ON AIR NOW

LISTEN NOW

Weather

cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
84°
Sunny
H 84° L 63°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    84°
    Current Conditions
    Sunny. H 84° L 63°
  • clear-day Created with Sketch.
    81°
    Evening
    Sunny. H 84° L 63°
  • cloudy-day Created with Sketch.
    65°
    Morning
    Partly Cloudy. H 88° L 63°
LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg news on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg traffic on demand

00:00 | 00:00

LISTEN
PAUSE
ERROR

Krmg weather on demand

00:00 | 00:00

Local
Legislators look to restrict federal assistance programs
Close

Legislators look to restrict federal assistance programs

Legislators look to restrict federal assistance programs

Legislators look to restrict federal assistance programs

OKLAHOMA CITY —

As Republican legislators look for ways to tighten the state's budget belt, and score points with an increasingly conservative electorate, they are targeting federal assistance programs popular among low-income and needy Oklahomans.

Last year, the GOP-led Legislature passed a measure subjecting welfare recipients to drug tests, and so far this year close to a dozen measures have been introduced targeting assistance programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), also called food stamps, and Temporary Aid to Needy Families, or unemployment benefits.

Some of the bills create new requirements for those who receive assistance, like requiring recipients to work more hours, or prohibit certain people, like those convicted of drug crimes or with $5,000 or more in assets, from receiving benefits.

"We should define compassion by the number of people we're helping get off these programs, not keep on them," said new House Speaker T.W. Shannon, R-Lawton, who has a bill that would require able-bodied, childless adults under age 50 who receive food stamps to spend a minimum of 35 hours per week engaged in "work activities."

"I think we also have to recognize that often times government subsidy programs often can lead to dependence, and we need to make sure we're not perpetuating dependence, that we're encouraging personal responsibility."

A fiscal analysis of Shannon's bill suggests it would cost the Department of Human Services an estimated $18.7 million for the agency to add staff, develop work components and training, and change its system to comply with the requirements. The analysis projects nearly 5,200 recipients could be dropped from the program, for an estimated savings of $1 million.

The bill could pose additional problems, since the federal agency that administers the program, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, has said states cannot change or raise the work limits, according to DHS.

Statia Jackson, 38, an educator in Oklahoma City, said she received food stamps for about two years while working part-time and raising two young children on her own. Jackson, who eventually left public assistance after finding a full-time job, said she would have gone hungry without the benefits.

"Honestly, we would not have eaten," she said. "They do have some food pantries and things of that nature, but at times they didn't have anything. I would have gone without eating if I didn't have those (benefits)."

Rep. Sean Roberts, R-Hominy, has a pair of bills targeting those who receive food stamps, including a measure that would prohibit convicted drug offenders or those with $5,000 or more in "liquid assets" from receiving benefits.

Roberts declined to speak to The Associated Press about his bills, but his office issued a statement in which he said he introduced the measures at the request of a constituent.

"I have heard concerns from taxpaying constituents that struggle to make ends meet and often have to resort to bologna sandwiches for lunch," Roberts said in a statement. "At the same time, there are others who made poor choices resulting in a drug conviction and are currently subsidized by others' taxpayer dollars."

But advocates for low-income Oklahomans say beneficiaries of these types of programs are being unfairly targeted because of a misconception that the programs are broadly abused or that recipients somehow don't deserve benefits.

"I think that there is a popular myth that poor people are abusing these programs, and I think it's unfounded and unfortunate," said Kate Richey, a policy analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute, a think-tank that advocates for programs that help poor Oklahomans. "These are real people who find themselves in a situation where the only option at the moment is to ask for help."

Oklahoma DHS officials said in a statement that the $5,000 liquid asset requirement for recipients would affect only a sliver of those who receive benefits.

"Typically, people with $5,000 in their bank accounts are not coming into DHS offices to apply for food benefits," DHS spokesman Mark Beutler said. "Oklahoma research indicated less than 1 percent of the total applications denied each month were denied specifically for excess resources."

House Democratic leader Rep. Scott Inman said Roberts' bill, which initially had a $2,000 asset limit, also discourages needy families from saving money to get out of poverty.

"It discourages them from saving money in case their car breaks down to pay for repairs," said Inman, D-Del City. "The Republican majority today wants our poorest families to spend every dollar out of their savings account before they get any help."

