Oklahoma’s children deserve better: Leveraging federal aid and policy solutions to improve child well-being

Related factsheet: ARPA and Child Well-Being in Oklahoma (May 2021)

From school and child care closings to economic disruptions, the COVID-19 pandemic exposed many gaps within our state’s systems that support children and families. As we look toward recovery, it will be important to develop equitable strategies that benefit the individuals and families most harmed by the pandemic. While Oklahoma state leadership failed to enact many policies during the pandemic that would protect the most vulnerable Oklahomans, the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) will allow the state to address some of its residents’ most critical needs. Signed into law in March 2021, ARPA builds on previous pandemic relief efforts and is designed to provide aid to states, localities, territories, and tribal nations to fill revenue holes, address needs caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, and help the learning needs of students.

Additional federal funds for families with children will set Oklahomans up to succeed 

Low-income families with children have been particularly susceptible to the economic fallout of the pandemic; in Oklahoma, 46 percent of households with children reported difficulty paying for usual expenses since Sept. 30, 2020, the fifth highest rate in the nation. Two mechanisms in ARPA will transfer needed cash directly to those families by expanding two successful federal antipoverty programs. By providing more families money to spend on rent, utilities, transportation, groceries, medical care, and other necessities, ARPA should stabilize households, reduce stress, and trigger a historic reduction in poverty, particularly for Oklahomans of color. 

Funding Details State Implementation Timing Additional Resources
$104 billion for CTC Expansion (estimated 895,000 Oklahoma children under 18 will benefit from this expansion)

Increased from $2,000 to $3,000 per child ($3,600 for children under six).

Refundable, meaning fully available for children in families with no or very low earnings.

A household can receive up to half its CTC in advance payments in 2021

State and localities should play an important role in outreach work. Outreach efforts will be particularly important to ensure the payments reach low-income individuals who do not typically file returns, including households where children have social security numbers, but parents do not.

One-year expansions for tax year 2021 only.

Advance payments begin July 1, 2021.

Those who file a 2020 tax return during this filing season will generally get advance payments later this year. Those who don’t file may be able to claim advance payments through a portal later this year.

$12 billion for federal EITC Expansion (estimated 236,000 Oklahoma workers will benefit)

Raises the federal EITC for low-paid working adults with children at home.

Raises the minimum federal EITC for workers without children from roughly $530 to $1,500 and the income cap for these adults to qualify increases from about $16,000 to $21,000.

Expands range of eligible workers without children to include younger adults aged 19-24 who aren’t full time students, as well as 65+.

State and localities should play an important role in outreach work. Outreach efforts will be particularly important to ensure the payments reach low-income individuals who do not typically file returns, including households where children have social security numbers, but parents do not.

One-year expansions for tax year 2021 only.

Individuals generally must file a tax return to receive the federal EITC increase.

Estimated number of children who will benefit from child tax credit expansion by ARPA by state.

Increased funding for educational opportunities mitigates learning loss and trauma of the past year

ARPA also authorizes $1.5 billion additional funding for Oklahoma schools, as well as $590 million for child care centers and homes, to ensure Oklahoma students’ educational needs are being met. Educational disruptions of the past year disproportionately harmed certain populations; for instance, nearly one in four Oklahoma public school students lacked internet access at home in March 2020. Students’ ability to thrive and learn in school over the past year was largely determined by access to and quality of remote learning, student engagement, and home support. Advocates can act at the state and local levels to shape how Oklahoma can use these resources to target students most affected by the pandemic. 

Funding Details State Implementation Timing Additional Resources

$1.5 billion for K-12 funding

Breakdown of Supplemental Oklahoma Funding

Administered by the U.S. Department of Education

Funds will be distributed automatically based on the Title I formula.

Funding can be used to address learning loss and student trauma; reduce class sizes, modify spaces, modernize HVAC systems and provide proper PPE to ensure schools can open safely; and hire additional custodians, nurses and counselors.

Minimum of 20% of this funding ($261,377,025) must be used to address loss of learning time.

Advocacy will be needed at state and local levels over the next three years to ensure funds are being used equitably to target students most affected by the pandemic.

