In The Know: Oklahoma withdraws block grant | 320 prisoners infected | Protesters shut down Oklahoma County jail trust meeting

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Oklahoma withdraws block grant proposal following Medicaid expansion vote: The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has withdrawn plans to revamp part of the state’s Medicaid program under a block grant model. On Aug. 11, agency director Kevin Corbett rescinded the authority’s request for a waiver to charge premiums and impose work requirements on some Medicaid recipients. “The Oklahoma Health Care Authority has withdrawn the state’s application for the Healthy Adult Opportunity demonstration waiver,” said agency spokeswoman Katelynn Burns. “Due to the passage of State Question 802, the waiver application is no longer applicable to the Oklahoma Medicaid program.” [The Oklahoman]

Oklahoma seeks $300-a-week unemployment supplement: Out-of-work Oklahomans may see a $300 boost in their unemployment benefits. Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Monday the state has submitted an application to unlock additional federal funds to supplement state unemployment benefits. [The Oklahoman] Once the Federal Emergency Management Agency approves the state’s grant application, the federal government will fund the $300-per-week benefit and Oklahoma will fulfill the 25% state match through existing unemployment benefits, Stitt said. [AP News] But, under the application submitted by the state, Oklahoma will not be providing an extra $100 in weekly benefits as part of the required 25% match. Rather, the state will be utilizing funds it already pays out in regular unemployment compensation as its 25% match required under the program, which utilizes Federal Emergency Management Agency funding for the federal portion. [Tulsa World]

320 Oklahoma Prisoners Infected With COVID-19: An estimated 320 state prisoners have tested positive for COVID-19 in the past week. Dick Conner Correctional Center in Hominy and Mabel Bassett Correctional Center in McLoud are reporting the most cases. [KOSU]

  • 104 inmates at Mabel Bassett Correctional Facility test positive for COVID-19 [KFOR]
  • DOC reports COVID-19 outbreak at McLoud women’s prison [The Oklahoman]

‘Nobody did sh*t to prepare:’ Protestors shut down jail trust meeting: Protesters chanting “lock them up” shut down a meeting of the trust that oversees Oklahoma County’s jail on Monday. The Oklahoma County Criminal Justice had planned a special meeting on Wednesday to hear concerns from the public about Oklahoma County’s plans to use as much as $36 million of federal CARES Act funds for to improve conditions at the jail, but protesters demanded to be heard Monday instead, at times shouting through a bullhorn after the microphone at the public podium was cut off. [The Frontier] Chanting “Let Us Speak! Let Us Speak!,” the protestors interrupted the meeting when it became clear the county jail trust planned to discuss how to spend that money without public comment. [KOSU] Eventually, protesters were told they could address trustees, and Trust Chairwoman Tricia Everest said any decision around CARES Act dollars would be held off “until we’ve heard from you.” [The Oklahoman] The Jail Trust will meet again on Wednesday, August 19, at 3:00pm to take public comment again. Free Press OKC has been reporting on recent developments that led to the unusual meeting. [Free Press OKC]

Tyson Foods says it has ‘limited number’ of COVID; Health Department concerned about community, family spread: One of Garfield County’s major employers said its facility has seen cases of COVID-19, but a county health department spokeswoman said the spread in the Enid area currently seems to be traced mainly from weekend events and family gatherings. [Enid News & Eagle]

  • COVID-19: Tulsa County sees 2 more deaths as 369 new cases reported across Oklahoma [Tulsa World]

Health News

‘Dentistry is essential health care’: Despite WHO’s pandemic concerns, routine dental visits are safe, should continue, dentists say: Responding to a World Health Organization report last week that they fear might cloud the issue, dentists are urging patients to continue to seek routine dental care during the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World]

State Government News

Lawmakers describe details of closed-door Birx visit: A state representative said a federal health official only had time to take five or six questions during a highly touted stop Sunday in Oklahoma. The White House Coronavirus Task Force coordinator, only answered a handful of questions before she had to leave. The roundtable was held in a question-and-answer format where the people in attendance were encouraged to ask Birx questions, he said. [The Norman Transcript]

Board softens some rules on recommendations to Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority: A board recommended on Monday less stringent changes to Oklahoma’s medical marijuana program than some of the dozens initially proposed. One rule would have required labels on edibles to include a list of not only ingredients, but also any pesticides and chemicals used to grow and process the product’s marijuana extract. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Jury trials resume in Oklahoma County; most don’t last the day: On a day when jury trials resumed in Oklahoma’s largest county for the first time since March, Warren and Presiding Judge Ray Elliott finally got to put their COVID-19 safety plans to use. [The Oklahoman]

