mayor Bynum says he’s taking Obama’s advice about asking experts questions in a crisis [Tulsa World]
  • Broken Arrow officials form task force to restart economy [KTUL]
  • Muskogee woman dies of COVID-19 [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Muskogee health department begins testing every day, warns of false negatives [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Garfield County COVID-19 cases up by 2; numbers continue to climb statewide [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Senator Lankford discusses COVID-19 issues with Enid leaders [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Area nursing center reports death of staff member, positive test of resident [Woodward News]
  • Comanche council member resigns, parks get needed fogger [Duncan Banner]
  • National Guard helping Pittsburg County Health Department [McAlester News-Capital]
  • 30 tested at Marietta drive-thru testing center [KXII]

Quote of the Day

“My son received commutation in December 2019 is still sitting in prison with the virus knocking on the door.”

-Comment gathered during an online petition asking for commutations in order to slow COVID-19 spread in prisons [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Number of new unemployment claims filed in Oklahoma during the week ending April 11, 2020, a 19% decline from the prior week when 60,534 filed for unemployment insurance.

[Source: U.S. Department of Labor]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

The safety net got a quick patch. What happens after the coronavirus? Those who support more government help for low-income families say the crisis has revealed holes in the safety net that the needy have long understood. It is a patchwork system, largely built for good times, and offers little cash aid to people not working. It pushes the poor to find jobs, and supports many who do, but offers little protection for those without them. [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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