In The Know: The low-income workers who may fall into a ‘coverage crater’

In The KnowIn The Know is a daily synopsis of Oklahoma policy-related news and blogs. Inclusion of a story does not necessarily mean endorsement by the Oklahoma Policy Institute. You can sign up here to receive In The Know by e-mail.

Today you should know that Oklahoma Watch analyzed who are the low-income workers that may fall into a “coverage crater” if Oklahoma continues to refuse federal health care funds. OK Policy previously looked at how accepting the funds could help workers and businesses. It took only a week for Oklahoma to run out of funds for helping low-income residents with summer cooling costs. People who suffered damage to their homes in the recent storms say they are being dropped and are having a difficult time getting new insurance policies.

In an op-ed for the Tulsa World, George Kaiser argued that Oklahoma’s tax breaks for horizontal drilling are costing hundreds of millions without doing anything to boost the economy. A report by OK Policy previously explained why the tax breaks are unnecessary and unaffordable. Meanwhile, House Speaker TW Shannon said examining these tax breaks is not on his agenda.

Tulsa officials said the city’s streets are crumbling due to decades of stagnant revenue, funding cuts, cheap fixes and urban sprawl. A small increase in per-pupil aid for schools will not be enough to make up for budget cuts since 2008 and property tax losses due to State Question 766. The okeducationtruths blog writes that may not even be an increase after mid-year adjustments. This Land Press shared eight laws you may not know the Oklahoma Legislature passed this session.

The Number of the Day is the the chance that an Oklahoma City child born in the bottom fifth of incomes would rise to the top fifth. In today’s Policy Note, the New York Times reports on a large new study on differences in income mobility between US metro areas.

In The News

The low-income workers who may fall into ‘coverage crater’

When the government starts helping low-wage workers pay for health insurance next year, 6,704 Oklahoma cooks will be left empty-handed. So will 6,154 cashiers, 4,572 waiters, 4,207 housekeepers and 3,870 retail salespeople, an Oklahoma Watch data analysis shows. They are among 109,227 uninsured Oklahoma workers whose annual incomes fall below the federal poverty level, making them ineligible for health-insurance tax credits that take effect in January. Most of them also are ineligible to participate in SoonerCare, Oklahoma’s version of Medicaid, because it doesn’t cover most working adults unless they have dependent children, and then only if they make less than $4,368 a year for a two-person family.

Read more from Oklahoma Watch.

See also: Accepting federal health care funds is good for business from the OK Policy Blog

Cooling assistance goes quickly in Oklahoma

It took only a week for Oklahoma to burn through $16 million allocated to help low-income residents with their summer cooling costs this year. But that isn’t unusual, said Department of Human Services spokesman Mark Beutler. He said DHS ran out of money three days after it started taking applications for the federally funded program in 2011. It took four days in 2012, though Oklahoma received $22 million each year.

Read more from NewsOK.

Insurance companies dropping customers who file claims for storm damage

State law prohibits home insurance providers from dropping customers who file one claim, but there is nothing stopping the companies from dropping a client that files more than one claim. Now people who suffered damage to their homes in the recent storms say they are being dropped and having a difficult time getting new insurance policies. Insurance Commissioner John Doak has asked that companies do not drop customers who have open claims. However, there is no law requiring that insurance companies abide by the commissioner’s suggestions.

Read more from NewsOn6.

George Kaiser: Tax incentive does not serve its intended purpose

Public funds should always be used as effectively as possible, especially during difficult economic times when resources are scarce and taxpayers need relief. That is why there has been a lot of discussion in the Oklahoma Legislature over the past two years about whether all of our business tax rebates and reductions are accomplishing their designed purpose of stimulating economic activity which leads to jobs. The largest tax incentive granted to businesses is the reduction in the oil and gas “gross production tax,” which has been assessed almost since statehood.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: Unnecessary and unaffordable: The case for curbing Oklahoma’s oil and gas tax breaks from Oklahoma Policy Institute; Shannon says curbing energy industry tax breaks is not on his agenda from McCarville Report

Tulsa’s crumbling streets due to decades of issues, officials say

Tulsa’s crumbling streets aren’t merely the result of lack of investment. Experts say they are a symptom of decades of stagnant revenue, funding cuts, cheap fixes and, more to the point, urban sprawl that has ballooned the city’s street system far beyond its ability to maintain without massive voter-approved funding packages. And the weather doesn’t help, either. “It’s an issue of we don’t have the resources to take care of the needs we have right now,” city Streets Manager Tim McCorkell said. Tulsans approved more funding for street repairs in the 2008 Fix Our Streets initiative than in nearly 20 years of funding packages combined, but officials cautioned that the $452 million investment would only level out nose-diving street conditions.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

Small rise in state’s per-pupil aid brings mixed response from educators

While area school districts are pleased to learn that per-pupil state aid allocations have increased, administrators say the additional funds won’t fill the gap left in school budgets by years of declining state aid and a new state question that reduces the amount of property taxes schools will receive. Initial state aid allocations for the coming school year are up $8.60 per pupil, bringing the per-pupil allocation to $3,038.60, the Oklahoma State Department of Education announced Thursday.

Read more from the Tulsa World.

See also: It depends on what your definition of “up” is from okeducationtruths

Eight laws you didn’t know the Oklahoma Legislature passed this session

The Oklahoma Legislature passed 411 bills in its 2013 session. The governor vetoed 14. Some of the new laws—the legalization of horse slaughter, the state income tax cut, and workers’ compensation reform—garnered a hefty amount of media attention. Others, like these, somehow avoided the limelight.

Read more from This Land Press.

Quote of the Day

It would be a third or a quarter of my monthly income just to have insurance. It’s almost like a luxury item.

-Cassie Clark, who works part-time as an administrative assistant at an Oklahoma City dance and fitness studio. Clark is among Oklahomans making below the poverty line who could fall into a “coverage crater” where they are ineligible for help to purchase insurance because Oklahoma has not accepted federal health care funds (Source:

Number of the Day

8.8 percent

The chance that an Oklahoma City child born in the bottom fifth of incomes would rise to the top fifth.

Source: Harvard and UC-Berkeley researchers via The New York Times

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

In climbing income ladder, location matters

Stacey Calvin spends almost as much time commuting to her job — on a bus, two trains and another bus — as she does working part-time at a day care center. She knows exactly where to board the train and which stairwells to use at the stations so that she has the best chance of getting to work on time in the morning and making it home to greet her three children after school. Her nearly four-hour round-trip stems largely from the economic geography of Atlanta, which is one of America’s most affluent metropolitan areas yet also one of the most physically divided by income.

Read more from the New York Times.

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Gene Perry worked for OK Policy from 2011 to 2019. He is a native Oklahoman and a citizen of the Cherokee Nation. He graduated from the University of Oklahoma with a B.A. in history and an M.A. in journalism.

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