The Weekly Wonk: Barriers to housing for ex-felons, gendered political offices, and more

the_weekly_wonkWhat’s up this week at Oklahoma Policy Institute? The Weekly Wonk shares our most recent events, 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:

A new issue brief examines the barriers that prevent ex-felons from accessing affordable housing in Oklahoma. In some cases, a pattern of arrests, regardless of conviction, may be enough to bar people from housing. On the OK Policy Blog, we discuss why a proposed overtime update is long overdue. In his Capitol Update, Steve Lewis shares details about upcoming interim studies at the Legislature. We found that political offices across Oklahoma are highly gendered, with the vast majority of some offices (sheriff, legislator) held by men and the vast majority of others (county clerks, election board secretaries) held by women.

Executive Director David Blatt celebrates the 50th year of Medicare and Medicaid in his Journal Record column. Following remarks from the Oklahoma Republican Party comparing food stamp recipients to animals that national park visitors are asked not to feed, Blatt wrote an op-ed in The Oklahoman calling for an end to misconceptions about the SNAP program.

OK Policy in the News:

The Journal Record and the Tulsa World covered a Tulsa Regional Chamber forum on health care reform in Oklahoma on Wednesday, where Blatt and other panelists called on the state to accept federal funds to expand health coverage to more than 100,000 Oklahomans. Blatt was also quoted in a Tulsa World piece on a report showing that Oklahoma’s state and local sales tax rates are among the highest in the US.

Weekly What’s That:

Federal poverty level

The federal poverty level (FPL) is a measure of income issued annually by the Department of Health and Human Services that is used to determine eligibility for various public programs and benefits, including Medicaid, health insurance premium tax credits, the free- and reduced- school lunch program, SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program), and many others. Read more.

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

Quote of the Week:

“Obviously you did not bother to know the majority of the 604,000 people receiving food benefits in Oklahoma are people who are aging, people with disabilities (including disabled veterans) and the working poor who are raising children. The able-bodied adults who do not have children can only receive food benefits for three months if they are unemployed or must work at least 20 hours a week to receive help beyond that point. Last month, only 13,000 or 2.1% of the total recipients were in this category. Food benefits are a very small amount and are not intended to be a person’s entire food budget, thus the name ‘Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program’. In fact, the average SNAP benefit is $4.27 per person per day or $1.42 per meal. The people who need this meager benefit are dependent upon it in order to keep themselves and their children from starving. Is that the kind of dependency you are suggesting we discourage?”

-The Oklahoma Department of Human Services, responding to a Facebook post by the Oklahoma Republican Party that compared SNAP food benefits to feeding animals in National Parks (Source)

See previous Quotes of the Day here.

Editorial of the Week:

Editorial Board, The Tulsa World

Insure Oklahoma’s mix of state, federal and private money to fund the purchase of private insurance has often been promoted as a model for how to deal with thousands more uninsured Oklahomans, but that plan has run into a political roadblock because it involves accepting Medicaid expansion funding under “Obamacare.”

…After two presidential elections, two Supreme Court rulings and countless congressional votes, it’s time for the state to get over its issues with Medicaid expansion and just do it.

Numbers of the Day:

  • 17.2% – Percentage of Oklahoma women living with a person with a disability age 15 or older in 2013. The national average is 14.4%.
  • $47,318 – Oklahoma’s per capita GDP in 2014, 39th out of all 50 states and Washington D.C.
  • 6,652 – Number of registered sex offenders in Oklahoma.
  • 59 – Number of hours a minimum-wage worker in Oklahoma has to work per week to afford a one-bedroom rental unit at fair market rent (spending no more than 30 percent of their income on rent).
  • 489,500 – Number of Oklahoma children who get health coverage through Medicaid, 1 in 2 of all kids in the state.

See previous Numbers of the Day here.

What we’re Reading:

  • In rural Virginia, the state’s decision to refuse to expand health coverage has left thousands of impoverished Virginians without access to health care [The Washington Post].
  • The number of seniors threatened by hunger in the US has doubled since 2001 [PBS Newshour].
  • Congress is considering several bills to rewrite the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Here’s what what could mean [Hechinger Report].
  • Tight border security leaves migrants particularly vulnerable to extortionist kidnappers, in part because families in the US know that contacting the police could lead to deportation [The New Yorker].
  • Ex-offenders released from prison after serving long sentences may have tremendous difficulty adapting to a changed world. Two ex-cons try to help them out [The New York Times].


Carly Putnam joined OK Policy in 2013. As Policy Director, she supervises policy research and strategy. She previously worked as an OK Policy intern, and she was OK Policy's health care policy analyst through July 2020. She graduated from the University of Tulsa in 2013. As a student, she was a participant in the National Education for Women (N.E.W.) Leadership Institute and interned with Planned Parenthood. Carly is a graduate of the Oklahoma Center for Nonprofits Nonprofit Management Certification; the Oklahoma Developmental Disabilities Council’s Partners in Policymaking; The Mine, a social entrepreneurship fellowship in Tulsa; and Leadership Tulsa Class 62. She currently serves on the boards of Restore Hope Ministries and The Arc of Oklahoma. In her free time, she enjoys reading, cooking, and doing battle with her hundred year-old house.

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