The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Economic Reports Indicate Delta Still Suffering Severely; Need for stronger economic stimulus and safety net packages

Posted on August 25, 2020 at 11:09 AM

“Data Show Delta Region Still Suffering Severely from Pandemic”

Economic reports from nonprofits, universities, and grassroots leaders show that the Delta region is still seriously suffering economically. The Delta Caucus partners urge much stronger federal, state and local economic stimulus packages and safety net funding to jump-start the regional economy.

“The Delta continues to suffer seriously from the pandemic and a strong recovery is still not here. A collection of data from across the region indicate the need for a strong economic stimulus from federal, state and private sector sources. An overly rosy depiction of the Delta’s economy is counterproductive because we need to admit we still have a severe problem in order to solve it,” said Lee Powell, Caucus director.

Common themes from the economic reports are: –The Delta economy was vulnerable in many ways, including having many small businesses that were struggling before the pandemic, closed and have not come back yet;

–many low-income people who did not have large savings to see them through a downturn;

–the region’s diverse population with many African Americans and some other minorities has been hit harder by both higher virus infection rates and more economic losses. Minority women are especially hard hit because women have suffered the greatest job losses and as minorities they have higher virus rates;

–the region’s economy had major manufacturing, agriculture and other sectors that have been hit disproportionately by the recession. Some larger companies remain solid, but the overall picture is bleak.

Unemployment statistics improved for the state as a whole, but many Delta counties still lag behind:

Arkansas statewide figures improved from 8.1% in May to 7.1% in June. But the five worst unemployment rates were all from Delta counties, and 16 of the bottom 20 out of Arkansas’ 75 counties were from eastern and southeastern Arkansas and they were substantially worse than the statewide average.

Chicot County: 13.6%

Mississippi: 12.6%

Phillips: 11.8%

Crittenden: 11.6%

Other Delta counties included Jefferson County at 10%, St. Francis at 9.6%, Jackson and Lee counties at 9.5%, Monroe at 9.3%, Desha at 9.2%

The Jonesboro area was a bright spot as usual, having an unemployment rate in June at 7.7% after 8.5% in May. The Jonesboro area is historically a relatively prosperous exception to the rule in eastern Arkansas.

The regional economy has suffered from chronic economic dislocations for decades, with the mechanization of agriculture eliminating many farm jobs, outdated policies of attracting a big plant with tax breaks and promises of cheap unskilled labor only to see those plants to move to even lower cost countries some years later; need for much greater diversification and stronger small business growth.

Key findings from the compilation include:

• Mississippi, Arkansas, Alabama and Louisiana had the four highest rates of food insecurity based on a Feeding America survey. The Northwestern University Institute for Policy Research found the highest food insecurity levels were in Mississippi (31.6%) and Louisiana (30.1%), with Arkansas the fifth highest at 25.9%.

• A survey of the University of Arkansas Department of Sociology and Criminology found that Arkansas and other Southern and mid-Southern states had elevated levels of food insecurity due to Covid-19. In the category of “reduced quality, desirability or variety of diet,” the four worst rates were all from “Greater Delta Region” states: Alabama (47.7%), Arkansas (47.4%), Tennessee (45.1%) and Kentucky (44%).

• A University of Louisiana at Lafayette report found that job losses in Louisiana were virtually twice as high in the pandemic as compared with after Hurricane Katrina–by 11% in the first half of this year, as compared with a 6% drop after Katrina in 2005. Louisiana’s gross domestic product contraction of 6% was one of the five sharpest drops among all states.

• An Illinois Municipal League survey found that 87% of municipalities expected a substantial revenue shortfall due to the pandemic. Many communities advised that they will need greater assistance from federal and state governments. The Southern Illinois Delta area chronically fares worse than the statewide economic figures for Illinois.

• Arkansas, Mississippi and the other Delta states are participating in the Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer, a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act that provides assistance to families with children eligible for free or reduced price meals dealing with school closures. This enables these states to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.

Harvey Joe Sanner, president of American Ag Movement of Arkansas in Des Arc, AR, said “Our job situation is worsening. as one our large employers in Lonoke, AR, Remmington Arms is laying off workers… I think most people feel that our situation both health wise and economically will get worse before it gets better. In summation, I’M WORRIED LIKE H*LL.”

Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena, AR said Helena had recently lost an important new employer after ports in China closed to imports during the first months of the pandemic, but they hope to eventually lure the company back. They have seen a depression in hotels, restaurants, and tourist industry. An important day care facility closed. A “rare bright spot is that the internet sales tax approved by the legislature has made a tremendous difference to us.”

Millie Atkins, Delta Caucus senior adviser and veteran Delta regional advocate based in Monroe, Louisiana said “This pandemic has shed a great light on the many economic, social and educational inequities in a number of areas where the Delta was vulnerable” such as the large number of job losses, the many low-income jobs that made it difficult for people to accumulate savings that could see them through a downturn, the small business closures that have not come back yet.”

