The Weekly Wonk: Elected officials’ actions, inaction continue to leave many Oklahomans without health care

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

Gov. Stitt turns his back on thousands of Oklahomans who need health insurance due to pandemic: Thousands of Oklahomans lost their health care when they lost their jobs during this pandemic. Gov. Stitt recognized the enormity of their losses, then turned his back on them by vetoing a bill that would have brought much-needed health care to them. We find it darkly ironic that the Governor’s own statement supporting his veto calls out the urgent need for health care coverage for Oklahomans, yet uses that need as a reason to reject pursuing an appropriate remedy. [OK Policy] Note: Lawmakers did not attempt to override the Governor’s veto on Friday, which was the final day of this Legislative session.

Ask OK Policy: Pandemic highlights importance of child care in Oklahoma: Child care is foundational to our state’s economy, but the pandemic created a large impact on our child care industry. More than one-third of child care providers have been forced to temporarily close, and estimates show 60 percent of providers are at risk of permanently closing without additional support. OK Policy Education Analyst Rebecca Fine joined Executive Director Ahniwake Rose to discuss issues confronting child care providers, as well as policy solutions that can support child care in Oklahoma. [OK Policy]

Policy Matters: Child care vital to economic recovery: Some front-line workers had to make the choice between earning a paycheck and endangering their family’s health. This is one of the many vital ways that child care is critical to Oklahoma’s economy. Without adjusting support for the child care industry, however, efforts to restart our economy are sure to stall unless assistance is provided to our child care providers. [Ahniwake Rose / OK Policy]

Legislature takes action to fund Medicaid expansion (Capitol Update): With the Governor’s health care proposal scheduled to begin July 1, the Legislature was tasked with funding it during this session. To accomplish that, last week legislators passed Senate Bill 1046 and SB 1935. [Steve Lewis / OK Policy]

Weekly What’s That

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families)

TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) provides time-limited cash assistance to low-income families with minor children who are deprived of parental support because of the absence, death, incapacity, or unemployment of at least one parent. TANF is operated in Oklahoma by the Department of Human Services. It is funded primarily through a federal block grant with a state matching requirement.

Fewer than 16,000 individuals received TANF cash assistance in an average month of FY 2018. More than half of Oklahoma TANF cases are “child-only cases” in which no adult household member receives assistance. Less than 25 percent of Oklahoma’s TANF funds are spent on cash assistance; most is spent on child care and work support programs.

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

Quote of the Week

“We were not equipped to deal with this pandemic.”

-Comanche County Facilities Authority Chairman Johnny Owens, speaking about the virus outbreak in the county detention center in Lawton. [AP News]

Editorial of the Week

Medicaid Expansion could have made the 2020 legislative session a great one, despite the COVID-19 challenge

Our state government — specifically, Gov. Kevin Stitt — fell just short of taking game-changing action that would have given essential health care coverage to hundreds of thousands of working poor Oklahomans.

Stitt’s Thursday veto of Senate Bill 1046, which would have funded Medicaid expansion starting July 1, was profoundly poor judgment and frankly inexplicable because it was Stitt who said we should have Medicaid expansion in the first place. He took away the money needed for his own plan.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • 93,000 – Estimated number of Oklahomans who would be uninsured at 15% unemployment rate. The estimated number rises to 133,00 at 20% unemployment.
  • 60% – Percent of Oklahoma child care providers that could permanently close due to COVID-19 without state financial assistance.
  • 33% – The increase nationally in enrollment in two-year colleges during the Great Recession.
  • .08 – Oklahoma’s score out of 5 on the COVID-19 housing policy scorecard used to rate each state’s pandemic responses to evictions and prevention of homelessness. Oklahoma has not implemented statewide orders that would prevent evictions and forclosures during and immediately following the pandemic.
  • 120,000 -The approximate number of retired teachers, police officers, firefighters, and state employees who would receive the first cost of living adjustment in 12 years under HB 3350, which was passed by the legislature and awaits action from Gov. Stitt.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • How the COVID-19 recession could affect health insurance coverage [Urban Institute]
  • Your day care probably won’t survive the coronavirus [New York Times]
  • No home Wi-Fi, no virtual classroom: How low-income students lose out during a pandemic [KQED]
  • Half of low-income families have lost jobs or wages [CNN]
  • Measuring the economic impact of pension expenditures [National Institute on Retirement Security]


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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