USDA wants to help farmers feed families, but advocates and lawmakers say it’s not enough

USDA wants to help farmers feed families, but advocates and lawmakers say it’s not enough

Experts say the country needs a stronger safety net for families in need.
ByStephanie Ebbs
May 2, 2020, 2:00 AM
• 11 min read
Farmworkers face unique risks during coronavirus pandemic
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Farmworkers face unique risks during coronavirus pandemic
Farmworkers in the United States are classified as essential workers.

One of the most confounding consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic continues to be the problem of farmers bulldozing or dumping their crops at the same time as thousands of Americans line up at food banks dealing with a shortage of supplies.

With everyday Americans unable to keep up with demand despite organizing fundraising drives or collections to send trucks of wasted produce or milk where it is needed most, the largest groups representing farmers and food banks are asking for federal help. They have now called on the U.S. Department of Agriculture to scale up efforts to the national level.

Lawmakers called on the USDA to provide “bold and innovative” solutions Friday to address the harm to farmers and the confusion over why food is being discarded while other Americans need help feeding their families.
MORE: USDA to try ‘out of the box’ solution to get food from farmers to food banks

No one knows how much food has been lost nationwide since restaurants, schools, hotels and other businesses have closed and stopped buying food in bulk, but farmers have reported dumping milk, plowing under vegetables and facing the possibility of euthanizing livestock if they can’t take animals to meat processing plants.

The USDA wants to address that issue with a new “farmers to families” program that will use federal money to pay farmers to box up and distribute their own product to food banks. Similar to a community-supported agriculture (CSA) box you might pick up from a local farm or farmers market, the donation will include fruits and vegetables, dairy products, cooked poultry or pork, or some combination of the three, and be provided to food banks at no cost.
PHOTO: People collect buckets and truckloads of potatoes Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at Ryan Cranney’s farm in Oakley, Idaho.
Pat Sutphin/Times-News via APPat Sutphin/Times-News via AP
People collect buckets and truckloads of potatoes Wednesday, April 15, 2020, at Ryan C…

Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue said the program has the potential to address one of the reasons the pandemic has been so disruptive to the food supply chain, that big national producers and distributors can’t easily shift from delivering entire trucks of product to providing food in a way that’s accessible to consumers and doesn’t add work for food banks to repackage it.

“This program will not only provide direct financial relief to our farmers and ranchers,” Perdue told reporters in April. “Mr. President, it will allow for the purchase and distribution of our agricultural abundance in this country to help our fellow Americans in need.”

The USDA is accelerating the process to decide which farmers will get part of the $3 billion available from the program. Submissions for contracts were due Friday and the agency said it would start granting them in time for the first food box deliveries on May 15. A USDA spokesperson said they received “an abundance of interest” in the program.

“Farmers to families” could be an experiment in a new model of agriculture that addresses the disruptions of the current emergency, but lawmakers, experts and advocates also warn that spending federal money to buy and donate food won’t solve all the ripple effects from the pandemic.
MORE: Friends come together to get free food across US from farms to those in need

Michigan Sen. Debbie Stabenow, the top Democrat on the Senate Agriculture Committee, wrote to Perdue on Friday asking that the USDA prioritize options for the program that will reduce food waste and allow producers and food banks to be flexible in adapting contracts to provide a variety of seasonal products.

Elizabeth Balkan, director of the food waste, food and agriculture program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, said that even though disruptions from the pandemic brought attention to the increased waste of products from farms, it’s a longstanding issue that the current system hasn’t fixed.

“Even in the best of times there’s enormous amounts of food waste happening upstream at the point of production or the farm level,” she said, citing estimates that billions of pounds of produce can go unharvested or unsold every year.

“The reason why we’re in this mess is because there’s so many intermediary points and excess food and it’s hard for excess food to get to the people in need in a straightforward manner,” Balkan said.
USDAUSDA
The USDA “Farmers to Families” program would pay farmers to box up produce, dairy, a…

Balkan said she’s still concerned prefilled boxes won’t stop all food from being wasted if producers aren’t matched up with organizations to distribute the food or if the contents of the boxes don’t match the foods families need. But she said the pandemic has made people appreciate the people that produce our food and that it could fuel a push for policies that help reduce food waste.

Miguel Gomez, an assistant professor at Cornell University who researches the food supply chain and distribution, said the program could show if our food system can adapt to entirely new ways of packaging and distributing fresh food that’s ready to go to market on a larger scale and address some of the weaknesses the current crisis has highlighted.

“I think these type of programs have the opportunity to develop the business as trustees and the supply chain expertise for businesses to really make good money innovating input distribution. It is a way, also, to diversify our food supply chain structure,” he told ABC News.