Delta Caucus partners across the region call for a strong economic stimulus and safety net package to jump-start the region’s economy: : • continuing larger unemployment benefit and strong federal and state economic stimulus and relief aid to deal with the unprecedented job losses,

• 15% increase in SNAP and other nutrition benefit programs during the pandemic,

• A major infrastructure expansion program to create jobs, repair our deteriorating infrastructure, and stimulate the economy;

• Job creation and retention programs through tax incentives for investing in economically distressed areas;

• Maintaining education and workforce development programs during the pandemic, which will require a major broadband access expansion initiative through programs such as USDA’s Rural Re-Connect high-speed broadband program and state programs like Arkansas’ Rural Connect (ARC).

Below in the extended content section is the 22-page collection of reports from local leaders across the region, nonprofits, and universities.

Sources regarding impact of the pandemic on the Delta economy as of August, 2020

  1. Executive Summary/News Release summarizing findings from economic reports of nonprofits, universities and grassroots leaders from across the region

  2. Millie Atkins, community leader and Delta regional advocate in northern Louisiana, and Louisiana United Way

  3. USDA Approves Program for Mississippi to feed kids during pandemic (all 8 Delta states now take part in this program)

  4. University of Arkansas research report on food insecurity during the pandemic

  5. Mayor Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

  6. Illinois Municipal League, Brad Cole, Executive Director

  7. Harvey Joe Sanner, President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Prairie County, Arkansas

  8. Mike Marshall, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce

  9. Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

  10. University of Louisiana Lafayette and Acadiana newspaper

  11. Northwestern University research on state food insecurity levels in the pandemic (recommended by Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America

Sources regarding impact of the pandemic on the Delta economy as of August, 2020

  1. Executive Summary/News Release summarizing findings from economic reports of nonprofits, universities and grassroots leaders from across the region

  2. Millie Atkins, community leader and Delta regional advocate in northern Louisiana, and Louisiana United Way

  3. USDA Approves Program for Mississippi to feed kids during pandemic (all 8 Delta states now take part in this program)

  4. University of Arkansas research report on food insecurity during the pandemic

  5. Mayor Kevin Smith, Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

  6. Illinois Municipal League, Brad Cole, Executive Director

  7. Harvey Joe Sanner, President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Prairie County, Arkansas

  8. Mike Marshall, Sikeston, Missouri Regional Chamber of Commerce

  9. Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

  10. University of Louisiana Lafayette and Acadiana newspaper

  11. Northwestern University research on state food insecurity levels in the pandemic (recommended by Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free America

The policy positions in this statement are the responsibility of the Delta Caucus alone. See the website at

2. Millie Atkins, community leader in Monroe, Louisiana, veteran Delta regional advocate

Our local United Way has partnered with other Louisiana United Way agencies to provide a financial hardship study (ALICE) of the working poor in our state. The study depicts deep economic struggles for families prior to 2020. The predictions within this pandemic are even more challenging for those needing to feed families, living in fear of becoming homeless as a result of job losses and just trying to navigate through the difficulties brought on by an illness with no cure and no end in sight.

Regional Economy in a Pandemic

To fully understand where Louisiana’s economic and social struggles currently exist since this year’s pandemic hit our nation and the world, I must provide a picture of where we were prior to the challenges of this virus.

From 2010 to 2018, Louisiana showed steady economic improvements according to traditional measures. Unemployment in the state and across the U.S. fell to historic lows, GDP grew, and wages rose slightly. Yet in 2018, eight years after the end of the Great Recession:

• 51% of Louisiana’s 1,735,620 households still struggled to make ends meet,

• 18% of these households were living below the Federal Poverty Level (FPL),

• Another 33% — almost twice as many — were ALICE households: Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed (equates to the working poor).

These households earned above the FPL, but not enough to afford basic household necessities. With income above the Federal Poverty Level (FPL) but below a basic survival threshold — defined as the ALICE Threshold — ALICE households earn too much to qualify as “poor” but are still unable to make ends meet. They often work as cashiers, nursing assistants, office clerks, servers, laborers, and security guards. These types of jobs are vital to keeping Louisiana’s economy running smoothly, but they do not provide adequate wages to cover the basics of housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, and technology for these ALICE workers and their families. In northeast Louisiana where the poverty rates are higher, those struggles are even more challenging for hourly employees working as childcare providers, aides for the elderly, cashiers, mechanics, and waiters/waitresses. However, these are often the front-line essential workers providing services to others.

By showing how many Louisiana households were struggling then, the ALICE Research Study provides the backstory for why the COVID-19 crisis is having such a devastating economic impact now. The ALICE data is especially important now to help stakeholders in northeast Louisiana and around the state to identify the most vulnerable in their communities and direct programming and resources to assist them throughout the pandemic and the recovery that follows. And as Louisiana moves forward, this data can be used to estimate the impact of the crisis over time, providing an important baseline for changes to come.