Decision Maker: Superintendent Joy Hofmeister

Schools must spend the funds by Sept. 2024

State by state allocations

USDE Roadmap to Reopening Safely and Meeting All Students’ Needs

USDE State Plan for the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund

$40 million for Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)

Administered by the Office of Special Education Programs

Provides funding to IDEA Part B, 611 and 619 to assist states in providing a free appropriate public education for children with disabilities ages 3-21.

Provides funding to IDEA Part C to assist states in providing early intervention services for infants, toddlers, and their families.

Funds will need to be spent according to IDEA guidelines.

Decision Maker: Sooner Start Director John Corpolongo

Supplemental grants are only for FFY 2021. Use of Funds Q&A for Part B and Part C


Funding Details State Implementation Timing Additional Resources
$363 million for child care emergency stabilization funds Administered through Office of Child Care

Funding to help child care providers remain financially viable, as well as improve the quality of child care.

Can be used to reimburse any costs incurred prior to March 21, 2021 for things like personnel costs, PPE, COVID-related professional development, goods and services to maintain or resume child care, and mental health supports for both employees and children.

Child care providers and advocates should help shape how states use this large infusion of resources.

Decision Maker: OKDHS Child Care Services Director Brittany Lee

Grants must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2022, and spent by Sept. 30, 2023.

Supporting the Child Care Early and Early Education Workforce

The American Rescue Plan: Recommendations for Addressing Early Educator Compensation and Supports

Optimizing Distribution of American Rescue Plan Funds To Stabilize Child Care

$227 million to Oklahoma for Child Care and Development Block Grants (CCDBG) Administered through CCDBG. CCDBG provides funding to states for child care assistance and improving the quality of child care.

States will have to decide how to use CCDBG funds to expand access to child care assistance and improve quality of care. Receiving input from both families and providers will be critical.

Decision Maker: Secretary Justin Brown

Funds must be obligated by Sept. 30, 2023 and spent by Sept. 30, 2024

How states can improve child care facilities & physical spaces using federal relief dollars

Centering Values: Building an Equitable Future through the the American Rescue Plan Act

Additional family supports reduce stress, improve parenting 

Oklahoma families struggled at home throughout the pandemic, too, and ARPA will bring supplemental funding to Oklahoma to address hardships such as housing insecurity, food scarcity, and other intense stressors triggered by the pandemic. Between Aug. 19, 2020, and May 10, 2021, more than one in three Oklahomans lived in households facing likely eviction or foreclosure. Housing instability and frequent moving can disrupt a child’s education and hinder their academic outcomes. Additionally, one in four Oklahoma children struggle with hunger and the need for food assistance increased 30 percent in the state as many experienced food insecurity for the first time. 

Children who don’t get enough food to eat can be at risk for worsened academic, health, and economic outcomes. ARPA contains supplemental funding for nutrition assistance programs that will not only help with our children’s immediate needs, but also provide long-lasting improvements in their health and educational outcomes. 

Funding Details State Implementation Timing Additional Resources

$209 million for rental assistance

Administered by Treasury Department

Provides additional funding to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP) for low-income renters who have lost income or are experiencing hardship and risk losing their housing.

Treasury will allocate funds to states, localities, and territories, and a special allocation will be set aside for “high-need” grantees.

States, localities, and territories may distribute aid directly to landlords on behalf of renters (or directly to renters in some cases) or may designate other entities (such as non-profits) to do so.

Decision Maker: Oklahoma COO Steve Harpe

This funding will be available to the Secretary of the Treasury until September 30, 2027.

Beginning March 31, 2022, the Treasury will reallocate funds to eligible grantees.

Treasury guidance and FAQs.

Use of Funds.

$88 million for Homeowner Assistance Fund

Administered by Treasury Department

Prevents homeowner mortgage delinquencies, defaults, foreclosures, loss of utilities or home energy services, and displacements of homeowners experiencing financing hardship due to the pandemic, and assistance that promotes housing security

Each state must submit a notice of funds request to the Department of the Treasury by April 25, 2021.

Deadline for a Tribe or Tribal entity to submit a notice of funds is Sept. 30, 2021.

Decision Maker: Oklahoma COO Steve Harpe

Funds are available until Sept. 30, 2025 Treasury Guidance

$100 million nationally for housing counseling**

Administered by NeighborWorks

Provides counseling directly to households facing housing instability due to events like eviction, default, foreclosure, loss of income, or homelessness. Decision Maker:
Governor Kevin Stitt
Funds will be available through Sept. 30, 2025  

$5 billion Emergency Housing Vouchers**

Administered by Treasury Department

Emergency housing vouchers will help transition high-need homeless and at-risk families, youth, and individuals, including survivors of domestic violence and human trafficking, to stable housing.