Gomez said one of the challenges in the current system is that big farming operations supply large retailers while small local farms can sell directly or via farmers markets, but there are fewer outlets for midsize producers and distributors that could be more flexible, affordable and resilient to change. While the food from this program will go to food banks where there’s the most need, Gomez said it could also change the food market for consumers as more families look for places to buy food directly if they’re scared or unable to go to grocery stores.

“I think it will be very interesting to see the ability or power of our food system to repurpose all that food that is there,” he said.
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Ryan Cranney poses for a portrait next to a mound of potatoes he's made free to the public, April 15, 2020, at his farm in Oakley, Idaho.
Friends come together to get free food across US from farms to those in need
President Donald Trump addresses the daily coronavirus task force briefing at the White House in Washington, April 17, 2020.
USDA to try ‘out of the box’ solution to get food from farmers to food banks
A pile of zucchini and squash is seen after it was discarded by a farmer, April 1, 2020, in Florida City, Florida.
Farmers and food banks grapple with broken food supply chain

A nonprofit, Feeding America, anticipates 17.1 million people could face difficulty affording food as a result of the pandemic, in addition to the 37 million people who were considered food insecure before the crisis.

But advocates, including Feeding America, are concerned that when the national emergency is over, donations and government programs established during the pandemic could slow down even though the economy and families impacted financially will take years to recover.

The Trump administration’s previous policies on food assistance programs and other parts of the social safety net emphasized getting Americans back to work, citing the growing economy and low rate of unemployment. But with the economic downturn from the pandemic expected to last, advocates are pushing the administration and Congress to start expanding the social safety net as part of starting the recovery.
PHOTO: Hank Scott of Long & Scott Farms stands in a field of rotting cucumbers that he was unable to harvest due to lack of demand on April 30, 2020, in Mount Dora, Fla.
Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesJoe Raedle/Getty Images
Hank Scott of Long & Scott Farms stands in a field of rotting cucumbers that he was un…

The USDA said it has increased spending on SNAP benefits by 40% during the pandemic through state waivers to allow recipients to be automatically bumped up to the maximum benefit, provide school meals that can be picked up at home and deliver cash assistance to families in need.

Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, said that while food banks need support and are playing a vital role in the pandemic, their role can’t compare to the long-term impact of federal spending.

“The truth is in best of times, they are less than one-tenth of the dollar amount of the federal nutrition assistance safety net,” he told ABC News.

He said the efforts to expand nutrition programs during the emergency might not be helping the people with the most desperate need, the lowest-income households that already receive the maximum amount of benefits or families that can’t get to schools or food banks to collect meals and groceries.
Pat Sutphin/Times-News via APPat Sutphin/Times-News via AP
Ricky Jones, operations manager at Magic Valley Quality Milk Transport, walks out the d…

Experts also say that providing families more money through programs like SNAP is better for the local economy because families spend their benefits at local grocery stores and spend the money they would otherwise use on food for other necessities.

Berg said anti-hunger advocates have been pushing for a 15% increase in SNAP benefits in the next coronavirus response bill. Democrats, like House Appropriations Committee Chair Rosa DeLauro, said they want the USDA to support that increase as well as possible programs to expand food distribution and support organizations like World Central Kitchen, which has been providing money to restaurants to prepare and donate meals using their existing staff.

Katie Fitzgerald, executive vice president and COO of Feeding America, said that while food banks have more stock on hand because of government programs to buy excess food, they can’t sustain the push to help millions of Americans in need on donations alone.

“This is a problem that our food bank system, however strong and capable it is, is not able to solve on its own,” she told ABC News in April.

“It requires a massive government solution, through the various federal nutrition programs, TFAP (The Emergency Food Assistance Program), other than child nutrition programs, and it has to include a SNAP solution.”

How Farmers are Helping Food Banks Feed America

How Farmers are Helping Food Banks Feed America
Credit: Feeding America
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#StillFarming

By Vince Hall @vincehall

My father spent 30 years in the rice business and I remember driving a “bank out” wagon to transport the grain before I ever drove a car. From those rural roots I came to appreciate that farmers are the foundation of our nation’s food system, providing the nourishing foods we all need to lead healthy, happy lives. Farmers — through advocacy, fundraising and more — are also critical partners in our nation’s fight against hunger, especially now, during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Today I’m proud to serve Feeding America, the nation’s largest hunger-relief organization. Working together, in 2020 we provided a record-number of meals to our neighbors in need amid new challenges to putting food on the table: a once-in-a-generation pandemic made going to the grocery store an uncertain experience, food prices reached a 50-year high and unemployment rates rivaled those of the Great Depression.
When it comes to making the case for strengthening the nation’s food programs, farmers are some of our most effective supporters.

