In The Know: New program addresses food security for children | A closer look at Oklahoma’s fuel tax | Uninsured rate climbing even before pandemic

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.

New from OK Policy

School meals are a lifeline for Oklahoma families. P-EBT extends that lifeline to ensure children get the food they need: Food insecurity is a major issue in Oklahoma. Prior to the pandemic, 1 in 5 children lived in households where access to food wasn’t always reliable. Now, due to the broad economic impact of COVID-19, it is projected that in 2020, 1 in 3 Oklahoma children will be food insecure. Though schools are working tirelessly to continue to provide these meals, accessing those meals requires caregivers to take time away from work and have reliable transportation, two things many struggling families can’t afford. The good news is that a new program is providing some temporary relief. [Jessica Dietrich, Guest Post / Hunger Free Oklahoma]

Interim study considers proposed state race and equality commission (Capitol Update): A short interim study was held last week on Senate Bill 1286 that was introduced by Sen. George Young, D-OKC, at the beginning of last session. The bill would have created a 30-member Oklahoma Commission on Race and Equality to serve as a resource and clearinghouse for research and give advice on issues related to racial discrimination and bias to state agencies and employees, communities, organizations, and businesses of Oklahoma that desire it. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Oklahoma News

Oklahoma ups fuel tax at wrong time for revenue boost; new model likely needed to fund roads, experts say: Did Oklahoma raise its state tax rates on motor fuel, tobacco, and oil and gas production just in time for them to become obsolete? With a sharp and perhaps persistent decline in demand for petroleum products and the punitive levy on tobacco doing exactly what it was intended to do, the 2018 tax package agreed upon amid so much acrimony, anguish and debate may not turn out to be the long-term revenue boost hoped for. [Tulsa World]

Health News

Even before pandemic struck, more US adults were uninsured: About 2.5 million more working-age Americans were uninsured last year, even before the coronavirus pandemic struck, according to a government report issued Wednesday. The study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 14.5% of adults ages 18 to 64 were uninsured in 2019, a statistically significant increase from 2018, when 13.3% lacked coverage. The increase in the uninsured rate came even as the economy was chugging along in an extended period of low unemployment. [AP News via Tulsa World]

Tulsa’s COVID-19 cases show improvement despite lack of mask mandate in suburban, rural areas where uptick continues: Tulsa’s share of COVID-19 cases in the county has dropped about 7 percentage points since late August. The city of Tulsa accounted for 59% of the county’s cases the week of Sept. 20 and 58.5% the week of Sept. 13. The city’s peak since the Tulsa Health Department began tracking data in this fashion since Aug. 2 was 66.1% the week of Aug. 23. Bruce Dart, THD executive director, during a news conference Monday said he still recommends mask mandates in the suburbs and across Oklahoma. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

$17 million in federal funds coming to Oklahoma for road, bridge repairs after record flooding: Oklahoma will receive millions in federal emergency relief funding for roads and bridges after damage caused by last year’s record flooding. The funds are part of an overall $574 million funding package under a U.S. Department of Transportation’s Federal Highway Administration program, according to a news release. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Health Department paying public relations firm $15K a month: The Oklahoma State Department of Health will pay a private public relations company about $15,000 a month to handle most of the state’s COVID-19 crisis communications through the end of the year. The state agency has agreed to pay Saxum an initial $60,000 fee to handle media and social media support, content creation and other communication needs related to the ongoing pandemic from Sept. 3 through Dec. 31, according to a copy of the contract obtained by CNHI Oklahoma through an open records request. [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix] Editorial: Communication lines must remain open in COVID-19 outbreak [Editorial / Enid News]

Criminal Justice News

Tulsa Mayor’s Office selects Tulsa Police administration manager for Tulsa Municipal Court Administrator: Tulsa Mayor G.T. Bynum announced Tuesday his selection for the city’s Municipal Court administrator, a longtime city employee who most recently worked as an administration manager for Tulsa Police and oversaw its budget. Cheri Harvell is filling a role vacated through a retirement. [Tulsa World]

