In The Know: Stitt: No need for more stimulus until state spends previous funds | A closer look at CARES Act spending

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

Gov. Stitt announces new regional surge plan, opposes additional federal bailout: Gov. Kevin Stitt announced Thursday that he is opposed to an additional federal stimulus package at the current time. “I don’t think we need another package, no,” Stitt said. He said Oklahoma hasn’t yet been able to fully distribute the $1.2 billion it was allocated earlier. [The Oklahoman] “We want to make sure this $1.2 billion actually gets on target, and we have not even gotten the $1.2 billion we’ve been allocated so far in Oklahoma. We haven’t got it out, and so our message back to the White House was ‘Before we go back to the well and do another $2 trillion bailout, let’s get these moneys out the door first.'” [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma announces up to $250M for local coronavirus costs: Earlier Thursday, Stitt said up to $250 million is being made available to cities and counties in Oklahoma to support coronavirus-related expenses. The funding will be distributed based on a city or county’s population in 2019 U.S. Census Bureau estimates with about $77 earmarked per capita, Stitt said in a news release. [AP News] Governments still have to apply for the funding and provide detailed reimbursement requests for funds spent on COVID-19 expenses, but state spokeswoman Donelle Harder said by making it clear how much funding each city and county can receive in total, localities can decide when to apply for funds. [The Oklahoman]

Fast money: No-bid education contracts symbolize CARES Act conundrum: In preparation for an unprecedented school year likely to feature more distance learning than ever before, Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt and Oklahoma Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister are allocating millions of dollars from the CARES Act to improve access to online curriculum and to the internet itself. [NonDoc]

COVID:19: 10 more deaths in Oklahoma as 837 new cases reported: Ten more Oklahomans have died of COVID-19 and 837 others have contracted it, according to state health officials. Thursday’s reporting brings the state’s death toll to 593 with 41,401 COVID-19 infections confirmed. [Tulsa World]

  • Oklahoma health commissioner: ‘A little too early’ to say COVID cases have plateaued [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Oklahoma health commissioner: Statewide mask mandate ‘very difficult’ to implement [CNHI via Muskogee Phoenix]
  • Video: Gov. Stitt, OSDH Commissioner Lance Frye to update hospital surge plan [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt says he got COVID-19 from Tulsa friends [The Oklahoman]
  • Stitt muddies circumstances around visit from White House coronavirus task force leader [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • State Health Department does not archive contract tracing stats [The Norman Transcript]

State Government News

More than 5,000 Oklahomans filed their first unemployment claim: Fewer Oklahomans are filing for unemployment, according to the latest data from the U.S. Department of Labor. [The Oklahoman] The Labor Department reported receiving 5,720 initial claims for unemployment benefits in Oklahoma during the week ending Saturday, a 36% decline from the prior week, when 8,927 filed, according to revised figures. [Tulsa World]

Federal Government News

‘Tell us what is going on’: Oklahoma Dems send letter asking for Senate ethics investigation into Inhofe finances: The Oklahoma Democratic Party chairwoman has sent a letter asking for a Senate ethics investigation into U.S. Sen. Jim Inhofe and alleging misuse of taxpayer funds. [Tulsa World] Inhofe dismisses allegations of ethics violations from Okla. Democrats as ‘false attacks’ [Public Radio Tulsa]

Criminal Justice News

Murders increased in Oklahoma, according to OSBI 2019 crime report: Violent crime in Oklahoma dropped over the last decade, but the number of murders spiked in 2019, according to the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation. [The Oklahoman]

Law officers a bit concerned about speed limit hikes: The Oklahoma Highway Safety Office and the Oklahoma Department of Public Safety and the Oklahoma Highway Patrol are encouraging Oklahomans to be safe on the road after speed limits increased on turnpikes and rural interstates. [Tahlequah Daily Press]

Economic Opportunity

County commissioners to vote on $1.5 million eviction mitigation program: Oklahoma County Budget Board members voted to recommend the county use $1.5 million of its CARES Act funding for an eviction mitigation program during a tense meeting Thursday morning. [The Oklahoman] OK Policy and its Open Justice Oklahoma program have been tracking evictions in Oklahoma and noted that policymakers must do more to prevent evictions and foreclosures during and after the COVID-19 crisis.