As Feeding America’s network of 200 food banks and 60,000 food pantries and meal programs worked on the frontline to stem the rising tide of hunger, farmers were, and continue to be, at the side of food banks to help meet the skyrocketing need.

Even before the spread of COVID-19, food banks and farmers have worked hand-in-hand to keep plates full through programs such as The Emergency Food Assistance Program. Through TEFAP, the Agriculture Department purchases high-quality foods from U.S. farms. Feeding America, and other emergency food providers, then partner with states to provide households in need with nourishing foods

TEFAP is a significant win-win across the board. Farmers generate income from USDA food purchases and food banks receive a steady volume of nutritious food to distribute. Last year, the people we serve took home an astounding 1.7 billion meals from TEFAP purchases of food produced on American farms.

As hunger in the U.S. is magnified during COVID-19, it has become even more clear that the charitable food sector cannot do the work of feeding the nation alone. We also need deep investments in our nation’s federal nutrition programs, from TEFAP to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — a program that provides nine meals for every one our food bank network provides.

Fortunately, when it comes to making the case for strengthening the nation’s food programs, farmers are some of our most effective supporters.

Organizations such as the American Farm Bureau have been critical allies in urging lawmakers to make use of every tool at their disposal to ensure no child goes to bed hungry and fewer families make impossible choices between paying rent and buying groceries. Last year, Farm Bureau and Feeding America teamed up to press USDA to quickly design and implement solutions to address growing hunger while national news programs broadcast images of agricultural goods being destroyed, due to pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions. Ultimately, this led to the introduction of the highly successful Farmers to Families Food Box Program

Beyond advocacy, Farm Bureau used its successful #StillFarming campaign to shed light on how farmers are working overtime to keep our nation fed through uncertain times. AFBF has partnered with Feeding America to raise funds through the sale of campaign-themed merchandise to weather a perfect storm of increased demand, declines in food donations and disruptions to the charitable food system.

In November 2019, before the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, Feeding America Chief Executive Officer Claire Babineaux-Fontenot was a guest on the Farm Food Facts podcast, where she discussed the role of farmers in ending hunger: “Farmers in this country are the bedrock of this country, and so many farmers are doing so much already to help people facing hunger.” Claire’s words were true then and they are especially true today. As our network continues to help families have full lives and full stomachs, the role of farmers in helping us do that work cannot be overstated.

Vince Hall is interim chief government relations officer at Feeding America. Babineaux-Fontenot recently joined AFBF President Zippy Duvall for a FarmSide Chat podcast to discuss how communities have come together over the last year to ensure food is getting from the farm to those who need it most.

USDA Ensures Food, Funding during Pandemic

USDA Ensures Food, Funding during Pandemic

Judge orders L.A. City and County to offer Shelter to Everyone on Skid Row by Fall

Judge orders L.A. city and county to offer shelter to everyone on skid row by fall

Judge David O. Carter tours skid row with a police officer.
U.S. District Court judge David O. Carter tours skid row with LAPD Officer Deon Joseph on April 3, 2020. (Myung J. Chun / Los Angeles Times)
By BENJAMIN ORESKES, EMILY ALPERT REYES, DOUG SMITH
APRIL 20, 2021 UPDATED 4:15 PM PT
A federal judge overseeing a sprawling lawsuit about homelessness in Los Angeles ordered the city and county Tuesday to offer some form of shelter or housing to the entire homeless population of skid row by October.

Judge David O. Carter granted a preliminary injunction sought by the plaintiffs in the case last week and now is telling the city and county that they must offer single women and unaccompanied children on skid row a place to stay within 90 days, help families within 120 days and finally, by Oct. 18, offer every homeless person on skid row housing or shelter.

It’s unclear whether the city and county will challenge the order, which also calls for the city to put $1 billion into an escrow account — an idea that has raised concerns among city officials.

The ruling argues that L.A. city and county wrongly focused on permanent housing at the expense of more temporary shelter, “knowing that massive development delays were likely while people died in the streets.” That element of the order underscores the judge’s skepticism of a core part of L.A.’s current strategy to tackle homelessness.

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“Los Angeles has lost its parks, beaches, schools, sidewalks, and highway systems due to the inaction of city and county officials who have left our homeless citizens with no other place to turn,” Carter wrote in a 110-page brief sprinkled with quotes from Abraham Lincoln and an extensive history of how skid row was first created.

Read the full injunction here

“All of the rhetoric, promises, plans, and budgeting cannot obscure the shameful reality of this crisis — that year after year, there are more homeless Angelenos, and year after year, more homeless Angelenos die on the streets.” Last year more than 1,300 homeless people died in Los Angeles County.