Interim sheriff appointed in Delaware County: Delaware County Commissioners on Tuesday appointed retired Northeastern Oklahoma A&M police chief, former Grove police chief and former Jay mayor Mark Wall as interim sheriff. Wall was appointed by a 2-1 vote after a three-hour executive session. His appointment is from Oct. 1 to Jan. 3, 2021, and fulfills the term of Harlan Moore, who is retiring Sept. 30. [Tulsa World]

Economy & Business News

Black east side business owners say pandemic is threatening OKC area’s economic revival: A group of Black business owners say they are struggling with qualifying for a city assistance program created to soften the economic blow from the COVID-19 pandemic. Their plea for help on Tuesday coincided with the Oklahoma City Council adding $9.25 million in CARES Act funding to the business continuity program, and the unveiling of a plan by the Greater Oklahoma City Chamber to address economic inequality and racism. [The Oklahoman]

‘A female-forward network’ — Oklahoma women help found group to provide business, political career advancement: Multiple Oklahoma women helped found a new national organization dedicated to providing resources, training and connections so women can begin to hold more positions of power in politics and business. The group, VEST, launched Tuesday and will offer women across the country executive, professional and personal development, as well as access to partner organizations that can provide career advancement opportunities. [The Oklahoman]

Education News

TPS urgently working to locate ‘disconnected’ students during distance learning: About 20% of Tulsa Public Schools students did not connect to distance learning during the first week of the 2020-21 school year, though that number improved significantly a few weeks later. District administrators say the district has been working urgently to locate “disconnected” students so far this year, meaning those whom TPS hasn’t seen or heard from since distance learning began on Aug. 31. [Tulsa World]

Commentary: COVID-19 on campus: An OU student shares her experience with the virus: But even before I contracted COVID, it had been a strange semester. OU’s campus had lost some of its neighborly charm since in-person classes resumed in late August. Students, faculty and staff were nervous to be in such close proximity, unsure that the university’s measures of infection rates were reliable. But all of that faded further from consciousness as my body took a severe beating. [Commentary / NonDoc]

General News

Census count extended to Oct. 5: Oklahomans are urged to complete the U.S. Census as soon as possible despite federal guidance that the deadline has been extended to Oct. 5. U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross announced Monday the Census deadline had been pushed back to Oct. 5 after a federal judge in California struck the Sept. 30 deadline for the count of U.S. residents. [The Oklahoman]

Editorial: You have to be registered before you can vote: The advice may sound like a broken record to many readers, but it’s about the most important imperative we can offer. If you’re not registered to vote in the Nov. 3 general election, do it now. You still have a little bit of time – until Oct. 9. [Editorial / Tahlequah Daily Press]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Council defers vote on whether to pursue panhandling case [The Oklahoman]
  • City of Edmond seeks input for launch of east Edmond 2050 Plan [The Oklahoman]

Quote of the Day

“The pandemic is devastating our emerging economic ecosystem and placing our renaissance at risk… This has made the businesses that are the backbone of our economy that much more vulnerable to closure.”

-Quintin Hughes, an OKC business owner and board member of Northeast Renaissance OKC, speaking about the need for pandemic-related business assistance [The Oklahoman]

Number of the Day


Percentage of uninsured adults ages 18-64 who say they aren’t covered because insurance is not affordable – by far the most common reason for not having coverage. The percentage of uninsured adults who were uninsured because coverage was not affordable increased with age, from 66.8% among those aged 18–29 to 80.9% among those aged 50–64.

Sources: National Health Interview Survey, 2019

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Coronavirus pandemic is closing Black-owned businesses at an outsized rate: Though all small businesses have been battered during the coronavirus pandemic — between government shutdown orders, suddenly high unemployment rates and consumer spending worries — Black-owned businesses have felt it especially hard. The number of active Black-owned businesses fell 41% from February to April by one count, compared to a 22% overall decline. These businesses have been hit with a vicious one-two punch, according to new findings from the Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Black-owned businesses happen to be located in COVID-19 hot spots and they didn’t get much protection from the stimulus bill’s Paycheck Protection Program. [MarketWatch]

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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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