The Weekly Wonk: A call for officials to cooperate; medical parole would protect communities, and more

What’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent publications and other resources to help you stay informed about Oklahoma. Numbers of the Day and Policy Notes are from our daily news briefing, In The Know. Click here to subscribe to In The Know.

This Week from OK Policy

OK Policy in the News

  • Budget & Tax Analyst Paul Shinn appeared on the Oklahoma Education Association’s weekly podcast to discuss next steps for Oklahoma to build its budget, what a potential financial crisis means, and the options our state has to cushion the damage for public services. [Oklahoma Education Association]
  • Economic Opportunity Analyst Courtney Cullison spoke with CNHI about how low-wage workers face Catch-22 choosing between a paycheck and their health and safety, as well as the safety of their families. [CNHI]

Weekly What’s That

SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program)

The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), formerly known as food stamps, is the nation’s largest public food assistance program. Its primary purpose is to increase the food purchasing power of eligible low-income households in order to improve their nutrition and alleviate hunger.

To be eligible for SNAP, a household must have gross monthly income (income before any of the program’s deductions are applied) at or below 130 percent of the poverty line and net income (income after deductions are applied) at or below the poverty line.

In Oklahoma, 378,417 households and 804,641 total persons received SNAP benefits at some point in FY 2019. On average, 574,213 people received an average daily benefit of $4. The great majority of SNAP recipients are low-income families with dependent children, seniors, and persons with disabilities.

SNAP is paid for by the federal government and administered jointly by the US Department of Agriculture and state human services agencies (Oklahoma Department of Human Services).

Look up more key terms to understand Oklahoma politics and government here.

Quote of the Week

“Basically, I think it’s a dreadful idea, totally irresponsible, and damned wrong. I’m not making my establishment a petri dish of potential death that would subject my beloved staff family or guests to play roulette in.”

-Miranda Kaiser, owner of Laffa Medi-Eastern Restaurant & Bar, about the decision to allow restaurants to reopen dining rooms on May 1. [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

New etiquette in public places is to wear a mask and keep a distance

As businesses start reopening Friday in Gov. Kevin Stitt’s first phase to restart the economy, residents need to take precautions in public against the COVID-19 virus.

These measures include always wearing a mask in public places and keeping a distance of at least 6 feet from others. Washing hands often is more effective than wearing gloves.

The efforts are part of a new etiquette everyone must take to ensure the safety of others…

We all know the new rules, but they are only as good as our willingness to abide by them. It is a matter of personal responsibility to take these steps so that others can remain safe and healthy.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 74 – The mean age of Oklahoma deaths related to COVID-19 since March 19. Seniors have made up 80 percent of the state’s reported deaths due to the virus, while they are only 16 percent of the state’s population.
  • 50% – Percentage of expected learning gains in mathematics from students returning in fall 2020 when compared with normal conditions. As a result of education disruption caused by the virus outbreak, students nationwide in fall 2020 are likely to be returning with less than 50% of the learning gains behind what would be observed in normal conditions. In some grades, some students may be nearly a full year behind.
  • 41% – The percentage of Oklahoma child care programs that have parents who cannot pay fees or child care subsidy copays. 
  • 294,000 – The number of unemployment claims filed in Oklahoma since the pandemic began.
  • 60% – Percent of Oklahoma child care providers that could permanently close due to COVID-19 without state financial assistance.
  • 4 – The current number of contact tracers per 100,000 who track the virus’ path through Oklahoma. This is well below the National Association of County and City Health Officials recently stated position there should be 15 contact tracers per 100,000 people in a nonemergency situation and 30 tracers per 100,000 people during a pandemic.
  • 41% – Percentage of Oklahoma’s juvenile detention beds that were filled as of April 1, 2020. This is a reduction from 77 percent on March 18, 2020, as state officials implemented changes to protect juvenile detainees from the threat of COVID-19.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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