In The Know, Weekend: Revenue failure estimate doubles to $416 million; officials to meet Monday to address shortfall; 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.  

New from OK Policy

The state budget is at risk, but how much risk and for how long?: The state’s ample reserves may or may not be sufficient to restore budgets to their current levels, again depending on the depth and duration of the downturn. While Oklahoma will largely be in reactive mode, it is important to think creatively about using all available resources to inject more money into the state’s economy by supporting the most vulnerable Oklahomans. This is our best path toward a faster recovery. [Paul Shinn / OK Policy]

Oklahoma News

Revenue failure estimate nearly doubles to $416 million: The revenue failure facing Oklahoma for the final quarter of its Fiscal Year 2020 state budget is about $416 million, nearly twice what legislative appropriations leaders believed earlier this week. On March 31, House and Senate appropriations committee chairmen told NonDoc they were anticipating a revenue failure of about $219 million. But in a press release Friday afternoon, Gov. Stitt said the real hole is much larger. [NonDoc] Gov. Stitt and his administration have been in communication with House and Senate leadership and are working on the best plan to mitigate any potential cuts to state agencies. [CNHI] Gov. Stitt has called for the State Board of Equalization to meet Monday to start the process of tapping the state’s $806 million Rainy Day Fund. [Public Radio Tulsa] Under normal circumstances, this revenue failure would automatically result in 6.2% budget cuts to all state agencies. [Tulsa World]

Oklahoma gross receipts poised to fall: Oklahoma Gross Receipts to the Treasury in March show the calm before the storm. As has been the case for several months, they indicate slight overall growth, but with slowing sales tax collections and reduced oil and gas production, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel said Friday. [State Treasurer Randy McDaniel / CNHI] McDaniel said tax revenues were trending noticeably downward even before coronavirus and COVID-19 crept into the state, and the pandemic likely will leave Oklahoma’s finances in critical condition. [Journal Record] Lawmakers are preparing for a steep drop in state revenue as commerce comes to a skidding halt. [Tulsa World

Nearly 1,000 infected in Oklahoma as state faces financial shortfall: The state Health Department reported that 988 Oklahomans have now been infected with COVID-19 and 289 have been hospitalized due to the virus. The death toll related to coronavirus in Oklahoma now stands at 38. [The Oklahoman] COVID-19: Tulsa County health officials count 20 recoveries Friday as state continues to see increased infections [Tulsa World] Interactive maps: Known cases of COVID-19 in Oklahoma [The Frontier]

Gov. Kevin Stitt and Dr. Kayse Shrum answer reader questions during Tulsa World’s virtual town hall: Gov. Kevin Stitt said Friday that there is no real difference between his current isolation policies related to the coronavirus and those of “shelter in place” states such as California and New York. Stitt and Dr. Kayse Shrum, state secretary of science and innovation and president of Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences, answered questions submitted by Tulsa World readers during the virtual town hall. Moderator Wayne Greene said many of the questions reflect “fear and anger,” and several were critical of the number of businesses deemed essential. [Tulsa World]

  • Listen Frontier, April 3 (Audio): Host Ben Felder talks with Frontier reporter Clifton Adcock about the dramatic rise in unemployment claims amid the coronavirus pandemic. [The Frontier] April 2 (Audio): Felder and Frontier reporter Kassie McClung talk about Gov. Kevin Stitt’s essential business orders and the “personal responsibility” mantra he preaches to Oklahomans amid the coronavirus pandemic. [The Frontier]
  • From the Oklahoman Newsroom, April 2 (Audio): The governor calls for a special session, enforcing the playground closures and how one gym is honoring its mission to promote health and wellness in the metro. [The Oklahoman]

Health News

Four residents of Norman nursing home died of COVID-19; 36 residents, staff tested positive: Four residents of a nursing home in Norman have died of conditions tied to COVID-19, and a total of 33 residents and three staff members there tested positive for the coronavirus, the Oklahoma State Department of Health reported after inquiries from Oklahoma Watch. [Oklahoma Watch] Nine nursing homes and long-term care facilities in Oklahoma have identified 50 residents or staff with confirmed cases of COVID-19. [NonDoc]

Oklahoma judge hears arguments on Stitt’s abortion ban: In a telephonic court hearing Friday, Oklahoma’s solicitor general defended Gov. Kevin Stitt’s temporary, coronavirus-related abortion prohibition, saying the state has a compelling public interest to prevent abortions and other elective medical procedures during the COVID-19 outbreak. [The Oklahoman]

