Arkansas Poverty

A new report funded by Entergy Arkansas and the Winthrop Rockefeller Foundation indicates that 41% of Arkansas households are either below the federal poverty level or have incomes that struggle to afford housing, childcare, food, transportation and healthcare.

The report addresses “ALICE” households – those that are “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, and Employed.” While the federal poverty line for a family of four sits at $24,600, ALICE households are between that amount and $46,812.

Central Arkansas Library System

A new grant awarded to the Central Arkansas Library System (CALS) will help the library better assist patrons in their communities.  The grant, awarded by the Arkansas Community Foundation, will help develop the library’s Community Resources Program which aids patrons experiencing poverty, hunger, homelessness, mental illness, and substance abuse.

The grant will primarily fund mental health first aid training for CALS staff to easier identify warning signs and risk factors. 

Sarah Whites-Koditschek / KUAR News

Arkansas’ overall ranking improved from 41st to 40th in the latest annual Annie E. Casey Foundation KIDS COUNT Data Book. Its economic well-being ranking improved from 44th to 36th, but its health ranking fell from 30th to 37th after it experienced its first decline in children covered by health insurance since 2010.

Rock Region Metro
Rock Region Metro

A new program has been launched to provide free transportation to homeless people in Pulaski County. Rock Region Metro partnered with several non-profit organizations to start the program last month. Becca Green, director of public engagement, says they’ve established a system to determine who is eligible for free bus passes. 

"The case worker will enter information on the clients in his or her care and determine using the system criteria agreed upon within the collusion if the person is eligible for a free ride," Green said.  

SNAP
Department of Human Services

As the partial federal government shutdown continues, ripple effects are being felt by more than federal employees. Monday the Arkansas Department of Human Services announced that qualified Arkansans will receive their Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits earlier than usual.

The money that allows low-income participants to purchase food is released monthly, and February's allotment will be distributed on January 17, according to DHS spokeswoman Marci Manley.

Judge Mark Derrick
Bad Government In Arkansas Blog

A civil rights organization has filed a lawsuit alleging that an Arkansas district court judge is running an illegal “debtors’ prison” in White County. The Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights Under Law contends that Judge Mark Derrick not only imposes excessive fines without evaluating the ability of defendants to pay, but also jails defendants for nonpayment 30 days at a time.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of six plaintiffs, all residents of White County, who say they have been jailed or otherwise threatened with legal punishment for being unable to pay court-ordered fines.

David Monteith / KUAR News

More arrests are anticipated after an event Tuesday at the state Capitol.

The Arkansas arm of the Poor People’s Campaign has organized a third week of protests, which will end in acts of civil disobedience. Organizer Toney Orr says the rally and arrests have been coordinated with Little Rock police.

“We always anticipate a number of people being arrested. To be honest with you, we really encourage it in a nonviolent way just to let people know that we’re willing to take that extra step to ensure that the message of the Poor People’s Campaign gets across,” Orr said.

David Monteith / KUAR News

A movement started by civil rights leader Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr is seeing new life in Arkansas, and around the country, 50 years after his death.

According to organizers, the Poor People’s Campaign is “a national call for a moral revival.” Faith leaders from across the state gathered at the Arkansas Capitol to announce the goals of the campaign.

Jacob Slaton / Clinton School of Public Service

  

Adding to Congress’s already lengthy to-do list, the federal government’s primary tool for agricultural and food policy, known as the farm bill, will need congressional reauthorization this year.  Originally designed to keep crop prices fair for consumers and farmers during the Great Depression, the bill is a piece of legislation with broad-reaching effects, especially for Arkansans.

Delta Regional Authority
dra.gov

The White House has nominated a member of U.S. Sen. John Boozman's staff to serve as co-chairman of the Delta Regional Authority.

Officials announced the nomination Wednesday of Chris Caldwell, who now serves as director of special projects for Boozman. The Delta Regional Authority is a federal-state partnership that works to improve regional economic opportunity in the Mississippi River Delta region.

Willie Freeman says he used to avoid smiling, and if he did, it was in a way almost no one could see, with his mouth closed. He was embarrassed of his rotten teeth.

“I wouldn’t go around people and if I did smile, you know, nobody would see me smile,” said Freeman. “My teeth was so messed up, you know, I had gaps everywhere,” he said sitting in an office at Little Rock’s low-income, non-profit Harmony Health Clinic, waiting for an appointment.

USDA / United States Department of Agriculture

A group hoping to address the food insecurity, which affects nearly 1 in 5 Arkansans, is scheduled to stop in Little Rock this weekend.

The “This Is Hunger” exhibit, most recently in Fayetteville, began its nationwide tour in California in late 2016. Little Rock will be the 47th stop in the 35th city in the 25th state of the tour.