Weekly Wonk: A changing Oklahoma | Legislation that quietly makes a difference | TANF at 25

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

Policy Matters: A changing Oklahoma: Latest data from the 2020 census released this month show two trends: Oklahoma is more diverse than ever, and our population is increasingly concentrating in urban centers. Both are consistent with national trends, and there are important takeaways for those who want to see our state succeed. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Thoughtful legislation makes a positive difference outside the spotlight (Capitol Update): In the August edition of the Oklahoma Economic Report, State Treasurer Randy McDaniel profiles House Bill 2178 that was passed at his request in the last session of the legislature. The bill creates a tax break allowing qualified persons with disabilities to get a deduction for contributions to a savings program known as the STABLE (State Achieving a Better Life Experience) program. They can later withdraw the money for such disability expenses as education, housing, transportation, health care, assistive technology, employment needs, and basic living expenses. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

We’re Hiring

Communications and Operations Fellow: The Communications and Operations Fellow will assist in advancing the organization’s strategic priorities through writing and editing external communications, drafting development-centric communications, and more. Applicants must have graduated in the previous two years from a communications-related academic program or a field of study that relates to OK Policy’s issue areas. Applications close on Sept. 1, 2021 at 5:00 PM (CST). Click here to learn more and apply.

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 14,000 individuals received TANF cash assistance in an average month in FY 2019. More than two-thirds of Oklahoma TANF cases are “child-only cases” in which no adult household member receives assistance. Less than 15 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

“Our schools have a duty to protect students and staff, and Oklahoma isn’t doing enough. This is clearly an emergency.”

-Oklahoma State Superintendent of Public Instruction Joy Hofmeister [The Frontier]

Editorial of the Week

Government overreach, indeed

Is the goal now to actually herd children and school staff together under a roof so it ends up like one of those old-timey pox parties? We only ask because it seems odd that given the consistently open opportunity to do something, anything, differently, for schools in regard to COVID-19, state leadership has chose nothing.

And when schools, trying to act locally within oppressive government overreach, rebel because they don’t want to infect staff and children, they get threatened by the governor and attorney general.

Do we have to discuss the irony that the AG has joined the effort to get the courts to overturn about four different federal laws in less than three weeks?

The state health director is on record saying masks should be worn indoors in school.

Have you heard any of the state lawmakers who voted yes on Senate Bill 658 express regret? Or do the stand-up thing and admit to being wrong?

Things are bad, but at least people who confuse compassion with weakness have their freedom.

The freedom to spread disease. The freedom to force children and potentially compromised adults who can’t be vaccinated into situations far more uncomfortable than a cloth over the nose.

The choice now in Oklahoma is deal with infection, or shut down and go virtual. That’s pretty much it.

The scenario is playing out a bit ahead of us in Florida. There a County Circuit Court judge ruled that Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ executive order banning masks mandates was outside of his authority.

We don’t know all the different intricacies between Oklahoma and Florida law, but a lot of it boils down to needing for schools to have the power to make public health determinations.

Shouldn’t there be? Hasn’t there always been? Lice? TB? Flu outbreaks?

The song remains the same. If people were behaving responsibly, we wouldn’t be here. Why are the irresponsible determining what’s best for us?

[Editorial / Stillwater News Press]

Numbers of the Day

  • 10% – Share of Oklahomans in poverty receiving cash assistance from Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), ranking Oklahoma 10th lowest in helping families in need. [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • $14 – States, including Oklahoma, that pay the same or less in Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits as they did in 1996. [CBPP]
  • $0 – Amount of child support paid to an Oklahoma family receiving Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF). Each dollar is counted as income to the recipient but kept by the state. [Urban Institute and the Administration for Children & Families (ACF)]
  • 12% – Share of babies living in poverty who receive Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) benefits in Oklahoma [Zero to Three]
  • 22.26%– Percentage of Oklahoma’s 4,152 virus cases reported Thursday that were school-age children (5-17), an increase of 5 percent from last week’s 7-day average for the same age group [The Frontier]

What We’re Reading

  • Chart Book: Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) at 25 [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]
  • To target aid to the neediest families, we need to strengthen TANF [Brookings]
  • TANF at 25: Poverty Remains High Among the Nation’s Babies, But Few are Assisted [Zero to Three]
  • The social insurance system in the US: Policies to protect workers and families [Brookings]
  • TANF Oklahoma [LegalAidOK]


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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