This Report provides new data and tools that explain the persistent level of hardship faced by ALICE households, revealing aspects of the Louisiana economy not tracked by traditional economic measures. The Report highlights three critical trends:

• The cost of living is increasing for ALICE households. From 2007 to 2018, the cost of household essentials (housing, childcare, food, transportation, health care, and technology) increased faster than the cost of other goods and services.

• Worker vulnerability is increasing while wages stagnate in ALICE jobs. By 2018, a near-record-low number of people were reported to be unemployed. However, that low unemployment concealed three trends that expose ALICE workers to greater risk: growth in the number of low-wage jobs, minimal increases in wages, and more fluctuations in job hours, schedules, and benefits that make it harder to budget and plan. These trends were clear in 2018: A record number of Louisiana workers — 55% — were paid by the hour, and 64% of the state’s jobs paid less than $20 per hour. Currently, due to the pandemic, the number of those unemployed has risen due to layoffs and businesses closing its doors. Looking for other employment during this crisis within our rural Delta Parishes is futile.

• The number of ALICE households is increasing in Louisiana because of rising costs and stagnant wages. There are more ALICE households than households in poverty, and the number of ALICE households is increasing at a faster rate. The most vulnerable members of society are in position to fare the worst. The individuals who are at highest risk for serious illness associated with COVID-19 – including seniors, people with chronic illness, and people of color – are, in many cases, the same individuals who will be most adversely affected by the economic ramifications that have resulted from widespread closures.

Across geographies, the following trends generally hold:

• Places that had relatively higher rates of food insecurity before COVID-19 will continue to have relatively higher rates of food insecurity.

• Places that had relatively higher numbers of food-insecure people before COVID-19 (higher population areas) will continue to have relatively higher numbers of food-insecure people.

The highest food insecurity rates for children in Louisiana territories are as follows:

Louisiana (34.5%) East Carroll Parish, LA (52.5%)

Highest rates of projected household food insecurity (FI) in 2020 versus 2018: Louisiana 21.7% (2020) 16.1% (2018)

Structural disparities have also led to substantially higher levels of food insecurity for African Americans: in 2018, 21.2% of black households were food insecure versus 11.1% overall. Systematic barriers to those jobs less likely to be affected by the pandemic, lower than average wages, and greater employment instability all contribute to African American workers being more vulnerable to an economic downturn. Both pre-pandemic and in 2020, counties with the highest rates of food insecurity are overrepresented by counties with a majority African American population.

Federal nutrition programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), continue to be an important first line of defense against food insecurity for those in northeast Louisiana. Steps have been taken to increase benefit levels, but continued and increased investment in these programs is needed to help individuals experiencing food insecurity weather the crisis.

Many people are turning to charitable food assistance such as the Food Bank of Northeast Louisiana and other charitable and volunteer food assistance efforts. On a weekly basis, food distribution events are announced and held at public locations (schools, churches, and city government buildings) for anyone in need of food.

I hope this helps. I will say that this pandemic has shed a great light on the many economic, social and educational inequities in a number of areas. To see many of our leaders play political games with the lives of families who only want to survive (not even thrive!) is a punch to my heart. :

3. USDA Approves Program to Feed Kids in Mississippi

Pandemic EBT to Feed Children during COVID-19 National Emergency

Contact: USDA Email:

(Washington, D.C., June 2, 2020) – U.S. Secretary of Agriculture Sonny Perdue today announced Mississippi has been approved to operate Pandemic Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT), a new program authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA), signed by President Trump, which provides assistance to families of children eligible for free or reduced-price meals dealing with school closures.

Background: Mississippi will be able to operate Pandemic EBT, a supplemental food purchasing benefit to current SNAP participants and as a new EBT benefit to other eligible households to offset the cost of meals that would have otherwise been consumed at school.

For the 2019-2020 school year, Mississippi had approximately 357,000 children eligible for free and reduced-priced lunch, or about 74% of children in participating schools.

Previous announcements of approvals for Pandemic EBT include: Michigan, Rhode Island, North Carolina, Massachusetts, Arizona, Illinois, Alabama, Wisconsin, California, Connecticut, Kansas, Virginia, Maryland, New Mexico, Delaware, Oregon, Maine, North Dakota, West Virginia, Vermont, New York, Pennsylvania, Texas, New Jersey, Ohio, New Hampshire, Indiana, Louisiana, Colorado, Missouri, Wyoming, Kentucky, Tennessee, the District of Columbia, Arkansas, Washington, Florida, Minnesota,and Hawaii.

Under FFCRA, States have the option to submit a plan to the Secretary of Agriculture for providing these benefits to SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have temporarily lost access to free or reduced-price school meals due to pandemic-related school closures. State agencies may operate Pandemic EBT when a school is closed for at least five consecutive days during a public health emergency designation during which the school would otherwise be in session.