Economic Opportunity

Emergency rent assistance available through Tulsa Housing Authority; applications open Aug. 24: Up to $15 million in CARES Act funding may help Tulsans who need emergency assistance with unpaid rent due to job loss or income reduction. The Tulsa Housing Authority announced the program Monday, and applications will be open Aug. 24 through Sept. 4. [Tulsa World]

COVID-19 pandemic leads to increased food insecurity for more Oklahomans: New Census data released shows more American families need help making sure their children have enough food to eat. “It’s definitely alarming and it’s one of those data points that we are being very mindful of and we are keeping our finger on the pulse in our community,” said Lori Long, the Chief Executive Officer for the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma. [NewsOn6]

Economy & Business News

Pandemic forces Chaparral to file for bankruptcy: Oklahoma City-based Chaparral Energy has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, becoming the latest in a line of corporate victims devastated by COVID-19. [The Journal Record]

Education News

As schools, colleges reopen, some health experts worry: ‘Things could really change for the worse’: A sorority house at Oklahoma State. The Sooners football team. The faculty and staff of Broken Arrow Public Schools. All have been sites of recent coronavirus outbreak “clusters.” As more districts and universities bring students back to school buildings and campuses, epidemiologists and other public health experts are worrying that Oklahoma’s trends in new infections, which have been slowly tacking downward in recent days, could change course. [Public Radio Tulsa]

  • ‘Mask requirement key to keeping schools open’ takeaway for Hofmeister after Birx meeting [FOX25]
  • Beggs Public Schools requiring parents to sign COVID-19 liability waiver; state officials say such forms not “appropriate or allowable” [Tulsa World]
  • 5 Bixby teachers in quarantine, 1 positive for COVID as some students return [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OKCPS to host Facebook Live discussion to answer parent questions [News9]
  • Skiatook teacher resigns due to COVID-19 concerns [KFOR]
  • Admins at Briggs School taking it a day at a time [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Adapting education to a changed world [The Journal Record]
  • Higher Ed’s moment of truth [Inside Higher Ed]
  • Universities scramble to deal with virus outbreaks [AP News]
  • Big Ten parents call on league to play; OU has 9 positives [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • TU football practices on hold as 8 test positive for COVID-19 [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • OSU return brings COVID concerns [Stillwater News Press]
  • Are Oklahoma’s schools safe and ready? Help us tell your story. [Oklahoma Watch]

Schools have patchwork of federal meal requirements and waivers to navigate: The federal government has not advised whether schools must feed virtual students. State Department of Education Executive Director of Child Nutrition Jennifer Weber said the agency highly recommends that districts do. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Upcoming elections: Residents urged to vote early but not often: Vote early, but not often. That’s the advice for those planning to vote by mail in the Aug. 25 election, as well as for the Nov. 3 general election. “Mail it in seven days beforehand. We should have no issues getting it to the Election Board by the deadline,” said Jeff Bradley, president of American Postal Workers Local 1348. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma to print green absentee envelops to help USPS [AP News]

Super PACs tied to Broken Arrow organization failed to report primary election spending to Ethics Commission: Two political action committees that sought to oust a pair of incumbent state House Republicans during the June primary failed to report spending tens of thousands of dollars in the effort to state ethics officials. [The Frontier]

Oklahoma Local News

  • McAlester/Pittsburg County Emergency Management getting masks, PPE for area schools [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Back the Blue rally Sunday held to support police as “civic warriors” [Free Press OKC]
  • Tahlequah Council OKs special election to amend charter [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Tax increment financing district paid off nearly decade early in Claremore [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“Dr. Birx reminded us that in Oklahoma we could be just weeks away from that kind of spread. So, this was something we should take to heart. She really underscored that our schools K-12 have to be apart of our public response in flattening the curve.”

– State Superintendent Joy Hofmeister, on White House Coordinator Dr. Birx’s visit to Tulsa where she noted Oklahoma is a month behind seeing asymptomatic spread happening in other southern states. [Source: FOX25]

Number of the Day


Estimated Oklahoma adults and children missed by automatic payments who participate in SNAP and/or Medicaid

[Source: Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Black, Latino and poor people are less likely to get $1,200 coronavirus stimulus checks, new report says: The study, by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, concluded that while the rollout of the cash payments was a success in many ways, there were significant disparities by income, race, ethnicity and family citizenship in terms of who received the money. Just six in 10 adults (nearly 59 percent) with incomes at or below 100 percent of the federal poverty level reported receiving the payments. [USA Today]

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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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