Two Oklahoma telecoms receive $29.6 million for rural broadband: Two Oklahoma telecommunications companies have been awarded nearly $30 million to provide rural broadband in six counties, including Osage and Pawnee, it was announced Thursday. The grant comes from $100 million set aside for rural connectivity in the COVID-19 relief bill known as the CARES Act. [Tulsa WorldOK Policy: Broadband is more important than ever — here is how Oklahoma can respond.

Economy & Business News

New automotive accelerator program to bolster toolbox for companies such as Tesla: The Oklahoma Automotive Accelerator Program will offer several incentives to recruit companies that produce parts, targeting the automobile industry. Tulsa recently finished second in the race to land California-based Tesla’s massive electric vehicle plant. [Tulsa World]

Medical marijuana industry growing along with demand: According to the Oklahoma Medical Marijuana Authority, as of Wednesday fully 8% of Oklahomans – well more than 321,000 people – were licensed medical marijuana users, and their numbers grow with each new month. [The Journal Record] The 7 percent excise tax on MMJ generated $5.23 million in tax receipts last month. Those collections indicated that sales of MMJ products totaled almost $75 million in July and averaged $238.55 for each of the state’s 313,638 licensed MMJ patients. [Southwest Ledger]

Opinion: Coming next: The greater recession: The suspension of federal benefits would create damage almost as terrifying as the economic effects of the coronavirus. [Opinion / New York Times]

Education News

Extra credit for masks? With no mandates at their schools, teachers urge students to wear them: When classes start Thursday in Checotah, Oklahoma, Lawrence E. “Train” Lane, a government and world history teacher, will be wearing a mask emblazoned with his school’s mascot. For extra protection, he will also wear a plastic face shield on top of the mask while in his classroom. [NBC News]

  • Stuart Public Schools employee tests positive for COVID-19 [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Stuart school board votes on new start date [McAlester News-Capital]
  • Schools plan for social distancing to control spread of COVID-19 [Lawton Constitution]
  • Lessons learned in Oklahoma’s interrupted semester will be critical to schools this fall [KOSU]
  • Education officials update Oklahoma’s ‘Return to Learn’ plan to address contact tracing, emergency drills [KFOR]
  • Here’s why Jenks and Owasso school districts changed their minds on distance learning [Tulsa World]

Navigating another back-to-school mystery: Vaccinations: Health officials are concerned fewer children are current on their immunizations. And parents must rely on 2-year-old school vaccination data. Release of state data showing the percentage of Oklahoma kindergarteners who are up to date on all required vaccines was delayed due to the COVID-19 response, a spokesman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health said. [Oklahoma Watch

  • Oklahoma health officials to parents: Don’t forget routine vaccinations [KOSU]

Tulsa Public Schools seeking help from congressional delegation in securing funding for school meals: Tulsa Public Schools has reached out to Oklahoma’s Congressional delegation and the Tulsa City Council to discuss their need for support for the district’s nutrition programs. [Public Radio Tulsa]

General News

Protesters arrested at Trump rally site get day in court: ‘They’ve been trying to silence us’: In a court appearance on misdemeanor charges for the four people arrested on the day of President Donald Trump’s rally in Tulsa, activists including a state Senate nominee, a former Corporation Commission candidate and a local teacher said they hope to raise awareness. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

Quote of the Day

“If you care anything about me and my life, you’ll wear a mask. I would like to stay around a little longer.”

-Lawrence E. “Train” Lane, a Checotah High School government and world history teacher who plans to offer extra credit to students who keep their masks on for the duration of his class period. [NBC News]

Number of the Day

$435 million

The accumulated state budget savings since 2001 due to a 64 percent decline in youth detention costs.

[Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

How COVID-19 in Jails and Prisons Threatens Nearby Communities: While inmates mostly stay behind concrete walls and barbed wire, those barriers can’t contain an infectious disease like COVID-19. Not only can the virus be brought into jails and prisons, but it also can leave those facilities and spread widely into surrounding communities and beyond. The effect may be most pronounced in jails, which mainly house those who are awaiting trial or inmates serving short sentences. Those facilities tend to have more churn than state and federal penitentiaries, with greater numbers of people entering and leaving, thereby increasing opportunities for the disease to disseminate. [Pew Trusts]

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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.

One thought on “In The Know: Stitt: No need for more stimulus until state spends previous funds | A closer look at CARES Act spending

  1. If the state has so much Covid money to spend, why not give hazard pay to people on the front- line. I think they deserve it. They are being ignored at the local level as well as federal level, just not right!

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