In The Know: Oklahomans struggling with housing costs, evictions increasing; groups sue over absentee ballot law; 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. 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

Ask OK Policy: Pandemic highlights importance of child care in Oklahoma: Child care is foundational to our state’s economy, but the pandemic created a large impact on our child care industry. More than one-third of child care providers have been forced to temporarily close, and estimates show 60 percent of providers are at risk of permanently closing without additional support. OK Policy Education Analyst Rebecca Fine joined Executive Director Ahniwake Rose to discuss issues confronting child care providers, as well as policy solutions that can support child care in Oklahoma. [OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Child care vital to economic recovery: Some front-line workers had to make the choice between earning a paycheck and endangering their family’s health. This is one of the many vital ways that child care is critical to Oklahoma’s economy. Without adjusting support for the child care industry, however, efforts to restart our economy are sure to stall unless assistance is provided to our child care providers. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

More than a third of surveyed Oklahomans report struggling to make housing payments: COVID-19 is having a devastating impact on the finances of many Oklahoma households, with 36.2 percent of online survey participants reporting they either missed last month’s rent or mortgage payment or they had little confidence in their ability to make next month’s payment. Nearly half of Oklahomans surveyed — 47.6 percent — reported someone in their household had experienced a loss of income since March 13, and 8.7 percent of household adults reported that either sometimes or often they had not had enough food to eat within the last 7 days. [The Oklahoman]

Nearly 200 evictions filed Monday as Oklahoma County courthouse reopens: When the Oklahoma County courthouse reopened Monday, almost 200 new eviction cases were filed. With 191 cases filed Monday and over 100 more since, it took only three days for over half as many evictions to be filed as were filed in total over the last two months, according to Open Justice Oklahoma, a program with the Oklahoma Policy Institute that is tracking evictions in the state. Total cases filed in Oklahoma County since March 15 number over 740 as of Wednesday, according to the court tracker. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Evictions could pose a potential public health disaster.

As coronavirus spreads, Oklahoma’s largest jails could increase testing: Staff inside the Comanche County Detention Center knew they had a problem when the number of prisoners infected with COVID-19 reached 18 in early May. The more prisoners they tested, the more positive results came back until they’d hit more than 100 infections in about 10 days. The jail’s administrator said most of the prisoners showed no symptoms. None were hospitalized. The state ordered the facility to stop accepting new prisoners and sent a team of its own corrections professionals to help manage the outbreak. [StateImpact Oklahoma] The Oklahoma Department of Corrections transferred “70+” inmates from the Comanche County Detention Center to a state prison Wednesday. [Southwestern Ledger] A DOC spokesperson said inmates must test negative twice before they are determined to be free of the COVID-19 virus. [Lawton Constitution] Regularly overcrowded and unhygienic, the Comanche County Detention Center did little to fight the COVID-19 outbreak and, instead, packed inmates into overcrowded cells and break rooms, state documents show. [Southwestern Ledger]

Democrats sue to overturn Oklahoma absentee voting rules: The Oklahoma Democratic Party and the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have sued to overturn the state’s absentee voting rules in the midst of the coronavirus outbreak, state party Chair Alicia Andrews said Wednesday. [AP News] In the lawsuit filed this week, the groups ask a judge to block the state from enforcing the state’s notary requirement so long as absentee voters have signed their ballot affidavit. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy: Legislature rebuilds barriers to voting immediately after the Supreme Court knocked them down.

COVID-19: 5 more deaths reported as cases rise by 43 across Oklahoma: Five more Oklahomans have died from COVID-19. There have been 299 deaths from the disease in Oklahoma since March 19. State health officials reported 43 new confirmed cases of the disease, according to Oklahoma State Department of Health data. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Health News

Stitt: Wearing a face mask a ‘personal preference’: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday said he’s going to let Oklahomans decide whether they should wear a face mask in public during the COVID-19 pandemic. “To me, that’s a personal preference,” he said. [The Oklahoman]

Questions surround second round of testing at panhandle nursing home: Six new cases of COVID-19 were reported Wednesday in Guymon by the Oklahoma State Department of Health. One nursing home representative told FOX 25 Wednesday two of its employees tested positive for the virus through contact with workers at Seaboard Foods, a meat processing plant in Guymon. [FOX25]

Rural heath clinics get $4.5 million for testing: The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services announced Wednesday that it has provided $4.6 million to 93 rural health clinics in Oklahoma for COVID-19 testing. [The Oklahoman]

Why more women than men contract the coronavirus: Women account for about three-fourths of all COVID-19 infections among health-care workers and in nursing homes in Oklahoma, resulting in a higher proportion of women than men overall infected across the state. [Oklahoma Watch]

One in two deaths 75 or older: In the two months since the first COVID-19 death in Oklahoma, more than half of those who lost their lives to the virus were 75 or older. The youngest to die was 22. The two oldest were 100. Those statistics come from a breakdown of ages at death in COVID-19 confirmed cases in Oklahoma. State health officials released the breakdown to The Oklahoman Tuesday. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

State taking applications from government entities for COVID-19 reimbursements: Gov. Kevin Stitt on Wednesday said cities, towns and counties can begin applying for $1.2 billion in federal dollars the state has to fight the COVID-19 pandemic. [Tulsa World] Oklahoma received $1.2 billion as part of the federal Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help offset expenses of state agencies and local and county governments related to the pandemic. [The Journal Record]

