Department of Agriculture Spends $300 Million On Surplus Food

The latest in COVID-19

Quick Take

  • Department of Agriculture spends $300 million on surplus food and sends it to food banks.

  • Ashford Inc. returns $70 million in loans received through the Paycheck Protection Program. 

  • Protesters across Illinois, Michigan, California, and Louisiana demand the reopening of their states.

  • LA coronavirus testing website is overwhelmed with online visitors and testing requests.

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Government Spends $300 Million On Surplus Food

The Department of Agriculture plans to spend $300 million on surplus food from farmers as the sharp decline in demand from restaurants, hotels, and schools have lead farmers to destroy produce, eggs, and excess milk. Long lines at food banks have left Americans worried about a food shortage. States have joined the new effort: New York is giving food banks $25 million to buy products made from extra milk produced on farms in the state.

Even college students have stepped in, renting trucks to rescue unsold onions and eggs from farms. The Dairy Farmers of America, the largest dairy co-op in the United States, alone has diverted almost a quarter of a million gallons of milk to food banks. California strawberry growers are also in distress about how to sell their goods as May marks the season’s peak harvest.

Hotel Group Returns Tens Of Millions In SBA Loans

Ashford Inc. has announced that it will return $70 million in loans received through the Paycheck Protection Program. The company, which oversees groups of hotels and resorts, is one of the biggest beneficiaries of the government’s small business lending program. The firm had applied for $126 million in loans and initially had plans to keep the money it received.

The announcement to return the loans came on Saturday as the SBA released new guidelines from that restrict who can receive funding. The new rules were instituted as it became clear that companies like Ashford, along with other publicly traded firms, were benefiting from a program that Congress had intended to help small firms keep workers on the payroll.

Last week, Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said companies had until May 7 to voluntarily return the funds and that firms would be held “criminally liable” if they did not meet the program’s criteria.

Protests In States With Extended Orders

Thousands of protesters across Illinois, Michigan, California, and Louisiana congregated this weekend, demanding the reopening of their states. Hundreds of protesters converged on the Illinois State Capitol in Springfield and in downtown Chicago, demanding that Gov. J.B. Pritzker lift the stay-at-home order that he extended through May 29th.

The protest came on the heels of a similar demonstration in Michigan, where hundreds of people, some of them armed, converged on the State Capitol in Lansing to protest the state’s stay-at-home orders. Many were also outraged in Louisiana after Gov. John Bel Edwards also decided to extend the state’s stay-at-home order.

In California, hundreds of people gathered in Huntington Beach to protest against Gov. Gavin Newsom’s directive to close beaches in Orange County. Growing pressure from protesters is leaving governors across the country to decide between prioritizing public health and addressing the economic devastation. Let us know on Twitter @coronavirusfm whether or not governors should reopen businesses in their states.

Los Angeles Countywide Testing Overwhelmed

Last week Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti announced that all LA County residents will now be able to get free coronavirus tests at city-run testing sites regardless of whether they have symptoms. Over the weekend, a website set up by Los Angeles for residents to get tested was overwhelmed with online visitors leaving some unable to access the website.

Testing is only available by appointment, with priority given to front-line workers and people with symptoms of COVID-19. Mayor Garcetti said he was very confident in the ability of the website to keep up with the demand for tests, but nearly all appointments for this week have been booked, Los Angeles county claims to have the capacity to do 18,000 tests a day across 34 sites. More than 1,200 people have died from the virus in Los Angeles.

Call On Americans To Unite

And lastly, former President George W. Bush released a video message this weekend, calling on Americans to put aside partisan differences, heed the guidance of medical professionals and show empathy for those affected by the coronavirus and the resulting economic impact. The message was part of a 24-hour live stream project coined “The Call to Unite,” which also featured Oprah Winfrey, Julia Roberts, Martin Luther King III, and Andrew Yang.

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