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.

Delta Caucus Praises Biden Executive Actions on Food Aid and Stimulus, Calls for Major Stimulus Package to Follow

Posted on January 22, 2021 at 01:41 PM

The Delta Caucus praises the Biden administration food assistance and economic stimulus policies, especially with historic policy changes and increases in SNAP and other food aid.

However, hunger and poverty across the country are so dire–and even moreso in the Delta–that a major stimulus package must follow soon.

“Fighting hunger is urgent in the Delta where the pandemic has made our already severe food insecurity even worse, and President Biden is taking historic steps in the fight against poverty and hunger,” said Caucus Director Lee Powell.

Biden is asking USDA to allow states to increase SNAP (food stamps) benefits as well as to increase by 15% benefits distributed by a school meals program for low-income students during the pandemic.

This is estimated to give a family of three children more than $100 in extra benefits every two months. The Delta region ranks at the bottom in food insecurity in the USA (see data below in this message).

Mayor Kevin Smith of Helena said “I’m excited about prospects for a greater commitment to helping cities like Helena and the Delta region from the Biden-Harris administration.”

Mayor Smith said “President Biden has worked on behalf of the Delta and similar populations for decades in the Senate and as Vice President. He is a student of Robert Kennedy’s historic leadership in bringing hunger in the Delta to the nation’s conscience, and as a Delta heartland mayor I am glad to have a strong federal partner to aid our state and local efforts.”

Kathy Webb of the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance said her organization “is encouraged by the steps taken by the Biden Administration to address food insecurity. Arkansas food banks and pantries are seeing significant increases in demand, with much of that coming from first time users of the charitable food network.”

Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance said “A comprehensive short and long term approach, with increased SNAP benefits, increased P-EBT, continued extra commodity support, as well as revising guidelines for SNAP benefits is imperative.”

Harvey Joe Sanner, long-time Delta advocate from Des Arc, said “I’m most encouraged by President Biden’s emphasis on helping hungry and low-income people who need help the most, and unfortunately we have a very large number in that category in the Delta. It’s bad right now but I feel like we’ll start making progress instead of being stalemated with these constructive policies in place.”

Millie Atkins, Delta Caucus coordinator for Louisiana and a community leader in Monroe, Louisiana, said “While we are more hopeful now that we have the new Presidential administration, this is likely going to get worse before it gets better, and we don’t know what we will be facing tomorrow. Hunger in the Louisiana Delta is very serious now, and COVID has complicated the ability of our food banks to get enough food–they are asking urgently for donations in either food or money ASAP.”

Joel Berg of the anti-hunger and poverty organization Hunger Free America said the Biden actions are historic in scope and positive impact: “This is a bold, common-sense move to address the nation’s joint hunger and public health crises. These actions represent the most significant administrative actions by the federal government to fight domestic hunger in modern times. This action is both smart and compassionate.”

The larger-scale $1.9 trillion comprehensive stimulus will be essential. The food assistance policies of the Biden-Harris administration have multiple benefits: they fight the surge in hunger during the pandemic, reduce the greater vulnerability to illness caused by malnourished people, provide large markets for our farmers, and have an economic stimulus of about $1.70 for every dollar spent on SNAP.

Other constructive actions include advising the Labor Dept. to make workers who refuse to return to work in conditions that could expose them to the coronavirus eligible for unemployment insurance, get previously approved stimulus checks to people who have not received them yet, and requiring federal contractors to pay a $15 per hour minimum wage.

Earlier pandemic relief bills did not expand SNAP for the 40% of recipients who received the maximum benefit, but the current order allows states to increase SNAP emergency allotments for those who need them most. This is estimated to reach an additional 12 million people in enhanced benefits.

The recession is getting worse, not better. Last month, the economy lost jobs for the first time since the recovery began, weekly jobless claims in January remained at historic highs, and 50 million people are food insecure, including 17 million children.

Hunger in the Delta has plunged to deeply disturbing levels:

The three most heavily populated states with significant Delta areas, Mississippi, Arkansas and Louisiana, had the three worst levels of adults not having enough food to eat in latest data by the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities:

Louisiana 19%

Arkansas 18%

Mississippi 18%

Tennessee, Alabama and Kentucky had among the highest food insecurity for adults at 14%.

The data for children who did not get enough to eat was even worse, with Mississippi at the bottom, and Arkansas and Louisiana tied for the next four worst:

Mississippi 25%

Arkansas 21%

Louisiana 21%

Kentucky’s level was 20% and Alabama was 16%. The other Delta states were substantially below the national averages.

The Delta Caucus commends the executive actions taken by the Biden administration. Now we urge all the Congressional delegations in the 8 Delta states to support the Biden administration’s $1.9 trillion package.

POVERTY DATA–One in 3 adults across the country are having difficulty covering basic expenses like food, housing, medical care, and student loans, with Mississippi and Louisiana having the two worst levels:

Mississippi 45%

Louisiana 44%

Arkansas was at 39% and Alabama at 38%. Other Delta states were well below the national average.