In the last homeless count in January 2020, more than 4,600 unhoused people were found to be living on skid row — about 2,500 in large shelters and 2,093 on the streets. They account for only slightly more than 10% of the city’s overall homeless population, and it’s not clear what Carter’s order might mean for other parts of the city.

The judge wrote that “after adequate shelter is offered,” he would allow the city to enforce laws that keep streets and sidewalks clear of tents so long as they’re consistent with previous legal rulings that have limited the enforcement of such rules. That appears to only apply to skid row.

He also ordered the county to offer “support services to all homeless residents who accept the offer of housing” including placements in “appropriate emergency, interim, or permanent housing and treatment services.” The costs would be split by the city and county, he said.

Rob Wilcox, a spokesman for the city attorney’s office, said Tuesday that city lawyers are reviewing the order. He declined to comment further.

Skip Miller, partner at the Miller Barondess law firm, which is outside counsel for the county in the lawsuit, said the county is “now evaluating our options, including the possibility of an appeal.”

Previously, the county had asked to be removed from the case, arguing that it was about the city and that the county was aggressively responding to homelessness without any direction from the court. It cited efforts that included spending hundreds of millions of dollars annually through the Measure H sales tax and developing innovative strategies such as Project Roomkey in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Project Roomkey is a state program that provides temporary funding for cities and counties to rent hotel rooms for homeless people during the pandemic.

The push for an injunction “is an attempt by property owners and businesses to rid their neighborhood of homeless people,” Miller said.

David Barker, 56, is visiting with his friend living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. David is not homeless but he works in the area. Because of the coronavirus pandemic city and county workers are working to move people living on the street inside.
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April 19, 2021
“There is no legal basis for an injunction because the county is spending hundreds of millions of dollars a year on proven strategies,” he added.

Matthew Umhofer, an attorney representing the plaintiffs, the L.A. Alliance for Human Rights, said he and his clients were ecstatic. Carter’s call for action was what they had been looking for when they filed the case, he said, and why they sought out Carter, who had overseen similar cases in Orange County in recent years, to preside over it.

“This is exactly the kind of aggressive emergency action that we think is necessary on the issue of homelessness in Los Angeles,” Umhofer said.

The Alliance is a coalition of downtown business owners and residents that filed the case in March 2020, accusing the city and county of breaching their duty to abate a nuisance, reducing property value without compensation, wasting public funds and violating the state environmental act and state and federal acts protecting people with disabilities.

Carter’s order came the day that Mayor Eric Garcetti released his budget for the next fiscal year, which includes nearly $1 billion in spending on homelessness. The longtime federal judge also ordered “that $1 billion, as represented by Mayor Garcetti, will be placed in escrow forthwith.”

Of the $1 billion in homeless spending planned by Garcetti, more than a third would come from Proposition HHH, the 2016 bond measure to build permanent housing for homeless residents. Garcetti aides said they expect the city will be building or developing 89 HHH projects over the next fiscal year, for a total of 5,651 housing units.

Whether Carter’s order will disrupt those activities is unclear. In his order, the judge said he wants a report in 90 days of every developer receiving funds from HHH, as well as new regulations to “limit the possibility of funds being wasted.”

At a press conference Tuesday afternoon, Garcetti declined to say whether the city would file an appeal of the order, saying he first wants to read it. But he suggested that Carter’s order could slow down the construction of HHH projects.

“Roadblocks masquerading as progress are the last things we need,” he said.

David Barker, 56, is visiting with his friend living in a tent on skid row in Los Angeles, Calif. on Thursday, March 19, 2020. David is not homeless but he works in the area. Because of the coronavirus pandemic city and county workers are working to move people living on the street inside.
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Can L.A. really clear homeless people from skid row by October? Here’s what we know

April 20, 2021
Because the $1 billion for homelessness doesn’t yet exist — some of it hasn’t arrived from Washington and none of it has been approved by the City Council for the coming year — Garcetti said he also fears the city will be asked instead to put some other source of money in the escrow account.

Carter has also asked for a number of reports from city and county officials about how money for combating homelessness has been and is currently being spent. He has also ordered that the city and county cease any sales or transfers of city or county property before such reports are provided.

The lengthy ruling also skewered corruption scandals involving housing projects, “excessive delays and skyrocketing costs” under the HHH bond measure, and L.A.’s failure to seek federal reimbursement for Project Roomkey rooms.

Councilman Kevin de León, whose district includes skid row, welcomed the judge’s decision. Although L.A. needs more clarity about setting aside $1 billion, he said, the tight timeframe to offer shelter or housing to skid row residents “lights a fire under the city to act with a real sense of urgency and to match the rhetoric with real outcomes to save lives.”