The implementation of Pandemic EBT is in line with USDA’s commitment to keep Americans safe, secure, and healthy during this national emergency and to keep kids fed when schools are closed. USDA is working with states and local authorities to ensure schools and other program operators can continue to feed children. This latest action complements previously-announced flexibilities for the Child Nutrition programs that:

• Allow parents and guardians to pick up meals to bring home to their kids;

• Temporarily waive meal times requirements to make it easier to pick up multiple-days’ worth of meals at once;

• Allow meals be served in non-congregate settings to support social distancing;

• Waive the requirement that afterschool meals and snacks served through certain programs be accompanied by educational activities to minimize exposure to the novel coronavirus; and

• Allow states, on an individual state-by-state basis, to serve free meals to children in all areas, rather than only those in areas where at least half of students receive free or reduced-price meals.

Today’s announcement is the latest in a series of actions that USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service has taken to uphold the USDA’s commitment to “Do Right and Feed Everyone” during this national emergency. Other actions include:

• Launching a new coronavirus webpage to proactively inform the public about USDA’s efforts to keep children and families fed;

• Providing more than five million meals a week through public-private partnership Meals to You;

• Increasing access to online purchasing by expanding the online purchasing pilot to more than half of all SNAP households;

• Debuting “Meals for Kids” interactive site finder – to help families find meals for children while schools are closed across more than 50,000 locations;

• Allowing states to issue emergency supplemental SNAP benefits totaling more than $2 billion per month to increase recipients’ purchasing power;

• Collecting solutions to feeding children impacted through; and

• Providing more than 2,800 administrative flexibilities across programs to feed children and help families.

These actions and more are part of USDA’s focus on service during the COVID-19 outbreak. To learn more about FNS’s response to COVID-19, visit USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) administers 15 nutrition assistance programs that leverage American’s agricultural abundance to ensure children and low-income individuals and families have nutritious food to eat. FNS also co-develops the Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which provide science-based nutrition recommendations and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition policy.

4. Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas

In the Helena area we are in a constant state of economic dislocation and disruption that has never really recovered from the mechanization of agriculture combined with the out-migration of labor when post-war industrialization began to move off-shore in the 1970s. This is of course the same story told over and over again across the Delta Region.

Specifically, we lost an exciting new employer, Dragon-Woodland, after ports in China closed to imports during the first months of the pandemic. The depression in the price of hardwood lumber, combined with the logistical costs and delays, as well as increased property and violent crime in the area of the facility, resulted in this company repaying millions to the Arkansas Economic Development Commission and closing the location here. This company does have deep pockets and is very diversified. It is also located in Memphis, not far. They have not put their property up for sale. It is my hope that we might eventually lure them back at some point.

We have seen, as everyone has, a depression in the hospitality business. Rooms have gone unsold, restaurants unfilled, and special events and festivals canceled.

Finally, we have seen a number of support businesses lay off and close down. Kids for the Future, Inc., a daycare out of Forrest City, recently closed their locations in Helena-West Helena, laying off a number of employees and reducing further the already scarce availability for child care in our community.

On the upside, the internet sales tax approved by the legislature and implemented recently has made a tremendous difference to us. Sales tax revenue has actually increased, in part due to scarcity stress shopping and the abundance of on-line options. So that has been a rare bright spot, and unexpected.  

5. University of Arkansas Fulbright College report on food insecurity rising during the pandemic

Survey Shows Regions of Elevated Food Insecurity Due to COVID-19 Pandemic April 23, 2020 Kevin Fitzpatrick

FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. – Nearly half of all respondents in some states report food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 Pandemic, according to new research from University of Arkansas sociologists.

Results of an online survey of 10,368 adults taken the last week of March indicated that respondents from Southern and mid-Southern regions were more “food insecure” than the U.S. average, while Midwestern and Northeastern states typically reported less food insecurity.

“Clearly a takeaway is that food insecurity is high,” said Kevin Fitzpatrick, University Professor in the Department of Sociology and Criminology and one of three researchers involved in the National Science Foundation-funded study. “We need to recognize that with a supply chain that is fractured, service providers unable to fill the gap, and a whole new group of people who are unemployed, it is no wonder that food insecurity would be elevated. We already had high food insecurity in this country and now we are putting another layer of need on top of it.”

The U.S. Department of Agriculture puts food insecurity in two categories: reduced quality, desirability or variety of diet is “low food security,” while disrupted eating patterns and reduced food intake is “very low food security.” On average, 38.3 percent of respondents throughout the U.S. reported moderate to high levels of food insecurity. Alabama had the highest level of food insecurity in the survey of individual respondents at 47.7 percent, followed by Arkansas (47.4 percent), Tennessee (45.1 percent) and Kentucky (44 percent). Iowa had the lowest percentage of respondents reporting food insecurity, still very high at 24.5 percent, or 1 in 4 people.

Regional variations appear to track closely to previous work on food insecurity, the researchers wrote, “but there appear to be some important pockets of need that are unexpected and certainly will require a finer-grain analysis to better understand these differences and their how and why.”

The survey is part of an initial funding from what will be a much larger study. It was funded by a $185,000 Rapid Response grant from the NSF. The researchers – Fitzpatrick, associate professor Casey Harris and assistant professor Grant Drawve – are studying how individuals’ perceived risk and expressions of fear in the wake of the pandemic are driven by demographics, physical and mental health, social connectivity, and media consumption. They’ll combine survey results with data from social media, the U.S. Census and other aggregate sources of data to help track fear across both time and space.

