In The Know: Unemployment rise brings out scammers; health care officials speak out for Medicaid; 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. Subscribe to In The Know and see past editions.

Note: During the pandemic, OK Policy will be publishing In The Know on Saturdays and Sundays in order to keep our subscribers up to date on the latest information going on in the state and the nation.  Saturday, April 18 | Sunday, April 19

Oklahoma News

Coronavirus in Oklahoma: 2,599 confirmed cases, 140 deaths: Oklahoma saw the smallest rise in daily cases and deaths since early March on Sunday. [The Oklahoman] The number of confirmed coronavirus cases increased by 29 since Saturday, including one reported COVID-19-related death, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported Sunday. [Tulsa World] Visit for the latest COVID-19 numbers in Oklahoma.

Scammers hit Oklahoma unemployment agency, families with fraudulent COVID-19 compensation claims: The agency utilizes numerous measures to catch fraud, including participating in a consortium of states that share information about known fraud operations. The agency also looks for red flags in claims on a regular basis, including address changes, multiple, separate requests from the same address and obviously fake telephone numbers. [Tulsa World] While fixing the state’s unemployment system during a historic time, a cancer diagnosis shocked Robin Roberson. [Tulsa World]

Dr. Michael Maxwell: Want more personal responsibility from Oklahoma’s working poor? Medicaid expansion gets us there: Unhealthy behaviors are a huge problem among Oklahoma’s working poor, but looking at the issue as a primary care physician, I see that Medicaid expansion is the best route to a solution. Medicaid expansion is how we get more personal responsibility and a healthier state. [Dr. Michael Maxwell / Tulsa World] OK Policy: There are no good reasons not to expand Medicaid.

Jake Henry Jr. and Kevin Gross: Let’s flatten the health care curve of inequality in Oklahoma: Imagine for a moment that you have a dry cough and a low-grade fever. Could this be something serious? Should you call your doctor? Probably. Now imagine you have no health insurance and only enough money to live from paycheck to paycheck to cover for rent, car payments, utilities and groceries. What would you do? You would be scared. Would you wait to see if you get better? Probably. [Jake Henry Jr. and Kevin Gross / Tulsa World] OK Policy has put together information and resources about SQ 802, which calls for full Medicaid expansion. 

Health News

Mental health care providers plan for increased need even after Oklahoma’s COVID-19 peak: Mental health care services are in high demand in Oklahoma, and providers expect the increased need to continue well into the months after the initial flurry of COVID-19 activity. Police departments across the metro have said calls related to suicide have increased, and in Oklahoma City, domestic violence has also trended up compared to this time last year. [The Oklahoman]

Abuse and neglect could be going unreported during COVID-19 shutdown, Oklahoma officials say: Calls to a statewide child-abuse hotline have dropped 50% since Oklahoma’s COVID-19 shutdown began in late March, which would be good news if officials thought it reflected an actual decline in abuse and neglect. [Tulsa World] OK Policy guest post: ‘Safe at Home’ slows virus outbreak, but endangers domestic violence survivors.

PPE hunt goes off beaten path: The Oklahoma Health Department has ordered more than $9 million in masks from a company in Tulsa that didn’t exist a month ago, records show. A partner in the new company also is the owner of a Tulsa dueling pianos bar. [The Oklahoman]

Hospitals review policies as elective surgeries resume: In response to Gov. Kevin Stitt allowing some elective surgeries to resume starting April 24, Oklahoma hospitals are reviewing their policies. The Oklahoma Hospital Association released a statement Sunday saying hospitals are working to follow the governor’s order while still protecting patients and health care workers as concerns about the supply of test kits and personal protective equipment continue. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Governor activates 175 Guard members for pandemic support: Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt activated 175 members of the Oklahoma Army and Air National Guard last week to help support the state response to COVID-19. [Oklahoma National Guard / The Lawton Constitution]

TSET requests proposals for youth media, marketing campaign: In an effort to ensure that young people in Oklahoma grow up with healthy habits, the Oklahoma Tobacco Settlement Endowment Trust (TSET) on Monday announced the release of a funding opportunity for an organization to run a youth tobacco and obesity prevention campaign. [Stillwater News Press]

OMES director Steven Harpe: ‘Why are we still faxing?’: Oklahoma Office of Management and Enterprise Services director Steven Harpe has worked in the field of business technology for more than 30 years, but his first foray into government operations could hardly have come at a more interesting time. [NonDoc]

