Federal grants in Oklahoma–the whole picture

Federal stimulus money has been in the news nationally and in Oklahoma. It has expanded or stabilized a wide range of public services. The recently-completed state budget for FY’10 used $641 million of stimulus funding to make up for over $600 million in lost state revenue. The stimulus, though, is just part of a significant federal contribution to state and local government services in Oklahoma. In 2007, we received $5.5 billion in total grants.

What does all this federal money do? Our upcoming Online Guide to Oklahoma Budget and Taxes has some answers. The guide is unique among the available sources of information on government finance in Oklahoma. It is broader than any other source, covering both state and local government and describing all sources of revenue and spending, not just taxes and appropriations. Here’s an extract that provides an overview of federal funding and what it helps us accomplish.

Oklahoma received approximately $5.5 billion in federal funds in 2007. This section discusses the federal funding by functional area, beginning with the largest revenue source and continuing through the smallest. Grant amounts are for 2007.


Human services is the largest grant category, totaling $3.12 billion. Most of these grants go to state agencies, which then distribute funding to human services agencies and eligible Oklahomans.

The Medicaid health program for low-income and senior populations is the largest grant ($2.455 billion, or nearly half of all grant funding). This program is operated by the Oklahoma Health Care Authority. Most of the money goes to doctors, hospitals, nursing homes, and other health care providers. Other large human services grants are:

  • Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, which serves qualifying low-income families ($135 million).
  • Headstart preschool programs for low-income children ($131 million).
  • Affordable child care for low-income families ($95 million).

Education grants are the second largest category, totaling $612 million in 2007. Major education grants in Oklahoma are:

  • Title I funding for local school districts with high percentages of low-income students ($217 million).
  • Grants to school districts for special education and disability services ($207 million).

Transportation grants are the third largest source of federal funding for Oklahoma, just under $600 million. At $501 million, spending from the Highway Trust Fund is the second largest single grant program.This source, financed by the federal gas tax, provides funding to build and maintain highways, public transit, and bicycles and pedestrian facilities. Other transportation grants are for airports and public transit.

Agriculture grants total approximately $400 million and provide funding directly to farmers and to purchase food and thus increase farm demand and prices. The major grants to Oklahoma are:

  • Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly food stamps), a 100-percent federally funded program that provides assistance for low-income families. The federal government paid $498 million in benefits to Oklahomans in 2007.
  • Child nutrition programs, which provide both cash and food to the state for school lunches. The grants are passed on to local school districts that provide the lunches and other meals ($211 million).

Other significant federal funding sources are:

  • Housing and community development ($392 million) grants programs that subsidize housing for low-income households, Native American Block Grants for tribes to improve housing and community infrastructure, and Community Development Block Grants, which help cities and counties provide new facilities and services in low- and moderate-income areas.
  • Energy and environment grants, totaling $143 million, to regulate air, water, and ground pollution, to provide financial assistance for local government water and sewer projects and to help tribes manage their operations.
  • Grants for disaster relief, unemployment compensation and job training, caring for veterans and a wide range of other activities.

The stimulus has gotten a lot of attention and will stay in the news while it is spent over the next two or three years. When it is finished, though, Oklahomans and their state and local governments will still depend on a wide range of federal funding to maintain our health, infrastructure, environment, and security.


Paul Shinn

Paul Shinn served as Budget and Tax Senior Policy Analyst with OK Policy from May 2019 until December 2021. Before joining OK Policy, Shinn held budget and finance positions for the Oklahoma House of Representatives, the Department of Human Services, the cities of Oklahoma City and Del City and several local governments in his native Oregon. He also taught political science and public administration at the University of Oklahoma, University of Central Oklahoma, and California State University Stanislaus. While with the Government Finance Officers Association, Paul worked on consulting and research projects for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the U.S. Department of Transportation, and several state agencies and local governments. He also served as policy analyst for CAP Tulsa. He holds a Ph.D. in Political Science from University of Oklahoma and degrees from the University of Oregon and the University of Maryland College Park. He lives in Oklahoma City with his wife Carmelita.

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