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Capitol Insider: Latest News on Food Insecurity Policy & Advocacy (May 2022)

by Jessica Dietrich, Director of Government Relations and Public Policy

2022 Legislative Session

Regular Session:
The regular legislative session adjourns this week. The legislature completed their work on the budget last week and sent the budget bills, along with many additional bills, to the governor’s desk. Below is a brief update on a couple of the issues we were tracking this session. We will provide a final 2022 regular legislative session wrap up next month once the legislative session has officially ended.

  • Child Nutrition Program administration – The proposals to move the administration of the Federal Child Nutrition Programs from the Oklahoma State Department of Education to the Oklahoma Department of Agriculture, Food, and Forestry was not passed by the legislature this session.
  • State grocery tax relief – This policy was not included in the final budget package passed by the legislature.

Special Sessions:
The legislature called for an “Extraordinary Session of the 58th Oklahoma Legislature” (more commonly referred to as “special session”) on May 18, 2022. In special sessions, the legislature is limited to considering only certain items that meet the reasons cited for the need for the special session. The items cited in the legislature’s call for special session include:

  1. Expenditure of American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds
  2. Expenditure of funds from the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act
  3. Matters related to the Large-Scale Economic Activity and Development (LEAD) Act
  4. Matters related to critical statewide economic development

Read the Senate press release, including the full text of the special session call here.

On May 27, Governor Stitt also called for a special session of the legislature to begin on June 13. The goals cited in the governor’s call for special session include:

  1. To abolish, reduce, or phase out the state’s grocery tax
  2. To reduce the state personal income tax

Read the Governor’s press release here and the text for the governor’s call for a special session here.

Child Nutrition Program Waivers

As mentioned in the March edition of Capitol Insider, the USDA’s waiver authority was not extended in the federal budget package. Without further action, this means that many of the waivers that are currently in effect will expire on June 30, 2022. Hunger Free Oklahoma, in partnership with the Community Food Bank of Eastern Oklahoma and the Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma, wrote a letter to our members of Congress requesting they take action to extend the USDA’s authority to issue these important program flexibilities. The letter was also accompanied by several stories shared by members of the Oklahoma Childhood Food Security Coalition about how the lack of waivers will directly impact the number of summer meal sites and the overall number of meals food-insecure Oklahoma children will be able to access this year.

The USDA did recently issue additional guidance to states on the types of waivers they will be able to approve under this more limited authority. Though these waivers were implemented in response to the pandemic, HFO has long advocated for many of these flexibilities, as they allow programs to operate more efficiently and ultimately serve more Oklahoma children. Hunger Free Oklahoma will continue to work with our partners to elevate the importance of these waivers and the need for extension.

Federal Public Health Emergency 

Earlier this month the federal public health emergency was extended to July 15, 2022. At this time, it is being predicted that the emergency declaration will likely be extended at least one more time (from July through October), though no official action has been announced or taken yet. The end of the federal public health emergency will mean several changes to federal nutrition programs. We are tracking this very closely and will keep our partners updated with the latest information.

P-EBT Updates

School Year 2020–2021 Benefits:
Families who filled out the review form on OSDE’s page are starting to receive these benefits.

School Year 2021–2022 Benefits:
Oklahoma was recently approved to operate the P-EBT program for school closures during the 2021–2022 school year. At this time, we are unsure of when these benefits will be issued.

Summer 2022 Benefits:
The USDA just recently provided guidance to states interested in participating in Summer 2022 P-EBT. At this time, we are not aware of any states that have been approved to operate Summer 2022 P-EBT, including Oklahoma, but we anticipate that the state is likely to apply to issue Summer 2022 P-EBT benefits.

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