The grant was approved within days of it being proposed, said Fitzpatrick, allowing the researchers an unprecedented opportunity to study the sociological effects of the pandemic and contribute to a response.

“I want to play the role I think we need to play,” said Fitzpatrick, “and that is providing the public with objective science that helps affirm what we know or dispute what others have thrown out with very little science to support it.”

About the University of Arkansas: The University of Arkansas provides an internationally competitive education for undergraduate and graduate students in more than 200 academic programs. The university contributes new knowledge, economic development, basic and applied research, and creative activity while also providing service to academic and professional disciplines. The Carnegie Foundation classifies the University of Arkansas among fewer than 3 percent of colleges and universities in America that have the highest level of research activity. U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Arkansas among its top American public research universities. Founded in 1871, the University of Arkansas comprises 10 colleges and schools and maintains a low student-to-faculty ratio that promotes personal attention and close mentoring. TOPICS • Research and Innovation • Social Sciences • Food & Nutrition • Fulbright College of Arts & Sciences • Department of Sociology and Criminology CONTACTS Bob Whitby, science and researcher writer University Relations 479-575-4737, Kevin Fitzpatrick, University Professor Department of Sociology and Criminology 479-575-3639,

6. Illinois Municipal League Covid-19 Survey Results Summary

August 21, 2020

On June 30, the Illinois Municipal League (IML) provided our membership with a survey to chronicle the impact of COVID-19 on municipal governments. Survey responses were submitted from June 30, 2020, through July 24, 2020. There were 227 municipalities that completed our survey. Results showed that 87% of responding communities expect to realize a revenue shortfall due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Survey responses also highlighted best practices being taken at the local level to respond to and recover from the pandemic. We thank all the communities who contributed to this effort by responding to our survey.

An overview of the results is available via this link.*

The full survey responses (available via this link)* continue to be reviewed and analyzed to determine resources and materials IML may provide as member benefits. From this survey, IML staff will develop tools and other materials to support our members and inform the General Assembly and the Illinois Congressional Delegation about the impact COVID-19 has had on Illinois municipalities.

Our survey has shown that revenue is clearly at the forefront of municipal concerns. Many communities shared information about the kind of assistance they need from the state and federal governments. Several municipalities indicated there should be a mechanism in place for recovering lost revenues, not just reimbursement for extraordinary COVID-related expenditures. Additionally, the distribution of aid and financial assistance has proven to be problematic for municipalities. Responses related to the need for state or federal changes regarding fiscal issues are outlined in the Fiscal Related State or Federal Legislative Issues: Overview of Responses (available via this link).*

There were also several non-fiscal state or federal legislative changes identified. Non-fiscal related issues included extensions for responses to Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests, changes to the Open Meetings Act (OMA) and enforcement guidelines of gubernatorial executive orders such as closure of bars and restaurants. Municipal officials further commented on the need for local control and improved coordination between local, state and federal entities. All of these responses can be found in the Non-Fiscal Related State or Federal Legislative Issues: Overview of Responses (available via this link).*

As an additional resource, the survey results also provided information regarding what local ordinances may be needed in a future emergency or disaster situation like the COVID-19 pandemic. Those responses are compiled in our Local Ordinance Issues: Overview of Responses (available via this link).*

Overall, the survey results show the extreme impact that COVID-19 has had on municipalities throughout the state. The varied size and location of municipalities, as well as the relative prevalence of the virus, showed how difficult it is to provide one-size-fits-all policies related to a global health pandemic. While there are many unknown factors remaining for municipalities, survey responses provide local, state and federal officials with information about the needs of municipalities and how those needs may be met in the future.

Once again, thank you to those communities who took the time to complete our COVID-19 survey. Thank you for your membership in the Illinois Municipal League and for the trust municipal officials have placed in our programs and services throughout this experience.

Please do not hesitate to contact us if we may be of assistance with this or any other matter. We may be reached by email at or by phone at (217) 525-1220. Thanks.

ILLINOIS MUNICIPAL LEAGUE 500 East Capitol Avenue | PO Box 5180 | Springfield, Illinois 62705 217.525.1220 phone | 217.525.7438 fax | | Facebook | Twitter

*Disclaimer: The responses received in our COVID-19 survey are of individual municipalities and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of the Illinois Municipal League or its Board of Directors. Grammar, spelling or other technical errors are not the work of the Illinois Municipal League.

7. Harvey Joe Sanner, President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Prairie County, Arkansas

We have been fortunate in Prairie County, Arkansas with no known fatalities. I think the number of infections are at 120 or out of a population of about 9000.

There is a strain on our local businesses but so far most are surviving.

The farm economy is on shaky ground and it was crippled by the market price depression from the tariffs imposed on China.

Our job situation is worsening as one our large employers in Lonoke, AR, Remmington Arms is laying off workers and plans to shut that plant down we are told.