State Government News

Amid pandemic, Stitt believes ‘personal responsibility’ will save the state: Gov. Stitt has been criticized for not doing more to require Oklahomans to remain at home and last week 18 health organizations submitted a letter claiming his “measures are not enough.” Some have seen his stance as an attempt to please those seeking strong action, while not angering those who believe the pandemic is overblown and the response an infringement of personal rights. [The Frontier] While urging Oklahomans to stay home, take “personal responsibility” and practice social distancing, Gov. Kevin Stitt still continues to promote personal and family outings he’s taking around state. In recent days, Stitt has said he’s switched to “elbow bumps” rather than handshakes. He’s also casually mentioned business visits and posted photos of trips on social media that seem to show him standing closer to people than the 6 feet recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. [CNHI]

Tulsa World editorial: Stitt’s COVID-19 will help protects the state better from the COVID-19 virus, but we wish it were stronger: Gov Kevin Stitt did the right thing Wednesday when he ordered nonessential businesses temporarily closed statewide. He also prohibited meetings of 10 or more people. We would have liked to have seen stronger steps taken sooner, but there’s little doubt that his actions will slow the spread of the COVID-19 virus in the state and save lives, and we applaud it. [Tulsa World Editorial]

  • Capitol Insider: Legislature returns for special session (Audio) [KGOU]

Federal Government News

Delays and confusion surround Payroll Protection loans: A $350 billion program to preserve businesses and keep workers employed is drawing interest across the country, but bankers throughout Oklahoma aren’t gaining access to the funds or being provided answers on how to execute the loans. The Paycheck Protection Program, which launched Friday, is part of the CARES Act passed by Congress to provide economic relief for losses suffered during the spread of the new coronavirus across the United States. [The Oklahoman]

Criminal Justice News

Prison staffer has COVID-19, DOC says: ‘No need for other staff to quarantine or isolate’: An Oklahoma Department of Corrections employee has tested positive for COVID-19, but state health officials have not asked any other DOC workers to isolate as a result of the positive test. The employee works at the Joseph Harp Correctional Center in Lexington, DOC spokeswoman Jessica Brown said, adding that the agency had been in contact with state health officials. [Tulsa World] OK Policy and eight other Oklahoma organizations have urged state officials to take urgent action to manage the serious threat of a COVID-19 outbreak in Oklahoma corrections facilities.

Drug court changing with the times: It sounds shady, drug offenders meeting their connection in a park. But for Washington County Associate District Judge Russell Vaclaw, it has become the new normal. Vaclaw, who oversees the county’s drug court program, now meets with about 50 participants every Monday in Johnstone Park. They pull up in their cars and each spend about five minutes updating the judge on their recovery while maintaining a safe distance. [The Oklahoman]

Economy & Business News

Pandemic leading to smaller, faster funeral services: Local funeral homes and their clients are adjusting to tightened restrictions amid the coronavirus pandemic, and preparing for the likelihood conditions will get worse. With local, state and federal guidelines limiting the number of people who can gather for any purpose, all Enid funeral homes report restricting funerals and celebration of life services to no more than 10 people. That includes the funeral director and minister, so families typically are limited to only eight people in a service. [Enid News & Eagle]

Real estate slows: COVID-19 crisis complicates pending residential deals: Most transactions that were underway when the coronavirus hit the state are largely being completed. While real estate services are considered essential and so are permitted to continue during the COVID-19 pandemic, the disease complicates all aspects of initiating new sales. As of last week, 7,500 residential real estate transactions with a value of $1.6 billion were still pending in Oklahoma. [Journal Record] Medical marijuana may bolster OKC real estate market [Journal Record]

Last picture show: Drive-in theaters ask to stay open: As the COVID-19 outbreak worsens in the United States, some Oklahoma drive-in theaters want to keep their doors open to cure cabin fever. Drive-ins across Oklahoma were open until Gov. Kevin Stitt expanded his “safer-at-home“ policy to all 77 Oklahoma counties on Wednesday. As a result, businesses not deemed “essential” must close until April 30. That includes drive-in theaters. [NonDoc]

Retail giant Hobby Lobby to furlough most of its employees, close most operations nationwide: The craft store chain announced it was ending emergency leave pay for employees and suspending the use of company-provided paid time off benefits during the furloughs in order “to allow our furloughed employees” to take full advantage of the pandemic unemployment benefits. [The Frontier]

