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StateImpact Oklahoma
11:14 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Federal Money Flows To Oklahoma For Water Infrastructure Fixes

Broken Bow Dam
Christopher Caldwell Flickr Creative Commons

Over the past week, Oklahoma has secured more than $37 million in federal funding for dam improvements across the state and for water system repairs in communities with aging pipes and treatment plants.

First, on July 18, the federal government announced a national dam assessment and repair program made possible by an “almost 21 fold” increase in funding for watershed rehabilitation under the 2014 Farm Bill. $26.4 million will go to Oklahoma.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
9:30 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Auditing The Storm: Cities, State Scramble To Spend Community Storm Grants

A photograph giving an overhead view of tornado damage in Moore, Oklahoma on May 21, 2013.
Oklahoma National Guard Wikipedia Commons

More than half of the federal disaster funds being offered to Oklahoma for recovery from the violent storms of 2013 are in the form of community development grants.

But that cash aid comes with strings attached. And those strings have state and local officials scrambling to figure out how to spend the money effectively and whether they can meet federal deadlines in spending all of the grant funds, totaling $146 million. Whatever is not spent will be left on the table.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has approved two rounds of community development block grants tied to Disaster 4117, which covers the severe tornadoes and storms that struck in 21 counties between May 18 and June 2 last year. These grants can be used for housing, economic development, infrastructure and prevention against future damage.

The state of Oklahoma was awarded $93.7 million, to be distributed to local governments; Moore received two direct awards totaling $52.2 million.

One of the biggest challenges in spending the money is a requirement that more than half of the grant funds be spent to benefit low- to moderate-income people or areas affected by a disaster. Low to moderate income is defined as those living at or below 80 percent of a metropolitan area’s median income level. In Oklahoma City, that equated to $48,000 for a family of four in 2013.

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Oklahoma Tornado Project
7:32 am
Wed July 23, 2014

Auditing The Storm: HUD Funds Trickle Slowly Into Oklahoma Disaster Areas

Joe Wertz StateImpact Oklahoma

In the year since a series of severe storms devastated Central Oklahoma, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded nearly $146 million to the city of Moore and the state to help with recovery. But so far, only a fraction of that has been spent, and spending the money has turned out to be harder than you’d think. 

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Politics and Government
6:45 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Fallin Rejects Ritze Call For ‘Catastrophic Health Emergency'

Oklahoma Governor Mary Fallin.
Credit jadedtom / Flickr.com

Governor Mary Fallin’s office on Tuesday rejected a call by Rep. Mike Ritze to declare a Catastrophic Health Emergency to address issues related to the immigrant children being held at Fort Sill.

“It is our belief that the (Catastrophic Health Emergency Act) offers a very narrow interpretation of what a ‘health emergency’ is and when a CHE can be declared by the governor, wrote Steve Mullins, Fallin’s general counsel, in a Tuesday letter to Ritze. “We do not believe that the current health concerns at Fort Sill have met that threshold.” 

On July 14, Ritze, R-Broken Arrow, announced he had sent letters to Fallin Attorney General Scott Pruitt, Oklahoma Commissioner of Health Terry Cline and state representatives in the Lawton area encouraging them to do all they can to ensure the protection of Oklahoma citizens from contagious diseases following the federal government's decision to house illegal immigrant children at Ft. Sill.

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Oklahoma Watch
6:31 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Q&A: How ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings Could Affect Oklahoma

Credit Lora Zibman / Flickr Creative Commons

On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.

Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.

I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?

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OSBI
6:18 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Advanced Investigative Academy Graduates 34 Agents

Credit Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation

Thirty-four agents are graduating from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation Advanced Investigative Academy.

The agents graduated Tuesday from the academy.

Agents hired since 2007 attended the six-week academy to learn advanced skills in areas such as blood stain pattern analysis, investigative interviewing and advanced interrogation techniques and crime scene investigations.

The Bureau planned an academy a few years ago, but budget constraints would not allow for it.

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Rep. Mike Ritze
4:29 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

Oklahoma Legislator Wants Immigrant Children Quarantined

Rep. Mike Ritze
Credit Oklahoma State Legislature

A state lawmaker who is one of two doctors in the Oklahoma Legislature is insisting that unaccompanied immigrant minors being housed at Fort Sill be quarantined.

Republican state Rep. Mike Ritze of Broken Arrow said Tuesday he wants the federal government to provide documentation that all of the children at Fort Sill have been medically screened and don't pose a health risk.

More than 860 minors are currently being housed at the southwest Oklahoma Army post near Lawton.

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Health Care Law
12:58 pm
Tue July 22, 2014

OK Attorney General: D.C. Court's Decision Could Affect Oklahoma Lawsuit

Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt
Credit Oklahoma Attorney General E. Scott Pruitt / Facebook

Update 3:15pm: see NPR's story about another court decision that affirms the federal health care law, saying the state exchanges set up by the federal government can offer subsidies to people who purchase insurance through those subsidies.

 

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World Views
11:58 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Small Scenes, Big Issues: Poet Captures Day-to-Day Existence In U.S., Venezuela

Brian Hardzinski KGOU

Venezuelan poet Arturo Gutierrez-Plaza has spent his career crafting poems exploring the scenes of everyday life. He told KGOU’s World Views he views poetry as a way to maintain the experience of childhood discovery as you learn new words, and how to use those words to unfold the tapestry of language.

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Oklahoma News
7:14 am
Tue July 22, 2014

Study: 1 In 4 Oklahoma Kids Live In Poverty

Credit Annie E. Casey Foundation

A new national study shows that nearly 1 in 4 children in Oklahoma live in poverty and the number of children living in high-poverty areas has more than doubled since 2000.

The 25th annual Kids Count report released Tuesday by the Baltimore-based Annie E. Casey Foundation ranked Oklahoma 39th in 16 indicators across four areas: economic well-being, education, health and family and community. The state dropped from 36th in 2013, one of the largest declines in the United States.

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