HUD will establish a procedure for agencies to accept or decline the vouchers, as well as provide guidance on use of funds. State and local housing agencies will administer the vouchers.

Agencies should partner with organizations that offer a continuum of care and resources in order to develop strategies that prevent homelessness and provide economic stability.

Decision Maker: Oklahoma COO Steve Harpe

Funding is available until Sept. 30, 2030, but vouchers cannot be reissued after Sept. 30, 2023.  
$33 million for Homelessness Assistance and Supportive Services Program (HASSP) Administered by HUD. Funds will help create housing and services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessnes

Funds are distributed using the HOME Investment Partnerships Act Program Formula.

State and local advocates should encourage grantees to consult with community partners offering a continuum of resources in order to strategically address homelessness and advance equity.

Decision Maker: Governor Kevin Stitt

Funds will be available through Sept. 30, 2025 National Council of State Housing Agencies Guidance


Funding Details State Implementation Timing Additional Resources

$3.5 billion for SNAP 15 (estimated increase of $87 million in total benefits in Oklahoma in six months)

Administered through USDA.

Extends a 15% increase in SNAP benefits.

Already in effect.

$14.5 million estimated increase in state benefits in one month.

Funding will be available through Sept. 2021.  

$5.56 billion for Pandemic EBT (P-EBT)**

Administered through USDA.

Extends the P-EBT program, which provides grocery benefits to replace meals that children miss when they do not attend school or child care in person.

State will need to revise and extend plans and receive USDA approval. Federal funds can cover all administrative costs, and states can enter into contracts with nonprofits to conduct outreach or help families get benefits.

Key Decision Maker: OKDHS Adult and Family Services Deputy Director Linda Cavitt

Extended to cover the summer and for the duration of the pandemic until schools and childcare fully reopen. Strategies to Ensure States Reach All Eligible Families With P-EBT
$490 million for additional WIC nutrition Administered by USDA

Boosts cash-value voucher benefit by more than three times to allow participants to purchase fruits and vegetables as part of their WIC package.

Under normal circumstances, the monthly cash value is $9/ child and $11/pregnant/ postpartum/breastfeeding women. This funding allows states to provide up to $35 per child and adult per month.

States can choose to opt-in to this four-month benefit.

Oklahoma opted-in to provide the maximum $35 per child and adult per month.

Key Decision Maker: Commissioner Lance Frye, M.D.

June-September 2021. WIC Opt-in Increases under ARPA by state.

State leadership and child advocates should act now to prevent additional harm to Oklahoma children

ARPA is a historic and critical piece of legislation that will provide countless Oklahomans much needed federal relief. It will help students safely return to their classrooms and receive the support that they need to thrive. However, this relief is temporary and Oklahoma lawmakers failed to do more during this legislative session to adequately respond and protect our most vulnerable citizens. ARPA can’t reverse the damage of decades of state budget cuts that have underfunded our schools, safety net initiatives, and family supports. Further, recently passed tax cuts prioritize a few residents over funding critical services needed by everyone. Next session, our state lawmakers should look to make permanent many of ARPA’s temporary provisions, including expanding the child tax credit, strengthening Oklahoma’s earned income tax credit, implementing an eviction moratorium, raising teacher pay, and implementing a paid family leave program. Our children remain Oklahoma’s most important natural resource, but we cannot keep operating the same system that left so many of them behind when they needed it the most. 

Related factsheet: ARPA and Child Well-Being in Oklahoma (May 2021)


Gabrielle Jacobi served as OK Policy's Child Well-Being Policy Analyst / KIDS COUNT Coordinator from March 2021 until February 2023. She joined OK Policy after more than two years as a Program Coordinator at the Oklahoma Partnership for School Readiness. Born and raised in Oklahoma City, Gabrielle earned her Bachelor of Science in Journalism with a minor in Spanish Language and Literature from the University of Kansas. While there, she worked for four years at KU’s Center of Public Partnerships and Research, which spurred a passion for child advocacy and showed the impact that public policy and programming can have on families.

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