Hundreds of thousands of Oklahomans are entering the holiday season with anxiety of how they’ll pay for food, rent and common household expenses, new federal data shows. 

The U.S. Census Bureau’s latest Household Pulse Survey which provides near real-time estimates of the nation’s social and economic state, paints a dire picture for many struggling months into the COVID-19 pandemic that has killed thousands and caused soaring unemployment rates. 

Among the survey results:

  • Less than half of Oklahomans say they have enough money to regularly buy the food they want;
  • One in three have no to little confidence they can afford rent next month, and;
  • More than 60% have had at least some problems making usual household expenses. 

The survey’s findings, which included responses between Nov. 15 and Dec. 7, comes as Congress approved a second COVID-19 stimulus bill that reportedly would include $600 payments to millions of Americans making under $75,000 annually. 

Here are three graphics that illustrate what many Oklahomans are experiencing.

Food Insecurity

The Household Pulse Survey shows that more Oklahomans are struggling with food insecurity than there were earlier this year. 

The findings show that only 46.2% of Oklahoma households regularly can afford enough of the type of food they want. That’s below the current national average of 51% and well below pre-pandemic levels when about 58% percent said they regularly had enough of the type of food they wanted in March.

The number of Oklahomans who say they often or sometimes don’t have enough to eat are also on the rise. 

More than 462,400 households, about 16% of the state’s population, either sometimes or frequently does not have enough to eat, according to the survey’s projections. That is up nearly by nearly 115,000 Oklahomans compared to March. 

More than half of the households who said they don’t have enough to eat during the latest survey period have at least one child.

Housing

More Oklahomans are also struggling with rent or housing costs than earlier this year. 

The survey shows that about 33% of households have no or a slight confidence they can make rent next month. That is up from just 25.8%  in May.

Many homeowners are also struggling to make mortgage payments. Of the just over one million households that don’t own their property free and clear, the survey shows that 14% have no or a slight confidence in making their next payment, 23% are moderately confident and 61% have a high confidence. 

The survey goes on to report that 48% of renters are very or somewhat likely of leaving their home due to eviction in the next two months while 26% of homeowners say they are very or somewhat likely of leaving their home due to foreclosure in the next two months. 

Spending

With thousands of Oklahomans struggling to pay for food and housing, it’s not a surprise that many also have problems affording other expenses. 

In response to a question that asked if they had difficulty paying for usual household expenses during the coronavirus pandemic, 18% said it has been very difficult, 24% said it’s been somewhat difficult and almost 19% said it’s been a little difficult. 

Only 36.2% of respondents said they have not had any difficulty. But many of those reported that they had higher income levels than others. 

Of those who said they have had a very or somewhat difficult time, 32% said they have taken out credit cards or loans, 34% have borrowed from friends or family and more than 40% said they have had to use money from saving or from selling off assets to meet their needs. 

Trevor Brown has been an Oklahoma Watch reporter since 2016. He covers politics, elections, health policies and government accountability issues. Call or text him at (630) 301-0589. Email him at tbrown@oklahomawatch.org. Follow him on Twitter at @tbrownokc

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