Late last week, Oregon Senator Jeff Merkley teamed up with Patrick Leahy of Vermont, to press Ag Secretary Sonny Perdue to increase the USDA’s efforts to speed funding for food aid appropriated by Congress for those in need.
Merkley, the top Democrat on the Senate Appropriations subcommittee that oversees funding for the USDA pointed out that Congress appropriated $36 billion to the Department to help it respond to the coronavirus pandemic, including for critical nutrition assistance and direct support to agricultural producers. However, Merkley said, only 20% of those funds have been obligated even as demand increases and farmers suffer.
“Particularly troubling is the delay in getting nutrition assistance out the door to address growing food insecurity across the country,” the senators wrote. “This money should be getting out to the people who need it, not stuck in Washington caught up in red tape.”
Programs, Merkley noted, like The Emergency Food Assistance Program, which supports the country’s food banks, have only obligated a fraction of the funding that Congress appropriated—leaving $1 billion appropriated for child nutrition programs untapped.
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