We have two businesses in Des Arc who are expanding their work force, numbers are not huge but for us they are important if it’s half dozen.

The general attitude I would say is one of depression. Parents want their children in school and they want the football team playing, but most are very uneasy about school opening.

I think most people feel that our situation both health wise and economically will get worse before it gets better.

In summation, I’M WORRIED LIKE HELL.

8. Mike Marshall, CEO, Sikeston Missouri Regional Chamber and Economic Development corporation

Business in southeast Missouri is mixed. The major employers including our largest, Unilever Ice Cream plant are at full production, as well as our distribution centers.

The smaller retail businesses are suffering due to the pandemic especially the restaurants. School plan to open as of now.

Mike Marshall, President and CEO, Sikeston Regional Chamber of Commerce and Economic Development, Sikeston, MO

9. Tomiko Townley, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance

Prior to COVID-19 public health crisis and the financial I think the easiest way to get a pulse on how the food banks and individual agencies are doing is on their Facebook pages, most agencies seem to use FB to get up-to-date info out to visitors (below). The influx of federal funding for food and the lack of financial support for distribution, available volunteers, and staffing is a challenge I have heard about from food banks staff. There are some new USDA dollars that are supporting more food getting to households, this is a good thing and also a challenge. We have been working with national advocacy groups, DHS, and other state organizations to encourage our congressional delegation to pour money into the SNAP program, identify alternative methods to feed kids if/when schools close (P-EBT, direct financial support), and to prioritize the needs of Arkansans that were largely left out of the first few COVID response packages (undocumented immigrants, mixed status households, people who were living in abject poverty prior to the public health disaster, etc.).

Louisiana is using this opportunity to pass universal free meals, Michigan just used state funds to expand double up food bucks, and I think we all need to use this time of increased interest or new found empathy for people in need to push long-term policies that allow people to thrive not just survive.

Arkansas Food Bank

NWA Food Bank

Food Bank of North Central Arkansas

Food Bank of NEA

Harvest Texarkana

River Valley Regional Food Bank

SNAP applications submitted in Arkansas increases Feb: 21,000, Mar: 39,205, Apr: 38,085, May: 16,904, June: 19,584, July: 24,815

Arkansas Advocates for Children and Family Report: Food Insecurity in Arkansas Strengthening the Safety Net When We Need It Most

Food Research Action Center’s: Poverty, Hunger, Health, and the Federal Nutrition Programs: A Profile of the Southern Region

Southern Bancorp Savings and Debt Policy Brief: Deferred Dreams: How Unmanageable Debt and Abusive Debt Collection Hinder Savings and Economic Security in Arkansas

Center on Budget and Policy Priorities: Tracking the COVID-19 Recession’s Effects on Food, Housing, and Employment Hardships (state tables)

Housing Information in Arkansas:,of%20their%20income%20on%20housing.

DHS Update about P-EBT from FB:


To date, families for over 252,000 Arkansas students have gotten their Pandemic EBT benefits and started using them. However, we’ve heard from a lot of eligible families who either never got a card/benefits or didn’t get a card/benefits for all the eligible school-age students in their home, and we are working on getting those to you as quickly as we can.

Here’s what you need to do:

1.) If you got a Pandemic EBT card in the mail but haven’t activated it yet, please do so IMMEDIATELY. In order to get benefits to the right addresses, we will be DEACTIVATING ALL CARDS NOT ACTIVATED BY close of business on Sept. 4. Once deactivated, you will not be able to use.

2.) The card came with instructions for activating it. You DO NOT need to use the benefits on the card – it simply needs to be activated so that we know it went to the right place.

3.)For families who haven’t gotten their benefits/card yet, we mailed the cards to the address on file with your school in March of 2020. If that address has changed – and you haven’t done so already – please email your new information to immediately. If you’ve already sent in an email, please DO NOT send in another email. It will only slow the process down as we are getting a large volume of emails. We are working through these as quickly as possible.

4.) If you only got benefits for some of the eligible students in your family, please send an email to the address above. Again, if you’ve already done so please do not send multiple emails.

5.) Some families who are already on SNAP also have told us they did not get the benefits on their existing cards. If that happen to you, it’s likely because the address we have on file for you is not the same address that the school had on file. So new cards were mailed to the address the school had on file. If you didn’t get it, you can email the address above if you haven’t already done so.

6.) For those eligible who have not yet gotten them, new cards/benefits will be issued between Sept. 5 and Sept. 30. Our goal is to have them out well before the end of September, but we must first make sure we have up-to-date addresses. We understand this has been a frustrating process for those who haven’t gotten the benefits yet, and we appreciate your patience as we work through this new program and get families the benefits they need.

Also, we’ve gotten questions about whether Pandemic EBT is available for individual students who are attending school virtually. The program does not allow for benefits in those circumstances, but check with your school district about to-go meal options.