A real woolly-booger: Gov. Kevin Stitt promises not to let possible repeal of business incentive interfere with Tesla bid: Tulsa’s bid for a Tesla factory won’t be eaten by a woolly-booger, Gov. Kevin Stitt promised Wednesday. This particular woolly-booger is a provision in Senate Bill 1595 that repeals the qualifications for Oklahoma’s Manufacturing Ad Valorem Tax Exemption, a business incentive particularly common in the Tulsa area and one apparently included in materials provided to Tesla. [Tulsa World]

Stitt vetoes McCall bills, including tag agency, broadband and transparency efforts: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt uncapped his veto pen again Tuesday and struck down seven more measures sent to him by the Republican-dominated state Legislature. Five of those seven bills were authored by House Speaker Charles McCall, R-Atoka, and all passed with strong bipartisan support — at least 89 votes in the House and at least 40 votes in the Senate. [NonDoc]

Stitt vetoes $1.2 million for private prison employee raises: Gov. Kevin Stitt has scrapped pay raises for private prison employees while preserving $2-per-hour salary increases for hundreds of public corrections employees. On Wednesday, Stitt line-item vetoed a bill that would have required the Department of Corrections to equalize employee pay at private corrections facilities under contract with the state. [The Oklahoman]

Governor signs oil-field wastewater bill: Legislation designating who owns and is responsible for wastewater resulting from oil and natural gas drilling operations was signed into law on Tuesday by Gov. Kevin Stitt. [The Journal Record]

Stitt signs dyslexia screening bill: A bill requiring dyslexia screening for early elementary students not reading on grade level was signed into law by the governor on Tuesday (May 19). [The City Sentinel]

Action on civil service reform delayed until next session: A major overhaul of the merit protection system for state employees won’t be accomplished this year due to complications created by the COVID-19 pandemic. Gov. Kevin Stitt identified “modernization” of the system as a priority when he delivered his State of the State address in February, and House Bill 3094 authored by state Rep. Mike Osburn, R-Edmond, was introduced. [The Journal Record]

Many unemployment delays caused by applicant error, Stitt administration official says: Responding to complaints from Oklahomans across the state who say they’re struggling to receive unemployment benefits during the coronavirus pandemic, a state cabinet secretary said Tuesday that many issues and delays are being caused by the applicants themselves. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Economic Opportunity

Purchasing food online coming soon to SNAP benefit recipients: Some recipients of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits in Oklahoma will soon have the option to purchase food online, according to U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue. On Wednesday, the announcement came that 13 new states, including Oklahoma, will have access to purchasing food online with SNAP benefits soon. [Duncan Banner] OK Policy: SNAP is a critical piece of our pandemic response, and Congress needs to give it a boost

Could the pandemic make civil courts easier to navigate?: Since the 1990s, a rising number of Americans have represented themselves in civil courts, inflating the demand for legal aid programs and attorneys who provide pro bono services. In many courts across the country, the public also has access to self-help centers that guide people through civil court cases, like divorces. [Big If True]

Economy & Business News

Where’s the beef … and pork and poultry?: COVID-19 has affected the meat processing industry profoundly. The pandemic has caused serious workforce disruptions for the sector, which impacted plants’ ability to process meat efficiently and led to producers euthanizing excess animals. Now, the Oklahoma Legislature is stepping in. Last week, the state Senate unanimously passed House Bill 2008, which would allow cattle producers to take their processed products directly to the market, allowing virtual inspections and other measures. [KGOU]

New home starts surge to highest level since 2007 in the Tulsa metro area: Despite a pandemic that has staggered the U.S. economy, new home construction in the Tulsa area has reached its highest point since the housing boom preceding the Great Recession. [Tulsa World]

General News

Oklahoma Blood Institute faces worst situation in its 43-year history as COVID-19 strips nonprofit of large donation drives: The Oklahoma Blood Institute has forged through shortages before with its go-to playbook, but COVID-19 has stripped the blood collector of its best options to gain back losses. Dr. John Armitage, president and CEO of OBI, said Wednesday that the situation is the worst to confront the blood bank since its inception in 1977, so the nonprofit is putting out a call for help. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC municipal pools could get budget reprieve [The Oklahoman]
  • Tulsa City Council sends city attorney charter amendment to voters [Tulsa World]
  • Civic boosters hope booking of national livestock show in July can jumpstart Tulsa’s tourism economy [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Texas County confirms 8 more COVID-19 cases bringing total to 792 [ABC7]
  • 1 new Norman death, 43 new COVID-19 cases statewide reported Wednesday [Norman Transcript]
  • Moore continues to build city after 2013 tornado [Norman Transcript]
  • Local manufacturers picked to receive repurposed state funds [Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Lack of foster parents means children placed outside county [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Furlough will close most City of Lawton offices Friday [Lawton Constitution]

Quote of the Day

“[T]he hope is that we are able to get through the entire inmate population to give us at least a clear look in regards to whether or not we truly are infection free within the jail”

-Tulsa County Sheriff Vic Regalado, whose facility has not reported any COVID-19 cases among its incarcerated population [StateImpact Oklahoma]

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma child care providers that could permanently close due to COVID-19 without state financial assistance.

[Source: Center for American Progress]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Your day care probably won’t survive the coronavirus: We’ve long failed to fund the child care sector like the public good that it is. Now it’s on the brink of collapse. While nearly every other developed nation supports child care as a public good, the United States treats child care providers as private enterprises — more like gyms than K-12 schools. [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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