Working together

Drew Butler

Next week Together Oklahoma will be hosting a panel discussion about working Oklahomans and potential legislation to put more money into their pockets. The event will consist of a series of questions to the panelists along with local workers sharing their own personal experiences.

Panelists will include: Elizabeth Gaylor, literacy and outreach librarian at the Ardmore Public Library; Laura Eastes Akers, executive director of The Grace Center of Southern Oklahoma; Courtney Cullison, economic opportunity analyst for the Oklahoma Policy Institute; Bobby Upshaw, director of Adult and Alternative Education at Ardmore City Schools; and Rep. Tammy Townley, R-Ardmore.

The event will focus specifically on the possibility of reintroducing the Earned Income Tax Credit to Oklahoma state tax returns. The EITC is a benefit aimed primarily at low-income working families and was a part of the Oklahoma tax return until 2016. Kyle Lawson, senior field organizer with the Oklahoma Policy Institute, said the organization would like to see the EITC reintroduced.

“Historically the EITC was refundable, but then when the state needed to find ways to save some money a few years ago it was one of the first things they decided to change,” Lawson said. “At the time they said once the budget was fixed they’d go back and revisit it. Right now we’re in a bit of an upturn, and they didn’t address it last year, so we’re hoping to make that change in 2020.”

Lawson said each of the panelists will be able to address the issue from their own area of expertise.

“Laura from The Grace Center will be there to talk about what these dollars will mean to a lot of their clients,” Lawson said. “As an organization, they help pay a lot of utility bills for people who are struggling from paycheck to paycheck, and the EITC would be a huge help to a lot of these people.”

Lawson said Rep. Townley will be able to provide insight into the issue from the legislative perspective, some of the history about it, and even potentially, her own views on the issue.

“Support Working Oklahomans: A Community Conversation” will be at the Legacy Event Center in Ardmore from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. on Tuesday, February 11. The event is free and open to the public, and heavy heavy hors d’oeuvres will be served. Though not required, they ask everyone who plans on attending to RSVP. To reserve your space and find out more information about Together Oklahoma, go to