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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Grand Jury
9:03 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Judge Tosses Rogers County Grand Jury Petition

Rogers County District Attorney Janice Steidley
Credit Oklahoma District Attorneys Council

A judge has dismissed a petition calling for a grand jury to investigate Rogers County leaders, finding that backers of the measure used an unauthorized form to gather nearly 7,000 signatures from registered voters.

Tulsa County District Judge Jefferson Sellers dismissed the grand jury petition on Tuesday, ruling that the petition summary included language that had not been approved by the court.

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Flu
8:34 am
Wed October 16, 2013

Oklahoma Seniors Encouraged To Get Flu Shot

Credit NHSE / Flickr Creative Commons

Oklahoma health officials are urging seniors to get a flu shot because they have a higher risk for developing flu-related complications.

Health officials say people with a weakened immune system, heart disease, lung disease, diabetes and cancer are at the highest risk. Ninety percent of flu-related deaths and more than half of flu-related hospitalizations occur in people age 65 and older.

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Planet Money
7:44 am
Wed October 16, 2013

When Will The Government Run Out Of Money?

Quoctrung Bui

Originally published on Wed October 16, 2013 11:19 am

In the course of any given month, the government collects billions of dollars in taxes, spends billions more, and borrows money to cover the difference between what it collects and what it spends.

If Congress doesn't raise the debt ceiling soon, the government won't be able to borrow money to cover the difference anymore and won't be able to pay all of its bills.

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Memo Sent From Secretary of Finance
6:16 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Fallin Says No State Funds To Ease Federal Programs

Credit Steve Wampler / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin is ordering state agency leaders not to use any state money to temporarily fund federal programs during the ongoing partial government shutdown unless they've been guaranteed federal reimbursement.

Fallin's Secretary of Finance Preston Doerflinger sent a memo on Tuesday to all state agency directors and finance officers to that effect. The memo urges agency heads to discontinue any federally funded programs that could result in a permanent loss of state funds.

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Residents Face Economic Hardship
3:58 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Five Oklahoma Counties Have Faced Unrelenting Drought

Credit Al Jazeera English / Flickr.com

Gov. Mary Fallin has declared a drought emergency for parts of southwestern Oklahoma and a portion of the far western Panhandle.

Despite recent rainfall across much of Oklahoma, information released Tuesday by the U.S. Drought Monitor indicates extreme-to-exceptional drought conditions in the western part of the state. The counties included in the drought emergency are Jackson, Tillman, Greer, Harmon and Texas.

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Oklahoma Contemporary Art Center
3:34 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

The Illuminated Garden Comes To Oklahoma

One of Ana Maria Hernando's prints.
Credit Ana Maria Hernando

Listen to the story as it aired on KGOU.

While Argentinian artist Ana Maria Hernando now lives in Boulder, Colo., she remains closely connected with South America. She continues to make regular visits to women on the continent who provide both inspiration and material for her works.

Hernando’s new exhibit at Oklahoma Contemporary features paintings, drawings, prints and resin plates grouped on the wall and floor. The title, El Jardin Illuminado or The Illuminated Garden, refers to the garden and flower themes in her work.

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Native American
1:11 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Father Of Cherokee Girl Honored In Tulsa

Dusten Brown and now-four-year-old Veronica.
Credit Cherokee Nation

The National Congress of American Indians is honoring the biological father of a Cherokee girl at the center of a lengthy custody dispute.

At a meeting in Tulsa on Tuesday, the group honored Dusten Brown, a member of the Cherokee Nation who is the father of 4-year-old Veronica. Brown was also recognized for his service with the Oklahoma National Guard.

Last week, Brown announced he was dropping all custody claims and was working with the South Carolina couple who adopted Veronica on ways he could be involved in her life.

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Environment
12:55 pm
Tue October 15, 2013

Declining Prairie Chicken Population Further ‘Decimated’ By Drought

Credit USDAgov / Flickr Creative Commons

The declining population of lesser prairie chickens has been an issue for years. It was during the 1990s — and another drought — that the species was first proposed for federal protection.

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Oklahoma Politics
11:55 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Panel Shoots Down Oklahoma Legislator Pay Hike

Credit russavia / Creative Commons

Oklahoma state legislators — who earn $38,400 annually plus benefits and expenses — won't be getting a raise any time soon.

The Legislative Compensation Board voted 7-1 on Tuesday for the base pay, retirement and benefits package for Oklahoma's senators and House members to stay in place. Former Republican state Sen. Charles Ford of Tulsa was the lone dissenting vote. Ford urged the panel to consider hiking the base pay for legislators to $44,000 annually. The board meets every two years.

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Corrections
9:20 am
Tue October 15, 2013

Oklahoma County Officials Wait For Federal Word On Possible Jail Tax Hike

Oklahoma County Jail
Credit Oklahoma County

Leaders in Oklahoma County are awaiting feedback from the Department of Justice on whether the agency will force a tax increase to pay for improvements to the county jail.

District 3 Commissioner Ray Vaughn says the county informed the department they've done all they can to improve conditions at the lockup without any new funding from a tax increase.

Vaughn tells The Journal Record that the commission sent a letter updating the federal government shortly before the shutdown Oct. 1. The county has not yet received a response.

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