April 23, 2022

I received a post from Melissa about the impact the Oklahoma Tribes are having on the state.  The Oklahoma Tribal Finance Consortium’s (OTFC) study found the 16 tribal Nations based in the state had a US$15.6 billion impact on the economy.  The study began in 2019 and was released on March 23, 2022.  The report shows an increase of more than $2.6 billion in economic activity from 2017 to 2019.  The Oklahoma tribes directly employ more than 54,000 people and provide 113,442 jobs to tribal citizens and non-citizens, accounting for over $5.4 billion in wages and benefits.  One advantage of the Tribes as an economic driver is they are a more constant and reliable partner than outside corporations.  Victor Flores, President of OTFC and Director of Tribal Services, said “Unlike corporations that move based on economic conditions, our tribes are here to stay.  Oklahoma is home, and we will continue to reinvest in our communities through job creation, critical service delivery and infrastructure development.”

One form of impact is Tribal health care, which includes more than 45 operating facilities.  Most of these locations provide care to both Native American and non-Native Oklahomans.  Another advantage is when Native Americans get health care at tribal health facilities, the entire cost of care is paid by the federal government.  During 2019, the tribes paid $232 million in Medicaid expenses.  This Oklahoma $86 million as the services did not require state matching funds.  In 2019 alone, there were 3.5 million patient visits at tribal health facilities in Oklahoma.  Those visits resulted in prevention and in improved health which potentially provide additional cost savings for the state.

Another revenue impact is the gaming compacts between Oklahoma-based tribes and the state which require tribal nations to submit a percentage of their gaming revenues for the exclusive right to operate casinos in the state.  Oklahoma sends the first $250,000 of these fees to the Oklahoma Department of Mental Health and Substance Abuse Services, and the remaining 88% of funds are used for public education supporting all Oklahomans.  The Tribes have paid more than $1.8 billion in exclusivity fees since 2006, with over $1.5 billion used for public education.  During 2019, an additional $84 million was paid to support Oklahoma schools, municipalities, and other community initiatives.  Another economic impact comes from the more than 75,000 people employed by the casinos, mostly in rural communities.  The monies generated build roads and hospitals, invest in our public schools and universities, and create programs to serve those who need assistance.  Matthew L. Morgan, Chairman, Oklahoma Indian Gaming Association said, “We are proud of our past, excited about things happening right now, and determined to leave the next generation an industry, and an Oklahoma, that they can take pride in.”

THOUGHTS:  Like any government study, the report on the Tribes economic impact was only partial, as only 16 of the 39 tribes based in the state provided financial data for the report.  That represents 41% of the Tribes responded and probably indicates the economic impact was much higher.  Additional data for the report was gathered from information on the tribes from other federal and state data.  A typical survey reply rate is in the range of 5% to 30%.  While the US Census Bureau claims over 99% of households are accounted for by their reports, the administration stopped the survey prior to its scheduled end date in 2020.  People could still fill out information online, but these are the same people who had avoided the survey for the previous six months.  The census is used to assign House of Representatives seats and determine where federal aid is needed.  No reason to get that information correct, right?  Act for others.  Change is coming and it starts with you.

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