Weekly Wonk: Medicaid expansion making a difference | Probation & parole | A Better Path Forward

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: Medicaid expansion already making a difference: Supporters of Medicaid expansion knew passing State Question 802 would make a real difference in the state, especially for Oklahomans who have long gone without health insurance. In just a few short months since enrollment opened for the newly eligible, the value of expanded Medicaid coverage is already starting to make good on its promise. [Ahniwake Rose / The Journal Record]

Interim study explores improving probation and parole services (Capitol Update): Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, Chair of the House Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, sponsored a nearly six-hour interim study in his committee last week to look at how to improve probation and parole services, specifically addressing State Question 780 that changed simple drug possession and small-time theft offenses to misdemeanors. Some district attorneys and law enforcement contend that misdemeanor charges do not provide a sufficient threat to incentivize people with substance abuse problems to seek treatment. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]

Upcoming Opportunities

OK Policy seeks to stimulate bipartisan, public conversation about how Oklahoma can strengthen state revenue, better support public services, level the playing field along racial and economic lines, and make meaningful investments in our future success. Our latest report, A Better Path Forward, will be released Oct. 27 and provides a starting point for those conversations.

OK Policy is hosting A Better Path Forward – Report Release and Conversation, a livestreamed event from 10:00-11:30 a.m., Wednesday, Oct. 27, 2021. The event will feature:

Overview from report co-author Paul Shinn, OK Policy Budget & Tax Senior Policy Analyst

A response from Labor Commissioner Leslie Osborn

Panel discussion moderated by Non Doc Editor in Chief Tres Savage with panelists:

  • Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr.
  • Sen. John Michael Montgomery, R-Lawton
  • Dr. Cynthia Rogers, Professor of Economics, University of Oklahoma
  • Emma Morris, OK Policy Health Care & Revenue Policy Analyst and report co-author

A Better Path Forward – Report Release and Conversation will be livestreamed at OKPolicy.org and via OK Policy’s social media channels on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter.

Quote of the Week

“Cherokees have long known that the first years of any child’s life should be spent in a nurturing and enriching environment to help build the best possible foundation for their lives. Our collective future is being written today by the investments we are making in our youngest children.”

— Cherokee Nation Principal Chief Chuck Hoskin Jr on investing in children [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Oklahomans continuing to go hungry

Hunger in America doesn’t look like stereotypes of waifish or chronically unemployed people. Food insecurity means stretching food by choosing cheap options with little nutrition or skipping meals. It means viewing food as a survival challenge rather than pleasure or entertainment.

Oklahoma hasn’t fared well in measures of hunger.

The state was No. 6 last year in the rate of people who are food insecure, according to Feeding America. It was No. 5 in 2019 and 2018. One in six residents are food insecure. One in four Oklahoma children go hungry, and that worsened to one in three during the pandemic. One in 10 senior residents struggle getting food.

About 71% of people using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program are in families with children. Of those, 32% have family members who are elderly or with disabilities, and about 43% are in working families.

Many Oklahomans are struggling to make ends meet. The affect is felt in schools where teachers try to educate unfocused, hungry children and on the job with workers more susceptible to illness due to poor nutrition. It is found in the numerous poor health indicators for the state. Oklahoma ranks No. 4 in obesity, No. 13 in diabetes and No. 9 in high blood pressure. Oklahomans have the second lowest rate of physical activity and vegetable and fruit consumption.

The Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma faced these growing challenges to provide healthy food. Now, it must expand its outreach. It launched a $28 million fundraising campaign to double its distribution center’s capacity and quadruple the culinary kitchen. The facility opened 15 years ago with the ability to distribute 20 million pounds of food a year. Last year, 37.2 million pounds of food moved through the center. It has run out of room to meet the needs of those who continue to have trouble affording food.

The food bank operates as a distribution center to 350 community agencies to support over 400 food assistance programs in a 24-county area. These include food pantries, after-school program, senior meal programs and veterans’ initiatives.

It’s an impressive and efficient network. But, it cannot feed everyone in need or replace SNAP, formerly called food stamps. That program allows people to get what they need and support businesses where they shop. SNAP also has a far greater reach as a supplement to income to prevent hunger.

The food bank developed unique programs such as weekend food backpacks for kids and prepared meals in a culinary center. It has the flexibility for innovation with its partners.

Hunger is going to get worse with supply chain problems raising costs of food. The Eastern Oklahoma Community Food Bank is in a good position to meet these challenges.

The expansion of the center is necessary for improving Oklahoma’s health, education and workforce outcomes.

[Tulsa World]

Numbers of the Day

  • ~$1,000 – Misdemeanor cases in Oklahoma leave defendants with almost $1,000 in court debt on average, while felony cases can cost well upwards of twice that  — and that’s without considering other costs, like the “room and board” costs assessed by jails and the steep costs of bail. [OK Policy]
  • 33% – Percentage of Oklahoma adults who reported having difficulty covering usual household expenses in September, compared to 28% nationally. [CBPP]
  • 9% – An estimated 82,000 Oklahoma children (about 1 in 10 children) live in extreme poverty, which is considered 50 percent of the federal poverty level. [KIDS COUNT]
  • $40,000 – Median family income for Black households in Oklahoma, compared to $76,000 for white households. Median household incomes for Latinx families and American Indian families were $43,000 and $54,000, respectively. [KIDS COUNT]
  • 3x – Black youth are three times as likely to be arrested than White youth, and Native youth are two and a half times more likely to be incarcerated when arrested than are White youth. [Open Justice Oklahoma]

What We’re Reading

  • Addicted to Fines: Small towns in much of the country are dangerously dependent on punitive fines and fees [Governing]
  • Tracking the COVID-19 Economy’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships [CBPP]
  • The new child tax credit does more than just cut poverty [Brookings]
  • Pandemic-related economic insecurity among Black and Hispanic households would have been worse without a swift policy response [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Framework and Tool Help Juvenile Justice Agencies Treat Families as Partners [Annie E. Casey Foundation]

Note: October Is National Youth Justice Action Month


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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