Following Oklahoma's 2013 Tornadoes, Where Does Federal Aid Really Go?

Debris filled the streets in Moore, Okla. on May 20, 2013.
State Farm Flickr Creative Commons

After a string of deadly tornados hit Oklahoma in the spring of last year, President Obama signed a federal disaster declaration that paved the way for up to $257 million in aid.

One year later, about one half of that funding has been spent.  The Oklahoma Tornado Project teamed up with Oklahoma Watch to track where all the money went. 

Following huge disasters, there’s always a potential for things to go wrong. In New Orleans, former mayor Ray Nagin was recently sentenced to 10 years in prison for taking bribes from contractors rebuilding after Hurricane Katrina. And in New Jersey, there’s been criticism that some Sandy aid money has gone to less needy areas.

So we wanted to look into Oklahoma’s post-storm recovery. State Department of Emergency Management Director Albert Ashwood – who has worked closely with FEMA – says outright fraud is less common than it used to be. 

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StateImpact Oklahoma
7:40 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Texas To Blame For Oklahoma’s Biggest Haze Pollution Problem

Meers area resident Bill Cunningham looks for haze over the Wichita Mountains from the top of Mt. Scott.
Credit Logan Layden / StateImpact Oklahoma

Federal regulators are forcing Oklahoma’s largest utility companies to lower emissions at their coal fired power plants or shut them down. The goal of the EPA’s Regional Haze Rule is to clear the air on federal lands like national parks and refuges.

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Shots - Health News
5:42 am
Thu January 9, 2014

Legal Loopholes Leave Some Kids Without Dental Insurance

Kamora Cyprian got her teeth cleaned at a free health care event in the Los Angeles Sports Arena in September 2012.
Kevork Djansezian Getty Images

Originally published on Fri January 10, 2014 9:21 am

If you think buying health insurance under the Affordable Care Act has been complicated, just wait. Buying dental coverage on the health exchanges, it turns out, is even more confusing.

Dental coverage for children is one of the benefits that must be offered under the law. But, it turns out, a loophole in the law means that — in most states — families don't actually have to buy that coverage.

These rules are so confusing that they even tripped me up.

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New Anti-Poverty Program
6:37 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Choctaw Nation To Be One Of Five "Promise Zones"

Choctaw Elder
Credit Choctaw Nation

The Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma has been selected as one of the first five organizations to test a new anti-poverty program to improve life in chronically poor areas.

The Oklahoman reports the tribe will create a Promise Zone in an economically challenged area in southeastern Oklahoma and use community groups, businesses and schools to focus on specific education and economic development goals.

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Truth In Settlements Act
6:17 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Coburn Working With Democrat Elizabeth Warren For Transparency

Credit Medill DC / Flickr Creative Commons

U.S. Sen. Tom Coburn says he wants to increase the transparency of settlements reached with federal enforcement agencies, saying the real value of settled cases is often not known.

Coburn announced in a press release Wednesday his plans to join Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts on a bipartisan bill. Dubbed the "Truth in Settlements Act," the measure would require more detailed disclosures about settlement agreements that are often reached when federal agencies close investigations.

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StateImpact Oklahoma
2:53 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

It’s Cold, But Here Are 3 Other Reasons Oklahoma is Running Short on Propane

Credit K.G. Hawes / Flickr Creative Commons

About 400,000 mostly rural Oklahomans rely on propane to heat their homes, and demand for the fuel has skyrocketed along with prices, which are more than 50 cents higher than last year.

Oklahoma Gov. Mary Fallin on Tuesdayissued an executive order easing licensing requirements for propane truckers to address the shortage. Fifteen other states have issued similar orders.

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Corrections
1:37 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Oklahoma Corrections Board Seeks New Prisons Boss

Credit Oklahoma Department of Corrections

The Oklahoma Board of Corrections this week is interviewing candidates who want to be the next director of the state's prison system.

The seven-member board planned to interview potential candidates Wednesday during a special meeting at DOC headquarters. The board also is planning additional interviews Thursday before its regular meeting.

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Oklahoma News
12:23 pm
Wed January 8, 2014

Upgrades Planned At Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum

The Field of Empty Chairs at the symbolic outdoor portion of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.
Credit Kurt Gwartney / KGOU

The Oklahoma City National Memorial & Museum has unveiled plans for a new $7 million project that will upgrade the museum and offer more insights for visitors into the deadly attack.

The plans were unveiled during a symbolic wall-breaking ceremony at the museum on Wednesday. The memorial honors the 168 people who died in the 1995 bombing of the Oklahoma City federal building.

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Code Switch
11:11 am
Wed January 8, 2014

What Happens When A Language's Last Monolingual Speaker Dies?

A portrait of Emily Johnson Dickerson by artist Mike Larsen.
Courtesy of the Chickasaw Nation

Originally published on Wed January 8, 2014 2:47 pm

Emily Johnson Dickerson died at her home in Ada, Okla., last week. She was the last person alive who spoke only the Chickasaw language.

"This is a sad day for all Chickasaw people because we have lost a cherished member of our Chickasaw family and an unequaled source of knowledge about our language and culture," Chickasaw Nation Gov. Bill Anoatubby said in a news release. The Chickasaw Nation has about 55,000 members and is based in the southern part of central Oklahoma.

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Aviation
10:47 am
Wed January 8, 2014

OSU Students Design Two Types Of Drones

Credit sam_churchill / Flickr Creative Commons

Students at Oklahoma State University have designed two drones capable of punching through violent storms and aiding authorities with search and rescue efforts.

The first drone — also known as an unmanned aerial vehicle — was designed to intercept and measure key weather data in severe thunderstorms. Called MARIA, the aircraft can be deployed rapidly and flown into the lower parts of developing storm cells to improve understanding of the systems.  

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Oklahoma Politics
9:33 am
Wed January 8, 2014

OESC Seeks Domestic Abuse Employment Changes In Legislative Session

The Oklahoma Employment Security Commission will ask lawmakers to consider a number of changes to its statutes during the upcoming legislative session, commission members were told Tuesday.

Among those changes, John Miley, OESC general counsel, told the commissioners will be an amendment that allows victims of domestic violence who have been forced to leave their jobs and apply for unemployment benefits to provide evidence, particularly testimony, rather than documentation in appeals before hearing officers.

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