Regional economy starting to shrink as COVID-19 takes hold: A survey of manufacturers in Oklahoma and eight other states in the mid-America region now indicates a shrinking economy. After three months of growth, the Mid-America Business Conditions Index dipped below growth neutral 50 on its 0–100 scale, falling from 52.8 to 46.7. Oklahoma slid from 51.5 to 45.7. March’s index was at the lowest level since September 2016. [Public Radio Tulsa]

Education News

Survey: Districts must navigate digital divide amid outbreak: Many school districts must quickly learn how to navigate the growing digital divide and social inequities abruptly exposed by the state’s COVID-19 outbreak. In all, more than 192,000 students don’t have access to a computer or tablet, and more than 167,000 students lack internet access, a state Department of Education survey found. [CNHI] OK Policy: Oklahoma needs to account for all students as schools move to distance learning

Families have internet ‘Lifeline’ for virtual schooling: While brick-and-mortar schools are closed, states have turned to distance learning to keep educating students at home. If you are struggling financially, there are options which you should consider that could assist with the cost of your Internet access. Lifeline is the federal government’s program to help make communications services more affordable for low-income consumers. [CNHI]

Tulsa Public Schools will ease into distance learning next week as teachers, students adapt to home-based education:  Teachers will spend the first few days calling families and hosting virtual meetings to introduce them to the digital learning platforms they’ll need the rest of the school year. Students will establish rituals and routines while experimenting with home-based activities. [Tulsa World] Suburban Tulsa school districts finalize distance learning models. [Tulsa World] OKC schools prepare grading, graduation plans [The Oklahoman

General News

Scam warning: Government relief checks can’t be expedited, Oklahoma AG says: Those awaiting federal economic impact payments are being warned of scams purporting to expedite the payments. [Tulsa World]

Op-Ed: 10 Steps for helping those helping others:  Over the past few days, the heroism and courage of health care workers in our country’s hardest-hit cities have been brought before us. Many have asked what can they do that is helpful to our health care workers. [Dr. Gerard Clancy Op-Ed / Tulsa World

Oklahoma Local News

  • Public’s ‘buy-in’ needed to fight pandemic, OKC mayor says [The Oklahoman]
  • OKC Mayor Holt: ‘Stop trying to find loopholes’ in regulations [Journal Record]
  • Board of Oklahoma County Commissioners struggles with virtual tech [OKC Free Press]
  • Officials urge Tulsans to stay the course six days into ‘Safer at Home’ order [Public Radio Tulsa]
  • Tulsa church will have services at drive-in theater after all [Tulsa World]
  • Moore issues Shelter In Place order, schools update distance learning [Norman Transcript]
  • COVID-19 drive-thru testing set for Stephens, Garvin and Ponotoc counties [CNHI]
  • Mobile testing site coming to Duncan [Duncan Banner]
  • EDITORIAL: Thank you, essential workers of Grady County [Chickasha Express-Star]
  • 1 dead; Cherokee County task force ‘begging’ for equipment [Tahlequah Daily Press]
  • Gallery: Motorists thank medical personnel from the parking lot of Owasso hospitals amid COVID-19 outbreak [Tulsa World]
  • Family & Children’s Services offering free app to address mental health [Tulsa World]

Quote of the Day

“You’re coming down to semantics, really. When you read the ‘shelter in place’ (orders) from some other governors — New York for one, California for another — can you get out to go to the pharmacy? Yes. Can you get out to go to the grocery store? Yes. Can you get out to exercise? Yes. Can you get out to go to work if you’re in an essential business? In practicality, it’s exactly the same orders we have. At the end of the day, it comes down to personal responsibility.”

-Gov. Kevin Stitt responding to criticism of his “Safer at Home” order [Tulsa World]

Number of the Day


Share of Oklahoma adults (age 18+) at risk of serious illness if infected with COVID-19

[Source: Kaiser Family Foundation]

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

Policy Note

Where coronavirus could find a refuge: Native American reservations: The federal health agency that serves more than 2.5 million Native Americans has only limited ability to monitor and investigate coronavirus cases across American Indian communities and reservations, slowing its ability to respond to outbreaks and raising fears that a lack of reliable data could compromise national efforts to eradicate the virus. [Politico]

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David Hamby has more than 25 years of experience as an award-winning communicator, including overseeing communication programs for Oklahoma higher education institutions and other organizations. Before joining OK Policy, he was director of public relations for Rogers State University where he managed the school’s external communication programs and served as a member of the president’s leadership team. He served in a similar communications role for five years at the University of Tulsa. He also has worked in communications roles at Oklahoma State University and the Fort Smith Chamber of Commerce in Arkansas. He joined OK Policy in October 2019.

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