Stewart praised the rebate program, adding, “It would be nice if the program could expand. Five hundred people is not enough. I’d like to see five thousand.”
According to the agency’s website, applications for rebates must be submitted online. Stewart said he wonders if that creates a disadvantage in rural areas, where broadband access is scarcer.
Cain said she doesn’t think the online-only application has prevented anyone from applying. The department has taken a few applications over the phone from some people who didn’t have Internet access.
Income could play a role in the dominance of some areas.
In low-income parts of northeast and southern Oklahoma City, for example, relatively few homeowners received rebates so far, state data shows.
In May, Oklahoma Watch published a story that found the rules of the SoonerSafe program create a disadvantage for low-income residents. Income is not an eligibility factor, and winners must pay the full cost of a shelter up front, then wait for up to eight weeks for rebates. Rental properties, where many lower-income people live, are ineligible.
The emergency management department plans to hold another lottery in 2014, depending on federal funding. Cain said the department does not anticipate having trouble securing the funding.
Oklahoma Watch is a nonprofit organization that produces in-depth and investigative journalism on important public-policy issues affecting the state.