The Weekly Wonk: Using advocacy tools to effect change, supporting working Oklahomans, 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

In her weekly Journal Record column, OK Policy Executive Director Ahniwake Rose focused on how Oklahomans can use advocacy to make changes they wish to see in the state. Steve Lewis wrote about potential changes to ‘non-economic’ damages in personal injury cases in his Capitol Update.  

With the 2020 Oklahoma Legislative session here, OK Policy’s 2020 Legislative Primer can help answer questions for veteran advocates, complete novices to Oklahoma politics, or anyone in between. Our Legislative Primer will provide you invaluable information in a concise, user-friendly format.

OK Policy in the News

OK Policy and its Together Oklahoma advocacy program held a series of community conversations last week about  supporting working Oklahomans through smart policy decisions, including making the Earned Income Tax Credit refundable again. The events were covered in The Daily Ardmoreite, Bartlesville Examiner-Enterprise, and television station KSWO. The Enid News & Eagle published OK Policy Tax Analyst Paul Shinn’s column about  about the need for Oklahoma retired public servants to receive a cost of living adjustment to their retirement benefits, which have not been seen an increase since 2008. Check out OK Policy’s information handouts on EITC and COLA increases for retirees.  

Weekly What’s That

Federal Poverty Level, what’s that?

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.

The federal poverty level, which takes into account family size, is $12,490 for a single individual and $25,750 for a family of four in 2019. There are separate, higher levels for residents of Alaska and Hawaii.

The federal poverty level was first established in 1965 and was set at three times the cost of a basic food plan. The level is adjusted annually for inflation. It is widely accepted that the federal poverty level does not accurately reflect the amount of income needed to meet one’s basic needs.

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

Quote of the Week

“(We) really see providing access to education while a person is incarcerated is in the best interest of public safety, certainly good for local employers, and of course good to help someone get their footing on the path to economic stability when they come back home.”

-Le’Ann Duran, economic mobility director for the Council of State Governments Justice Center [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

New brand no substitute for a commitment to invest

Since history has made clear that a slick logo and slogan aren’t enough to conceal a state’s shortcomings, the question is: how do we get to Top 10?

Actually, the path is as simple as the journey is difficult: To become Top 10, we must first take steps to escape the Bottom 10. That means serious new investments in common and higher education. In health care. In child welfare. In infrastructure. In the environment.

What would transform Oklahoma from “flyover state” to “destination” – Stitt’s words – is to create an appealing quality of life that persuades our best and brightest to chase their dreams here and out-of-state businesses to join us.

[Arnold Hamilton / Journal Record]

Numbers of the Day

  • 19% – Percent of civilian workers in America with access to paid family and medical leave. Only 9% of workers in the bottom 25% of earners currently have this benefit.
  • 49% – Percent of U.S. workers who expect to be providing care for an aging relative in the coming five years.
  • 68% – Percent of U.S. caregivers who report having to make adjustments to their own work schedules because of caregiving.
  • 13 – The number of historic all-black towns still incorporated in Oklahoma. Between 1856 and 1920, more than 50 all-black towns were established in Oklahoma.
  • 66.1% – Percent of the national workforce that is covered by the Family and Medical Leave Act, which allows up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave for new parents and other workers with an illness or caregiving responsibilities. The federal FMLA does not provide protections for paid leave for family and medical emergencies.

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading

  • Providing unpaid leave was only the first step; 25 years after the Family and Medical Leave Act, more workers need paid leave [Economic Policy Institute]
  • America’s parents want paid family leave and affordable child care. Why can’t they get it? [USA Today]
  • Parents of newborns aren’t the only caregivers who need paid family leave [WBUR]
  • Oklahoma’s historic all-black towns: Built on hope, survived by pride [NonDoc]
  • Why parental leave for fathers is so important for working families [Department of Labor]

Note: Throughout the week, we highlighted the need for paid family and medical leave, which was identified as one of OK Policy’s Legislative focus areas during this session. Paid family and medical leave issue summary (PDF)  Learn more about other OK Policy 2020 Legislative focus areas


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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