I appreciate you and hope this is helpful. Tomi

Tomiko Townley Director of Advocacy 501.650.1781

10. Acadiana newspaper and University of Louisiana Lafayette economist

Economist: Total jobs lost in Louisiana due to Coronavirus now nearly double total lost from Katrina • BY ADAM DAIGLE | ACADIANA BUSINESS EDITOR PUBLISHED AUG 19, 2020 AT 9:30 AM | UPDATED AUG 19, 2020 AT 10:43 AM

Gary Wagner is an economics professor at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette.

The total number of jobs in Louisiana dropped by 11% in the first half of this year due to COVID-19, a mark that is nearly double the 6% drop after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

The state lost 218,000 payroll jobs in the first and second quarters while the state’s economy contracted at an annualized rate of 6.6% in the first quarter as the national economy officially entered a recession, according to data compiled by Gary Wagner, Acadiana Business Economist at the University of Louisiana at Lafayette, in his quarterly Louisiana Economic Activity Forecast.

The economy will pick back up for the remainder of the year, but a national full recovery is not projected until the fourth quarter of next year at the earliest. In Louisiana, he noted, that recovery will be slower, and the economy could be 7% smaller than it was at the end of last year.

“Louisiana’s (GDP) contraction of 6.6% was one of the sharpest drops in the nation,” he wrote. “Only Michigan, New York, Nevada and Hawaii experienced larger downturns in economic activity.”

The state’s unemployment rate was at 13% at the end of the second quarter, which was just below the previous high of 13.1% in 1986 and more than double the 5.7% in January prior to the shutdown. More than 800,000 more people than the state’s historical average have filed an initial unemployment claim since March 14, he noted.

A recovery, he noted, could come slightly quicker than anticipated thanks to improvements in sales tax collections and the real estate market. In his last report, Wagner — whose outlook include baseline, optimistic and pessimistic predictions — didn’t call for a growth in sales tax collections until midway through 2021, but the increase in spending of late means there could be positive growth in that area early next year.

“As bad as some of the numbers we had between the first and second quarters, turns out that a lot of those indicators were a little better than what I was projecting back in May,” he said.

“I think one of the reasons was the additional unemployment benefits. That really helped to boost consumer spending. At the time of the previous report, there was some uncertainty about how long that would last. We now know it’s going to continue to the end of 2020.”

Each of the state’s metro areas will see positive job growth for the rest of the year, he noted, but not enough to recover jobs lost this year. Quarterly sales tax collections outperformed earlier projections, and that was because of the expanded federal unemployment benefits that are expected to last through the end of the year.

The Baton Rouge, Lake Charles and New Orleans areas lost more than 10% of their jobs, he noted.

In Baton Rouge, there were 366,000 people employed in Baton Rouge in the second quarter, down from the 415,000 jobs at the end of the year. The area is predicted to get to 400,000 jobs by the third quarter of 2021 and could have the strongest recovery among the state’s metro areas.

In New Orleans, the second-quarter job loss was more significant, dropping from 581,900 jobs to 489,900. That area could get to 543,000 jobs by the end of the third quarter of 2021.

In Lafayette, the jobs dropped from 202,000 to 184,300 in the second quarter. Wagner predicts that region’s job growth to be flatter, getting to 194,800 jobs by the third quarter of 2021.

“It looks like the petrochemical sector is probably going to do a little bit better than average,” Wagner said. “You don’t have a large loss in government jobs. They haven’t seen the losses that the private sector has.

“Nothing is going really well at this point in time. Even though I am predicting Baton Rouge to have the strongest job growth in the second half of the year, no region is going to gain back all the jobs that were lost.”

Home values are expected to remain positive and continued to rise through 2019 thanks to a real estate market that’s has not hit a snag in recent months. Baseline predictions have home values having below-average growth in 2020 before rebounding to average levels in 2021.

Low interest rates are not only prodding people to buy homes but also investors to purchase real estate.

“There’s a lot of investment in real estate right now,” Wagner said.

11. Northwestern University research: State-by-State Estimates of Food Insufficiency and Insecurity

In the U.S., food insecurity is more than two times what it was prior to COVID-19 June 10, 2020 by Diane Schanzenbach and Abigail Pitts

Across the U.S., more than 7% of households reported receiving free food in the prior week. More than 1 in 10 households reported receiving free food in Hawaii and New Mexico.

The COVID-19 crisis has not impacted everywhere in the U.S. equally, and to evaluate this as demonstrated by disparate food insecurity rates by state. The Census’s Household Pulse Survey (CHHPS) contains respondents from all 50 states, so we can do the same exercise of translating food insufficiency into food insecurity in all 50 states using an analogous conditional means approach with the CPS-FSS.

In the U.S. overall, according to the CPS-FSS, food insecurity during COVID-19 is 2.12 times what it was prior to the onset of the national health emergency. (See the complete table below.) We find that food insecurity rates are dramatically elevated in every state, though there is substantial heterogeneity.