“It’s a strong shot across the bow — and he is expecting action,” de León said. “Not continued negotiations or studying everything to death.”

Pete White, executive director of the skid row-based Los Angeles Community Action Network, which is an intervenor in the case, said his organization had “grown concerned that politicians are using this litigation to justify investment in emergency shelters instead of housing.”

“We all know that shelters won’t solve our housing crisis, and they definitely won’t address the structural racism that got us here in the first place.”

Skid row activist and resident Jeff Page echoed White , saying the tight window for moving people means they won’t be going to permanent housing but instead to “dorm style living that in and of itself is problematic.” What’s needed, he said, is more permanent housing in the neighborhood to be built as quickly as possible.

“We need more housing here. We need more services,” he said.

In his order, Carter outlined historic forms of discrimination that had cut Black people out of housing opportunities, including redlining, segregated systems of assistance during the Great Depression, highway construction that displaced Black families, and criminalization that has disproportionately affected Black communities.

Racial inequity has continued to color government handling of the crisis, Carter concluded, opining that current city and county policies “compound and perpetuate structural racism, threatening the integrity of Black families in Los Angeles and forcing a disproportionate number of Black families to go unhoused.”

The judge has previously compared the situation to the aftermath of the seminal civil rights case Brown vs. Board of Education, saying there are times when the federal judiciary may need to act “after a long period of inaction by local government officials.”

Laurie Levenson, a professor at Loyola Law School, called the 110-page order a “deep dive into the problems of homelessness in Los Angeles and an expression of Carter’s frustration with how the city and county have responded to this crisis.” She noted that judges in the South during the 1950s and 1960s had used similarly expansive injunctions to make desegregation a reality and in other cases to implement prison reform.

She wasn’t sure how a higher court might rule if this case ends up getting appealed but said it was “certainly a landmark decision.”

“It is an open question whether the appellate court will step in,” she said. “As Judge Carter acknowledges, there is usually a hearing before such an order. However, he has loaded up his decision with facts that he says obviate the need for a hearing. The judge has made a bold move.”

News of the injunction had not trickled down to the streets of skid row Tuesday, but people reacted favorably when informed of it. Hasan Saleem, 58, who was sitting outside his tent on 6th Street, said he would take housing “right away” if offered, even if it takes 180 days. Still, he remained skeptical.

“I wouldn’t mind waiting if it was true,” he said. “I don’t know if it’s true or not.”

“It’s better than how they used to do it when they just take your stuff and put you to jail,” said Peaceful Bolden, who was standing with a small group across the street from the Los Angeles Mission. “At least they’re trying.”

But Bolden said she did not think housing alone would be enough.

“Some of these people are just refugees from whatever life they used to have,” she said. “They need mental health. They need hospice, some of them. A lot of them don’t want to leave because they don’t want to be under anyone’s rules.”

Andy Bales, president and CEO of the Union Rescue Mission, had heard the news and hailed it as the “wall of reality” that the city and county are finally running into.

“It’s what I came to Union Rescue Mission to accomplish,” Bales said. “I’ve always wanted to decentralize skid row and regionalize Services throughout the County. My hope is this will do that.”

How the Clintons Robbed and Destroyed Haiti

By Takudzwa Hillary Chiwanza, African Exponent, Feb. 18, 2020

The imprint of Bill Clinton and Hillary Clinton is indelible. The couple’s presence and impact on the Caribbean island have brought nothing but prolonged despair for the Haitians. Their elusive and opaque deals in the country have not done anything to alleviate the country out of poverty depths. The purported interests of helping Haiti from its myriad of problems have only caused stagnation in Haiti.

The presence of Bill Clinton, who also served as the president of the United States together with his wife who served as the Secretary of State during Obama’s tenure can be traced back to the 90s. Their interests in Haiti are not a new phenomenon. If not, their interests in Haiti have almost become irrevocably entrenched and have had far-reaching consequences in the lives of ordinary Haitian citizens.

Their history with the country dates back to 1975 when they had their honeymoon there. If there is an unpopular couple in Haiti, it definitely has to be the Clintons; for they are held in contempt and in despicable terms. What the Clintons did is unforgivable to the Haitians.

The devastating 2010 earthquake left Haiti in tatters. The country’s economy reeled under the biting and excruciating effects of the earthquake. Because of their history with Haiti, the Clintons seized this chance in the interests of “assisting” Haiti in its times of unparalleled difficulty. But their involvement with the earthquake relief programs was the final proof Haitians needed to show that the Clintons’ true intentions with the country were to rob it for their own parochial interests.

