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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U.S.
11:43 am
Tue May 7, 2013

In Boston, A Rare Rejection Of The Dead

Protesters gathered Monday outside the Graham Putnam & Mahoney Funeral Parlors in Worcester, Mass., where the body of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev is being prepared for burial.
Elise Amendola AP

Originally published on Tue May 7, 2013 1:09 pm

Tamerlan Tsarnaev is stuck in a no-man's land.

The body of the suspected Boston Marathon bomber has been at a funeral home in Worcester, Mass., since Friday, refused burial by local cemeteries.

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Politics
11:40 am
Tue May 7, 2013

Conservative Group: Immigration Reform Would Cost $6 Trillion

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 8:00 pm

Transcript

MELISSA BLOCK, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Melissa Block.

AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

And I'm Audie Cornish.

It's not clear what the cost might be of a bipartisan Senate bill that would give legal status to millions of undocumented immigrants. But today, the conservative Heritage Foundation announced it has the answer. Here's NPR's David Welna.

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7:30 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

A Third Year of Drought Threatens Southwestern Oklahoma

Lead in text: 
Spring rains drowned the “merciless” drought throughout much of the Midwest and Plains, the AP reports. But the drought lingers in pockets of Western and Plains states — “including southwest Oklahoma:”
"Extreme" and "exceptional" drought persists throughout much of the state, especially in southwestern Oklahoma. Low reservoir levels have forced city officials in Altus to issue emergency water restrictions, and Oklahomans throughout the region are worried about the future. Associated Press reporter Sharon Cohen interviewed Kent Walker, a farmer and rancher who lives near Frederick.
Politics and Government
7:19 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Oklahoma Congressman Wants $20-Billion Food Stamp Cut

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 11:29 am

Oklahoma Congressman Frank Lucas is proposing cutting $20 billion in spending over 10 years for the nation's food stamps program. It is a part of the latest farm bill.

Lucas is the chairman of the House Agriculture Committee.  The proposed reductions to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program "won't take a calorie off the plate of anyone", says the Republican lawmaker.

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Politics and Government
6:16 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Fallin Vetoes Pension Improvement Revolving Fund

OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) - Gov. Mary Fallin has vetoed measures to create a pension improvement revolving fund and a task force to study autism in adults, but signed eight other bills.

Fallin issued two veto messages on Monday, saying she rejected the pension improvement revolving fund because it had no funding mechanism. The governor says she supports the goal of improving the state's pension system but that another bill she signed on Monday has an appropriate funding mechanism.

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State Capitol
5:39 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

License to Drive Could Cost More

Credit Oklahoma Dept. of Public Safety

The cost of getting a driver's license in Oklahoma will go up by about $12 under a bill making its way to Gov. Mary Fallin's desk.

The Senate voted 30-15 on Monday to approve the bill that would increase the cost of issuing or renewing a standard driver's license from $21.50 to $33.50.

The cost of various commercial drivers' licenses also is going up by $10. The new rates will be effective Nov. 1.

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Severe Weather
5:03 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

How Low Can It Go? Tornado Numbers, Deaths Fall

Credit Harold Brooks / NOAA

The 12-month period from May 2012 to April 2013 was remarkable for the absence of tornado activity and tornado impacts in the United States.

We can start by looking at the number of EF1 and stronger tornadoes during that period. A final count is available through January 2013 and we have a pretty good estimate of how many occurred in February through April, although final numbers won’t be available until July. Although the 12 month total may change a little bit with the final data, it’s unlikely to change enough to affect the results here.

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State Capitol
4:08 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

Fallin Signs Sweeping Workers' Compensation Bill

Back injuries are a common workers' compensation claim.
Credit Darcie / Flickr Creative Commons

Gov. Mary Fallin signed into law Monday a sweeping overhaul of the way Oklahoma treats workers hurt on the job. Senate Bill 1062 changes the state’s court-based workers’ compensation system to an administrative plan.

Supporters of the bill, including its authors, Senate President Pro Tem Brian Bingman and House Speaker T.W. Shannon, say it will reduce costs for businesses.

But detractors, including many Democrats, say the new law saves money at the expense of injured workers and does nothing to reduce medical costs associated with workers’ compensation claims.

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Teach In
3:45 pm
Mon May 6, 2013

U.S. Civilian Economy Grew During World War II

David Kennedy
Credit OU

Listen to David Kennedy's presentation during the OU Teach-In on the Great Depression and World War II.

Of all the major countries fighting in World War II, the United States is the only nation whose civilian economy grew during the conflict, according to David Kennedy, Pulitzer Prize–winning author and historian.

“In this country and this country alone, the civilian portion of the economy grew by 15 percent,” Kennedy said. This is in contrast to allies Great Britain and the Soviet Union where that sector of the economy shrank by one-third.

Kennedy made those comments during his presentation, “A Tale of Three Cities: How the United State Won World War II,” at the second annual Teach In at the University of Oklahoma.

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The Two-Way
8:40 am
Mon May 6, 2013

UPDATE: White House Doubts Syrian Rebels Used Sarin

Carla del Ponte, a diplomat and prosecutor who now serves on the Independent International Commission of Inquiry for Syria.
Salvatore Di Nolfi EPA /LANDOV

Originally published on Mon May 6, 2013 1:07 pm

Update at 1:55 p.m. ET: White House Is "Highly Skeptical":

At the White House this afternoon, spokesman Jay Carney said the U.S. is "highly skeptical" of the comments made over the weekend by international prosecutor Carla del Ponte, who said there are "strong, concrete suspicions but not yet incontrovertible proof" that rebels in Syria have used sarin gas.

We've been covering del Ponte's comments, and the reaction to them, through the day. Scroll down to see an earlier update and our original post.

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