A step—but just a step—in the right direction on food aid

A step—but just a step—in the right direction on food aid

The number of Americans experiencing hunger spiked during the Covid pandemic. But policy interventions like the expanded child tax credit, stimulus payments, expansions of unemployment insurance and increases to SNAP benefits helped lessen what would otherwise have been a far deeper crisis. Now, executing a directive from Congress in the 2018 Farm Bill, the Biden administration has modernized the formula that SNAP uses to determine benefit levels, in effect enacting the largest expansion of SNAP benefits in the program’s history just as key Covid enhancements are set to expire. But, as The American Prospect’s Kalena Thomhave explains, this expansion will only give individuals approximately $1.19 more dollars per day to spend on food, still falling far short of what many families who receive SNAP need to afford nutritious meals all month long:

As part of the initial federal pandemic response, SNAP benefits were temporarily boosted via emergency allotment beginning in March 2020. Last December, Congress enacted a 15 percent increase to the maximum benefit nationwide, which has since been extended until September. In a little more than one month’s time, then, that boost will evaporate. Additionally, some states have already voluntarily ended their emergency allotments, declaring the health emergency over.

With the new calculation to benefits taking effect in October, just as the 15 percent increase ends, many SNAP recipients won’t notice huge changes. Instead, the modernization of the Thrifty Food Plan may simply offset, or at least mitigate, the end of the 15 percent SNAP increase.

A pattern of racial brutality at the State Police
As the United States Department of Justice investigates a pattern of racial violence and coverups at the Louisiana State Police, more video evidence—kept hidden by State Police officers for two years—has emerged of the brutal treatment that Black drivers have faced at the hands of state troopers on Louisiana’s roads. The disturbing footage shows former trooper Jacob Brown pinning Aaron Larry Bowman to the ground and beating him with an aluminum flashlight during a traffic stop near Monroe. This violent attack occurred just three weeks after Louisiana State Police killed Ronald Greene, also just outside of Monroe. AP’s Jake Bleiberg and Jim Mustian have the story:

Federal prosecutors are examining both cases in a widening investigation into police brutality and potential cover-ups involving both troopers and state police brass. State police didn’t investigate the attack on Bowman until 536 days after it occurred — even though it was captured on body camera — and only did so weeks after Bowman brought a civil lawsuit. The state police released a statement Wednesday saying that Jacob Brown, the white trooper who struck Bowman, “engaged in excessive and unjustifiable actions,” failed to report the use of force to his supervisors and “intentionally mislabeled” his body camera video.

Plantations and Pizza Huts
The stories of our past help shape our collective future. Far too often, the stories of those who do not hold power aren’t told at all. That was nearly the case in Fairfax, Virginia where an old plantation home, Oak Hill, was preserved through an historic easement while the adjoining Black neighborhood landmark, a blacksmith shop founded by former slaves, was razed long ago and is now a Japanese Restaurant that was, until recently, a Pizza Hut. Local preservationists worked with the county’s History Commission to capture local stories with a focus on those that had been overlooked by official records. Tom Shoop of Route Fifty has more on how state and local governments are rethinking which stories they lift up and which they glide over in their public monuments: 

State and local government officials around the country are reevaluating the past, paying more attention to stories that have been discredited as unverified and removing monuments to those who betrayed their country to fight for the right to hold human beings as property. In the process, they’re often accused of erasing history. In fact, says (James) Walkinshaw (representative on the Fairfax County Board of Supervisors whose district includes Oak Hill), “we’re bringing to light a history that has been erased.”

Lake Charles left behind
In the last year, Lake Charles residents experienced four federally declared disasters while simultaneously dealing with the COVID-19 public health emergency. The destruction caused by hurricanes, floods and freezes have severely inhibited the city’s ability to adequately respond to the fourth wave of COVID cases. To make matters worse, only 29% of people in Southwest Louisiana have been fully vaccinated, the lowest vaccination rate in the state. Louisiana reporter Sara Sneath chronicled Lake Charles’s struggles for the Guardian:

About a foot of drywall is cut out near the floor in parts of the regional health department building in the city of Lake Charles, south-west Louisiana. The roof is leaking in one room and blue painter’s tape marks the walls that are still holding water. The agency attempts to conduct business as usual, despite missing pieces. The same can be said for people in the community, who have withstood four federally declared disasters in less than a year. Hurricane Laura – which made landfall as a Category 4 storm in August 2020 – dealt the first blow. Six weeks later, Hurricane Delta hit. A freeze this February followed by torrential rain in May destroyed more homes. Students went back to class this month in schools still in need of permanent repairs.

August 27th marks the one-year anniversary of Hurricane Laura. Federal disaster recovery aid has yet to arrive in the city.

Number of the Day
364 – Days since Hurricane Laura devastated Lake Charles, LA. Congress still hasn’t provided disaster recovery block grant aid for the city (Source: Washington Post)