Over 220,000 Killed in Quake
Bill Clinton’s influence in Haiti ranges from the 1990s agricultural policies in Haiti that destroyed the country’s rice industry to the meddling in internal affairs and finally to the earthquake. There is a sense of permanency attached to the Clintons’ name as regards their activities in Haiti, particularly the Clinton Foundation.

When the earthquake struck, the global response was to send in donations to Haiti. But of course, that needed a commission that would be designed to have an oversight role as regards the disbursement of the various relief packages pouring through. The Clintons stepped up to lead the global response. The Interim Haiti Recovery Commission (IHRC) was brought into life and Bill Clinton was selected to be its co-chair. At that time, Hillary Clinton was still the Secretary of State and thus responsible for channeling USAID relief spending to Haiti.

One could not have found an escape from their influence. Bill Clinton co-chaired the commission alongside Haitian Prime Minister Jean-Max Bellerive. Some $13.3 billion was pledged by international donors so that Haiti could be rebuilt and the lives of Haitians uplifted.

The IHRC was comprised of two parts: one that had the foreigners and one led by the Haitian Prime Minister. Bill Clinton chaired the foreign part and it had all the donors; they had to the IHRC $0.10 billion over two years or forgive $0.20 billion of Haitian debt. Each and every decision made by the Haiti section of the commission had to be endorsed by the foreign section. And Clinton was at the helm of the foreign part of that commission.

As the money found its way into the possession of the IHRC, it increasingly became arrogant and opaque. The only thing that came out of the post-earthquake relief plans was the construction of an industrial park called Caracol, which cost $300 million. The US was also amenable to financing a power plant. The belief held by the Clintons and their allies in terms of rebuilding Haiti was premised on employing short-term plans espoused in the foreign aid industry that the US had imposed on Haiti all these years.

They hoped that Caracol would sizeably attract foreign businesses for the reconstruction of the country’s badly fractured economy. It was the same old policy that did not care about the pertinent issue of creating long-lasting projects that would eventually help the poverty-stricken Haitians. The foreign-aid industry plans are concerned with benefiting the international players, the private contractors.

The industrial park is considered a very big flop by the US. Worse still, several hundred farmers were evicted from there in order to make way for the 600-acre park. Too much emphasis was placed on “outside players” instead of the Haitian government to effect change.

Clinton at Grand Opening
As such, the jobs that Caracol was expected to make fall far below the reality on the ground. The post-earthquake efforts by the Clintons, particularly Caracol, was a damning failure that did nothing to lift the Haitians out of their misery but only lined the pockets of big firms. South Korean textile giant Sae-A Trading Co, which is the main employer at Caracol, gifted the Clinton Foundation with donations between $50,000 and $100,000.

The IHRC had little to show for all the money that came through except the Caracol industrial park. Not much reconstruction in Haiti was done. Where did all the money go? The Clinton Foundation has refuted claims that it had influence in the running of the IHRC, saying, “Since 2010, the Foundation has worked on the ground in Haiti with a range of partners – helping more than 7,500 farmers lift themselves out of poverty; improving the Haitian environment by planting more than 5 million trees and installing more than 400 KW of clean energy; and supporting women through literacy training and job skills for over 2,000 women,” when responding to the BBC.

It has been speculated some of the money that came through the commission found its way towards sponsoring Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign which she lost to the incumbent Donald Trump in 2016 but this is an area she has always been evasive about when probed. They become allegations without proof but to Haitians the more she dodges the question, the more she becomes suspicious and pernicious to the interests of Haitians.

It is estimated that the IHRC collected over $5.3 billion over two years and $9.9 billion in three years but Haitians still find themselves mired in abject poverty. A US Government Accountability Office report circumvented the issue by deciding not to find any iota of wrongdoing, but the gravity of the failure made them mention that the plans by the IHRC, co-chaired by Bill Clinton, “did not align with the Haitian priorities.”

The failure by the IHRC to rebuild Haiti is still haunting Haiti. The failed agricultural policies by the US made sure Haiti, a country that produced its own rice, would be reliant on US food to the extent that Haiti imports food from the US. Foreign aid is continuously pumped into Haiti, and no plan is made to bolster the country’s own capacity to rebuild and produce.

Haiti is still run on which business finds favor with the US, and while the Clintons were in charge of the US, they presided over all these failed policies. It is high time the onus to build Haiti shifts back to the government.

Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti?