After 44 years, nation’s longest-serving wildlife commissioner is stepping down in July: For nearly 44 years, the chairman of the board of Groendyke Transport has been a member of the Oklahoma Wildlife Conservation Commission, the governing body of the Oklahoma Department of Wildlife Conservation. [The Oklahoman]

Federal Government

Norman mayor calls for direct federal aid to city amid coronavirus pandemic: Norman Mayor Breea Clark is calling on state lawmakers to help cities like Norman get direct federal aid amid the coronavirus pandemic. Clark took to Facebook Sunday night, asking Congressman Tom Cole, Sen. Jim Inhofe, and Sen. James Lankford to fight for Oklahoma cities in Washington D.C. [KOCO]

Economic Opportunity

National spike in food pantry demand amid pandemic highlights food insecurity in Oklahoma: Oklahoma had ranked among the hungriest states in the nation before the coronavirus, Nestlen noted. “This pandemic on top of it just shines a light on how so many households, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, live paycheck to paycheck,” she said. “When a household becomes economically insecure, they almost immediately become food-insecure.” [AP News / HuffPost]

Economy & Business News

Oklahoma Bankers Association hopes for second round of Paycheck Protection Program during coronavirus crisis: Oklahoma banks have handled billions of dollars in loans to small businesses through the Paycheck Protection Program during the coronavirus crisis, and state bankers want the program to continue. The Paycheck Protection Program’s funds became depleted on Thursday, April 16. [KFOR]

Forecasters see big oil demand hit, continued low prices due to COVID-19: With prices already tanked, forecasters are now starting to estimate how much global oil demand will fall because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Oil and Gas Journal Managing Editor of Economics Conglin Xu said it will likely be a steep drop. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Oklahoma judge to recommend regulators rule oil production ‘economic waste’: An Oklahoma Judge will recommend the state’s oil and gas regulator approve an emergency order declaring oil production in the state could constitute economic waste, a spokesman for the Oklahoma Corporation Commission said on Friday. [Reuters]

OSU study estimates over $13 billion in losses to the cattle industry: Additional funding from the United States Department of Agriculture couldn’t come soon enough for farmers, ranchers, and cattlemen. A new study estimates the cattle industry has suffered more than $13 billion in losses. Of those affected, cow-calf producers will see the largest impact totaling an estimated $3.7 billion in COVID-19 losses alone. [KTUL]

Expedited manufacturing in Oklahoma helping to save lives nationally: The Greenheck Group is expediting efforts to meet increased COVID-19 related demands for its air handling products, and its still-growing manufacturing center in Tulsa is helping. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma Local News

  • OKC Mayor says public health advisory group to analyze proposed standards for lifting restrictions [The Oklahoman]
  • Second rally scheduled Monday to re-open Oklahoma’s economy [FOX25]
  • Tulsa Transit approved to offer free fares throughout 2020 if needed [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • FEMA may cover less of Tulsa River Parks flood damage repairs than hoped [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Confirmed Cleveland County coronavirus cases increase to 313, no new deaths reported [OU Daily]
  • 21 recovered in Rogers County [Claremore Daily Progress]
  • 1 new COVID-19 case in Garfield County; state records only 1% rise on Sunday [Enid News & Eagle]
  • Caddo County nursing home reports third coronavirus (COVID-19) death [News9]
  • Shawnee hospital nurses, staff prepared for COVID-19 surge [Shawnee News-Star]
  • Stephens County shows no changes [Duncan Banner]

Quote of the Day

“This pandemic on top of it just shines a light on how so many households, not just in Oklahoma but around the country, live paycheck to paycheck. When a household becomes economically insecure, they almost immediately become food-insecure.”

-Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma spokeswoman Cathy Nestlen [AP News / HuffPost]

Number of the Day


Percent of Oklahoma households that do not have a bank account, which is 13th highest in the nation. 

[Source: Prosperity Now]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

We put too many people behind bars. This pandemic shows why that’s not necessary: “Mass incarceration is a policy that makes no sense,” says Lauren-Brooke Eisen, the director of the justice program at the Brennan Center, a public policy institute. “This moment proves we don’t need to have jails and prisons bursting at the seams.” As the novel coronavirus has swept across the globe, infecting approximately 336,000 people in the United States and killing more than 9,600 as of Sunday night, epidemiologists and public health experts have warned that prisons and jails are the perfect incubators for COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus. [Mother Jones]

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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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