Weekly Wonk: New report examines public support programs | Reducing courts reliance on fines and fees | Value of charitable giving

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’s edition of The Weekly Wonk was published with contributions from Communications Intern Lilly Strom.

This Week from OK Policy

New OK Policy report shows intricate, fragile interconnectedness of public assistance programs for Oklahomans in need: Following the COVID-19 pandemic’s tremendous economic impact, this holiday season may witness more Oklahomans than ever before interacting with state and federal public assistance programs or tax benefits after losing jobs or wages. These Oklahomans will learn what many low-income Oklahomans have learned the hard way — even slight adjustments to their wages can mean the loss of hundreds or thousands of dollars of public assistance or tax breaks designed to support low-income families. A new report from the Oklahoma Policy Institute — entitled “Plateaus and Cliff Effects in Oklahoma” — is among the first of its kind to examine how public supports and income interact to impact low-income Oklahomans. [OK Policy]

Reducing Oklahoma’s court fines and fees is police reform: The police killing of George Floyd has reignited a national conversation about racial disparities in policing. While much of this conversation has been focused on municipal budgets and inadequate funding for mental health and social services, it’s also critical that lawmakers consider how the system of court fines and fees contributes to racial disparities in both policing and incarceration. Millions of dollars in court debt hangs over residents from some of Oklahoma’s poorest neighborhoods, and when Oklahomans can’t keep up with court payments, the courts may issue a warrant for their arrest. In the past decade, thousands of “failure to pay” warrants have been issued in ZIP codes that are home to Oklahoma’s largest communities of color. Requiring police to function as debt collectors for Oklahoma’s courts worsens racial disparities in policing, wastes valuable law enforcement resources, and contributes to Oklahoma’s expensive incarceration crisis.  [Damion Shade / OK Policy]

An early look at two recently filed Senate Bills (Capitol Update): There are some early bill filings by Senators for the upcoming session. House members usually do not file their bills until the final day for filing. A couple of bills by Senate leaders caught my attention because of their potential impact. Sen. Greg McCortney, R-Ada, Chairman of the Health and Human Services Committee, apparently is looking for a way to gather data to control high health care costs in the state.  Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Roger Thompson, R-Okemah, in his continuing efforts to manage costs and fees in the criminal justice system, has pre-filed SB 38 that deals with drug courts. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update

Policy Matters: Charitable giving is an investment for today and tomorrow: The past nine months have brought unprecedented damage to our economy as well as severe disruption to the lives of our friends and neighbors who faced daily adversities even during the pre-pandemic “good times.” Today, resources and support are stretched thin for many area nonprofits that perform vital work to help Oklahomans survive. These days, we find our communities relying even more heavily on nonprofits for essentials, such as food services, shelters, child care, and other core needs that aren’t fully met due to relatively weak federal and state supports for the social safety net. Additionally, as the economy has constricted, so has funding from large companies and organizations. This makes personal gifts from individuals even more important this season. [Ahniwake Rose / Journal Record]

Upcoming Opportunities

We’re hiring for a Justice Data Analyst: OK Policy is now hiring for a Justice Data Analyst. The Justice Data Analyst will use Open Justice Oklahoma’s (OJO) database of court, prison, and jail records to open the black box of our justice system. Working closely with the Research Director, the Justice Data Analyst will identify and prioritize research projects, analyze proprietary data sets, develop and document methodologies, and communicate findings to internal and external audiences. Click here to learn more and apply.

Weekly What’s That


WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children – is a program that ensures supplemental food, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income mothers and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

The program is funded by the federal government and private sources (Nestle Infant Formula Rebates) and is operated through the State Health Department and tribal governments. A monthly average of 99,132 women, infants and children participated in state and tribal WIC programs in Oklahoma in FFY 2018.

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

Quote of the Week

“Unlike other states in the Heartland, cases and new hospital admissions are not plateauing… Virus levels continue to increase and are extremely high; activities that were safe in the summer are not safe now.”

– White House Coronavirus Task Force report on Oklahoma’s status [Tulsa World]

Editorial of the Week

Pay disparity between men, women needs to end

A gender gap is a definite disparity between men and women.

Two decades into the 21st century, full-time female workers in Garfield County still make less than two-thirds as much as their male counterparts, according to U.S. Census data featured in a recent report. Local disparities in opportunity and outcome for women are not lost on Lisa Powell, executive director of Enid Regional Development Alliance.

“Women in Enid are not equally represented in the C-Suite of companies in Enid, in the corporate board rooms of Enid, as business owners or in political leadership positions in Enid,” Powell wrote in an email to Enid News & Eagle. “This is either a result of a lack of opportunity/access, a lack of interest, or a lack of know-how.”

To help overcome those barriers, Powell formed Enid Women in Business, to be “a vehicle for women to network with one another, to receive information and training on a variety of business topics, and to connect them with leadership opportunities.”

A Business.org study linked the gender pay gap to significantly greater hurdles for women prospective business owners. While women own 30% of small companies, only 16% of conventional small-business loans are distributed to female business owners nationwide.

Looking at the total value of all loan types, the study found only 4.4% of the total value of loans for all sources go to women — meaning women get approved less often and get less funding than their male counterparts.

Looking beyond Enid to the communities at or near the bottom of the Business.org study, Powell said she “can only hypothesize as to the reason,” but added they tend to be communities with higher-paying jobs traditionally held by men.

In Enid, the gender pay gap is especially bad in our fair city, it seems. It is not only our problem, it is endemic around the nation, but we seem to have taken things a bit farther than most.

It is wrong. It is unfair. If a man and a woman with similar qualifications and education are doing the same job at the same level, they should be paid the same. Period.

This is the 21st century, folks, when are we going to wake up and realize it?

[Enid News & Eagle]

Numbers of the Day

  • 1,896 – Number of COVID-19 deaths in Oklahoma reported by the Oklahoma State Department of Health as of Dec. 6, 2020
  • 17,952 – Number of evictions filed in Oklahoma courts since the state declared a state of emergency in March
  • 100x – The rate of police stops in certain north Tulsa neighborhoods, which had higher court debt and larger Black populations, was more than 100 times higher than predominantly white and wealthier neighborhoods in Tulsa
  • 343,000 – Number of Oklahomans who reported that their household didn’t have enough to eat
  • 15.2% – Percentage of Oklahomans who live in poverty

See previous Numbers of the Day and sources here.

What We’re Reading


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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