ByValerie Helm Global NewsPosted January 20, 2020 1:42 pm Updated January 20, 2020 3:13 pm

Click to play video: ‘How were Canadian donations to Haiti 2010 earthquake relief spent?’
Haiti has received billions of dollars in relief over the years from around the world, after the devastating earthquake of 2010. So how were Canadian donations spent? – Jan 13, 2020
When Haiti was rocked by an earthquake on Jan. 12, 2010, images of despair and damage struck a chord with people around the world.

American journalist Jonathan M. Katz has closely analyzed the money pledged and how much was actually disbursed. He reports the global response totalled US$16.3 billion in pledges for rebuilding and recovery efforts. Other estimates, including from the L.A. Times, pin it at US$13.5 billion. In the month following the earthquake, Canadians donated $220 million to eligible organizations, which was matched by the federal government. From 2010 to 2018, Canada contributed $1.458 billion, which does not include the $220 donated by Canadians.

A small boy sits outside the tent he lives in with his family in Canaan, Haiti, January 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
A small boy sits outside the tent he lives in with his family in Canaan, Haiti, January 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
Photojournalist Barry Donnelly in Canaan, Haiti, Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Photojournalist Barry Donnelly in Canaan, Haiti, Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
“We’re still living in that same moment in that same time,” Guillano Louis, who lives in Port-au-Prince, tells Global News on the streets of the capital.

READ MORE: Haiti 10 years later — Temporary tent city turns into makeshift community for 300,000

In the area of Canaan, a two-hour drive northeast of congested Port-au-Prince, some families still live in tents set up as a temporary measure for displaced residents after the earthquake. A family of seven sleeps in a threadbare tent, without access to running water, electricity or public services such as education. Some of the children were born in these conditions.

A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti. (Valerie Laillet)
A family of seven lives inside this tent in Canaan, Haiti. (Valerie Laillet).
Canaan, Haiti. Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Canaan, Haiti. Jan. 11, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
With 10 years gone by, there are questions from the international community about the lack of progress.

“The headline should be, ‘We screwed up,’” says Katz, reflecting on the global response.

He explains that the international community didn’t keep its promises.

Katz was inside his home in Haiti when it “buckled along with hundreds of thousands of others.” In his book, The Big Truck That Went By: How the World Came to Save Haiti and Left Behind a Disaster, he claims Canada disbursed $657 million in the 20 months since the quake, but only about two per cent was channelled to the Haitian government.

Global News reached out to Global Affairs Canada for confirmation of the figures provided by Katz. In a statement, the department says it is “unable to confirm this figure, as we are not aware of the methodology that was used to arrive at this amount.”

“Canada’s international assistance to Haiti is channelled through international or Canadian partners whose financial capacity and integrity have been verified,” the statement says.

Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? – image
Haiti 10 years later: What happened to the billions pledged to help the people of Haiti? – image
Katz says there’s the notion that governments should not foolishly give money to countries filled with corruption. The Haitian government is widely accused of corruption, mismanagement and misinformation, right down to the number of people it says died in the earthquake. The government estimates 316,000 people died and 200,000 people were injured, figures many believe to be inflated. The BBC cites a draft report commissioned by the U.S. government that puts the death toll between 46,000 and 85,000. Many news outlets report 220,000 lives were lost.

In Port-au-Prince, many Haitians lament their current situation. A vendor selling patties, who did not want to be identified, told Global News she is fed up with the government’s inaction. She says she never saw any of the food and supplies distributed, and believes the government kept things for itself.

Louis, who works in security and was in Port-au-Prince at the time of the earthquake, echoes that sentiment. He says the earthquake is still fresh in the minds of Haitians.

“There’s been no real progress,” he said.

He believes the Haitian government is to blame and voiced that “someone needs to say something.”

Vendors in Port-au-Prince days before Haiti marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly)
Vendors in Port-au-Prince days before Haiti marks the 10th anniversary of the earthquake. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly).Courtesy: Barry Donnelly.
Guillano Louis walks by a vendor in Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly)
Guillano Louis walks by a vendor in Port-au-Prince. (Courtesy: Barry Donnelly). Courtesy: Barry Donnely
In a statement released on the 10th anniversary of the earthquake, Haitian President Jovenel Moïse said the government still lacks “the basic infrastructure and services to support the people of our country.”

“The initial flurry of attention received from the international community quickly quieted down, with many of the financial pledges not delivered — causing devastating consequences for our recovery,” he said. “Little of the aid that was received ended up in Haitian hands and much of the money that was so generously given was not spent on the right projects and places.”

Katz says there’s a lot of noise about corruption in places like Haiti, but little of the aid is actually going to Haiti. Often, foreign donors choose to give to NGOs due to fears of corruption by the Haitian government.​ But some NGOs are also accused of mismanagement.