Inman said he believes low-income Oklahomans are an easy target because they have no one at the Capitol advocating on their behalf.

"The only thing I can think of is that they're the folks who have the smallest voice in the state," Inman said. "They don't have highly paid, powerful lobbyists who can come and defend them.

"To cut back their funding at this particular time is unconscionable."

___

Sean Murphy can be reached at

Copyright The Associated Press

Read More
VIEW COMMENTS

There are no comments yet. Be the first to post your thoughts. or Register.

  • Responding to concerns about personal security for lawmakers after last week’s gun attack at a Congressional baseball practice, U.S. House leaders are moving to provide extra money to members for protection back home, as well as new funding to bolster the work of police and security officials on Capitol Hill. Under a plan approved by a House spending subcommittee on Friday, the Congress would provide an extra $7.5 million next year to the Capitol Police for an “increased security posture” around the Capitol, along with $5 million to the House Sergeant at Arms to help with security for lawmakers back in their districts. “We are taking a new fresh look at security,” said Rep. Kevin Yoder (R-KS), the Chairman of subcommittee that deals with funding for the Legislative Branch. Our FY18 Legislative Branch funding bill increases efficiency & transparency in Congress, enhances security for Members & our constituents. pic.twitter.com/FI36tF2XeH — Rep. Kevin Yoder (@RepKevinYoder) June 22, 2017 “The tragic events of June 14 weigh heavily on these deliberations,” said Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen (R-NJ), the Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, which could vote on the extra money as early as this next week. Also being put into motion is a separate plan to funnel an extra $25,000 to each member of the House – about $11 million in all – to help them increase security back in their districts. “The scariest part for us is there used to be this impression by the public that we all had security everywhere we went,” said Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH). “Now, everyone knows that isn’t the case,” Ryan added, as he lent his support to the extra funding for security as well. The money in this budget bill would not take effect until the new fiscal year – which starts October 1 – so, House leaders are ready to okay extra money immediately for members worried about security back in their districts. Roll Call newspaper reported that could be approved in coming days by the House Administration Committee. Yoder said Congressional leaders are also waiting to see if money raised in campaign contributions for House elections could be put to use for security as well. “Pending an FEC (Federal Election Commission) decision, we’re also looking at whether campaign funds could be used to continue to support security upgrades at personal residences,” Yoder added.
  • An unknown aged girl went to the hospital with burns to her legs, following an overnight house fire. KRMG’s told the fire started around 2:40 a.m., at a residence on West 50th Court North. The homeowner says he was able to get his daughter, grand daughter and sleeping brother out of the house. So far, firefighters haven't released a cause for the fire.  The homeowner believes fumes from a gas can in the garage may have cause the blaze.   
  • Multiple people had to be rescued early Saturday morning in Rogers County. OTEMS paramedics report a boat started to sink on Oologah Lake just after midnight. “Additional information was received that the boat had its nose in the air, four individuals were in the water, and only one was wearing a PDF (personal flotation device),” an official said. “A Rogers County Deputy spotted what might be the boat south of Winganon Bridge but was unable to determine the precise location. However it was located by the Northwest Water Rescue unit and at 0048 hours the rescue boat reported that it had located the victims and was loading the fourth individual into the boat.” KRMG’s told the victims were hanging onto the hull when they were found. So far, no injuries have been reported.  Officials also haven’t released any names.   We do know the Oklahoma Highway Patrol has taken over the investigation.  
  • Tulsa investigators are looking for a driver who fled the scene, after hitting a male pedestrian late Friday night. Police report the auto-pedestrian collision happened around 11:34 p.m., near East Admiral and North Yale. “The pedestrian victim has been declared deceased at this time,” police said.   Investigators don't have a description of the driver or the car.  Anyone with information regarding the incident is asked to call Crime Stoppers at 918-596-COPS.
  • We know this might start an argument, but according to Business Insider, Oklahoma's most famous band EVER is the Flaming Lips. Business Insider admits the song 'She Don't Use Jelly' is the Norman-based indie rockers only U.S. hit. But they say the band has had many hits in the U.K. and Europe and, even more impressive, three Grammys to their credit. Some on the list are hard to argue with, like Bruce Springsteen and the E-Street Band in New Jersey or Nirvana in Washington State. You can see the entire list of the most famous bands here.