Mississippi and Louisiana have the highest estimates of food insecurity during COVID-19, at 31.6% and 30.1%, respectively. Vermont, with 14.1% food insecure, is the only state with a food insecurity rate below 15%. Vermont and Oklahoma saw the smallest increases in food insecurity so far during COVID-19, both with less than a 50% increase (though from very different base levels). In two states, food insecurity more than tripled: Georgia and Rhode Island.

Column (5) in the table below reports the share of households responding that they received free food from any source over the prior 7 days—e.g., from food pantries, a school or children’s program, from neighbors, and so on. Across the U.S., 7.3% of households reported receiving free food in the prior week. More than 1 in 10 households reported receiving free food in Hawaii and New Mexico.

Food Insecurity and Emergency Food Use, by State and District of Columbia

Food Insecurity: Dec. 2018  Predicted Food Insecurity: Feb. 2020    Food Insecurity: April–May 2020   Ratio:

Feb. vs. April-May Received Free Food, Prior 7 Days (1) (2) (3) (4) (5) U.S. Total 11.1% 10.8% 23.0% 2.12 7.3% Alabama 14.2% 13.4% 24.1% 1.80 6.5% Alaska 11.6% 11.1% 18.1% 1.63 6.6% Arizona 11.4% 11.2% 24.1% 2.16 5.8% Arkansas 11.9% 12.1% 25.9% 2.15 9.5% California 10.2% 9.1% 21.8% 2.40 8.6% Colorado 10.0% 9.6% 20.1% 2.09 6.0% Connecticut 13.5% 13.4% 22.8% 1.70 6.4% Delaware 9.2% 10.2% 21.6% 2.13 4.6% D.C. 10.8% 8.8% 21.1% 2.39 5.8% Florida 10.5% 10.2% 24.6% 2.42 7.3% Georgia 7.9% 7.1% 23.6% 3.32 5.4% Hawaii 7.8% 8.0% 18.4% 2.30 12.5% Idaho 9.0% 9.4% 16.6% 1.76 8.3% Illinois 9.0% 8.2% 24.0% 2.92 6.3% Indiana 14.8% 14.4% 22.6% 1.57 7.4% Iowa 6.6% 7.0% 19.2% 2.73 6.8% Kansas 12.5% 13.1% 20.8% 1.59 7.9% Kentucky 14.6% 15.3% 25.8% 1.69 8.3% Louisiana 13.6% 12.5% 30.1% 2.41 9.3% Maine 13.1% 13.1% 22.0% 1.68 6.2% Maryland 10.5% 9.7% 21.8% 2.24 6.1% Massachusetts 8.1% 8.3% 20.0% 2.41 5.9% Michigan 12.1% 11.4% 24.4% 2.13 7.1% Minnesota 7.2% 8.9% 17.8% 1.99 9.2% Mississippi 15.2% 14.3% 31.6% 2.21 8.4% Missouri 10.1% 10.3% 23.3% 2.25 8.6% Montana 10.1% 9.5% 17.8% 1.87 6.1% Nebraska 10.1% 10.6% 19.4% 1.83 7.8% Nevada 13.9% 13.2% 25.6% 1.93 7.7% New Hampshire 6.1% 7.0% 16.9% 2.41 5.1% New Jersey 9.1% 9.6% 25.2% 2.63 5.4% New Mexico 15.7% 14.9% 27.6% 1.86 11.6% New York 10.5% 10.1% 22.9% 2.27 7.1% North Carolina 12.9% 11.7% 24.0% 2.04 6.4% North Dakota 8.6% 9.7% 17.2% 1.77 8.7% Ohio 13.9% 12.9% 23.0% 1.78 7.7% Oklahoma 16.8% 16.7% 24.0% 1.44 8.6% Oregon 8.9% 9.3% 19.8% 2.14 7.5% Pennsylvania 11.0% 10.3% 21.3% 2.06 5.8% Rhode Island 7.8% 6.7% 22.1% 3.32 5.3% South Carolina 11.1% 11.1% 22.4% 2.02 9.7% South Dakota 9.8% 10.1% 18.3% 1.82 9.4% Tennessee 12.5% 12.5% 23.1% 1.84 5.9% Texas 13.3% 12.4% 26.8% 2.17 8.2% Utah 8.2% 8.4% 17.4% 2.07 8.8% Vermont 9.7% 9.6% 14.1% 1.47 8.5% Virginia 9.4% 10.0% 22.5% 2.25 5.0% Washington 9.8% 10.1% 18.6% 1.83 5.8% West Virginia 16.6% 15.5% 24.2% 1.57 6.3% Wisconsin 8.1% 7.9% 16.9% 2.14 8.5% Wyoming 11.1% 12.3% 18.8% 1.53 7.3% Food Insecurity and Emergency Food Use, by State

Diane Whitmore Schanzenbach is the Margaret Walker Alexander Professor and IPR Director. Abigail Pitts is a research analyst. Read the full report, “How Much Has Food Insecurity Risen? Evidence from the Census Household Pulse Survey.” Photo credit: USDA Photo by Lance Cheung Published: June 10, 2020.