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
Turning the tide on evictions: Using federal aid, support to reduce Oklahoma’s eviction crisis: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently extended its eviction moratorium until the end of July, giving renters and governments another month to organize efforts to prevent mass displacement after the economic fallout of the COVID-19 pandemic. Experts have warned for months of an eviction wave coming when the moratorium lifts and millions of renters owe a combined billions in back rent. Eviction has devastating effects on a family’s long-term well-being, and a wave of family displacements would be a serious threat to public health. Fortunately, rent assistance funds from federal COVID-19 relief bills are still available, and this will be the most important tool in preventing displacement and making landlords financially whole going forward. Combined with the Advance Child Tax Credit that will send cash directly to families with children starting in July, the financial supports put into place in recent months may help Oklahoma avoid an eviction wave in the short term, and building upon them could help turn the housing crisis tide over the long term. [Ryan Gentzler / OK Policy]
- Fact Sheet: Right to Counsel in Oklahoma: Facts and Figures on Housing, Costs, and Effects
- Data Analysis: Legal Representation and Eviction Outcomes
Policy Matters: The human costs of eviction: In coldly analytical terms, an eviction is the expulsion from a residence when a housing contract has expired or otherwise been terminated. However, evictions come with very real human costs. They are life-changing events with often catastrophic consequences for families today and years in the future. Even before the pandemic, Oklahoma’s two largest metropolitan areas were among the nation’s top 20 for eviction rates. The pandemic made this bad situation worse. By mid-May, more than 1 in 3 Oklahomans lived in households facing likely eviction or foreclosure during the previous nine months. [Ahniwake Rose / Policy Matters]
A look at corrections-focused interim studies (Capitol Update): It’s always interesting to see the interim study requests made by legislators. The studies are a good opportunity for legislators to learn more and educate others about issues they care about. The House requests that caught my eye were by Rep. J.J. Humphrey, R-Lane, Chair of the Criminal Justice and Corrections Committee, who requested IS 21-038 to examine areas where he believes change is critically needed in order to improve the efficiency of the Department of Corrections. [Steve Lewis / Capitol Update]
Weekly What’s That
Interim studies are studies of legislative and policy issues that may be requested by any member of the House or Senate. They often address issues that have been the subject of legislation that failed to pass in previous sessions, or that are deemed worthy of more in-depth consideration.
Interim studies must be requested by House and Senate members by a deadline set by each chamber. The two chambers handle interim study requests differently. In the Senate, the President Pro Tempore does not approve or disapprove interim study requests but assigns them to the appropriate standing committee. The committee chair then decides which studies will be heard. In the House, the Speaker decides which studies to approve or disapprove. In some cases, House study requests on similar subjects are combined into a single study. Some studies may be considered jointly by the House and Senate.
Interim studies are typically held from September to November and usually meet at the State Capitol. A committee may devote anywhere from one hour to several full meetings to each study. Local and national experts may be invited to testify at interim study meetings. Interim studies rarely generate formal reports or recommendations, but their work can guide future legislation.
Quote of the Week
“We distributed those (wireless) hotspots but still found we had families without access because they can’t even get reliable cell coverage where they’re located.”
-Jones Public Schools Superintendent Carl Johnson talking about internet access disparities in his rural eastern Oklahoma County district. [The Oklahoman]
Editorial of the Week
There can be little doubt about the connection between an upward trend in the number of COVID-19 cases and large summer gatherings that have become more frequent.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show the seven-day average of new cases in Oklahoma increased from 110 on June 3 to 210 on July 5. A year ago the seven-day average for new COVID-19 cases ticked up from 82 on June 3 to 426 on July 5.
Despite an exponential increase in the level of activity this year, there are number of new COVID-19 cases is about one-fourth of what was reported a year ago. Public health officials credit the availability of vaccines developed, tested and distributed during the past year for the ability to realize some semblance of a pre-pandemic state.
While those achievements are worth celebrating, there is plenty of room for improvement. The vaccination rate in Oklahoma declined from a seven-day average of more than 30,000 for much of February and March to fewer than 10,000 a day for most of the past six weeks.
Oklahoma, once a leader in the effort to vaccinate residents against a disease that has killed more than 6.3 million Americans, ranks among those at the bottom. Less than 40% of Oklahomans are fully vaccinated, according to CDC data.
Despite evidence that shows vaccines are the best way to avoid contracting the novel coronavirus — even rapidly spreading variants — public health officials expect only 66% of Oklahomans will choose to vaccinate themselves against COVID-19.
Keith Reed, Oklahoma’s deputy commissioner of health, said he believes “there is a lot of distrust out there” based on “messaging.” That distrust, he said, “is exacerbated by political views.”
Recent reporting by Center for Public Integrity exposed a network of influencers who have made millions of dollars cultivating doubt about vaccines. This cottage industry, based upon the dissemination of information discredited by most medical experts, predates the COVID-19 pandemic, which has been used by some to further polarize partisan divides.
We agree there are legitimate reasons to opt out when it comes to being vaccinated. Such decisions should be based on sound science — politics and profits should play no role in public and personal health choices.
Numbers of the Day
- 14,943 – Despite the CDC moratorium, more than 14,943 evictions have been granted by courts in Oklahoma since March 2020, according to Open Justice Oklahoma, a program of the Oklahoma Policy Institute. A total of 36,353 evictions have been filed in court during that time. [Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]
- 9,236 – Number of evictions filed by the 53 most frequent plaintiffs in Tulsa County, 2019-2020. These landlords accounted for over 2 out of every 5 eviction filings during the period [Source: Open Justice Oklahoma]
- 1 in 3 – Portion of eviction filings filed against Black renters in an Eviction Lab study, despite Black renters making up only 1 in 5 renters in their sample. The study found that Black and Latinx renters in general, and women in particular, are disproportionately threatened with eviction and disproportionately evicted from their homes. [Source: Eviction Lab]
- 25% – Nearly 1 in 4 renters who have “a lot of difficulty” or “cannot” see, hear, or walk or climb stairs reported that their household was behind on rent, according to data collected April 14 – May 24. [U.S. Census Data via CBPP]
What We’re Reading
- EXPLAINER: How Oklahoma evictions might spike after July [AP News]
- High-Volume Tulsa Eviction Filers [Open Justice Oklahoma]
- New research finds evictions during pregnancy are tied to adverse birth outcomes [STAT]
- Extending Eviction Moratorium Helpful Now, But Long-Term Housing Crisis Requires Voucher Expansion [Center on Budget and Policy Priorities]