In 2015, NPR and ProPublica released their findings into the US$500 million raised by the American Red Cross for relief efforts in Haiti. ProPublica’s headline read: “How the Red Cross Raised Half a Billion Dollars for Haiti ­and Built Six Homes.” According to NPR, their investigation found a number of “poorly managed projects, questionable spending and dubious claims of success.”

Aid for Haiti
FILE – A Brazilian soldier of the MINUSTAH force gives food to Haitian children orphaned by the 2010 earthquake, at an orphanage in Port-au-Prince on March 3, 2013. VANDERLEI ALMEIDA/AFP/Getty Images
Katz explains that foreign aid is “a misnomer.”

“It’s usually not aid and it’s not given to foreign countries,” he said.

Katz says that with Canadian aid agencies, as with other aid agencies, a lot of the funds go to Canadian staff, salaries and travel and that the material is purchased in the donor country. He also says people believe that so much money should have fixed everything, but a lot of the money that was pledged wasn’t delivered.

FILE – This Monday, July 11, 2011, file photo shows silhouettes of UN peacekeepers from Brazil at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo)
FILE – This Monday, July 11, 2011, file photo shows silhouettes of UN peacekeepers from Brazil at the airport in Port-au-Prince, Haiti. (AP Photo/Eduardo Verdugo).
NGOs poured into Haiti to assist, but it’s unclear how many have been on the ground. There are varying reports placing the number of NGOs in the country to as low as 3,000 and as high as 20,000. While NGOs play critical roles in providing basic necessities and health services to people facing difficult times, there are questions as to who oversees them.

The Centre for Global Development has been calling for the implementation of national guilds that would set a national mandatory requirement for NGOs to be registered, and possibly include a code of conduct that would keep their missions in line with one another. It also calls for practices such as annual reports and audited financial statements.​

Vocational school in Carrefour, Haiti, built in honour of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher. (Courtesy: Antony Robart)
Vocational school in Carrefour, Haiti, built in honour of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher. (Courtesy: Antony Robart).
Canadians responded in the days, months and years after the earthquake. A vocational school was built in memory of RCMP Sgt. Mark Gallagher, who died in the quake.

Gilles Rivard was the Canadian ambassador to Haiti from June 2008 to October 2010 and January 2014 to September 2014. He was in the country when the earthquake struck and says Canada had a fantastic team for the mission. He says Canadian teams brought in food, flew out some 6,000 Haitians and built a new road and a new hospital.

“Now people are complaining that this hospital is not functioning well,” Rivard said. He says if the “Haitian government doesn’t send doctors or nurses to take care of the poor people that suffered, there is nothing Canada can do. But we’re criticized for that.”

READ MORE: 10 years after, Michaelle Jean laments flawed response to devastating Haiti quake

FILE – Haitians struggled to rebuild after the earthquake rocked their fragile island in 2010.
FILE – Haitians struggled to rebuild after the earthquake rocked their fragile island in 2010.
Rivard points to issues with UN institutions. He says they “don’t always co-ordinate among themselves.”

“So you can imagine the situation,” he said. “And I think it’s a big problem; the co-ordination and also what we request from the country, the numerous reports, evaluation, audit and so on. They don’t have the capacity to respond.”

READ MORE: Child victims of Haiti earthquake find hope at orphanage with Canadian ties

Rivard says Haiti needs support from Canada and the U.S., who are main donors.

“Canada does a lot,” he said. “The problem is that if you don’t do enough, you’re going to be criticized. And then if you do too much, they’re going to be accused of telling Haitians what to do. That’s the dilemma.”

Rivard says there is a lot of fatigue from countries that are trying to help Haiti.

“You feel that there is no real progress in terms of governance, of economic situation and so on. So that’s that. See, that’s a vicious circle.”

Dorcius Fritzner speaks to Global News journalist Antony Robart (Courtesy: Valerie Laillet).
Dorcius Fritzner speaks to Global News journalist Antony Robart (Courtesy: Valerie Laillet). Courtesy: Barry Donnely
Father of two Dorcius Fritzner makes his living in Haiti’s capital by shuttling people on his motorbike. He told Global News he’s frustrated with the government. Fritzner says resources in Haiti are barren, likening it to a desert. Issues he points to include children not able to attend school, trouble accessing clean water, unemployment and gas shortages.

READ MORE: ‘We’re living that day’ — A decade later, Haitians remember devastating 2010 earthquake

FILE – A demonstrator walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2019.
FILE – A demonstrator walks past a burning barricade during anti-government protests in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Feb. 15, 2019.REUTERS/Ivan Alvarado
Port-au-Prince architect Philippe Léon says the political turmoil and instability has hindered rebuilding efforts. He points to the number of times the government has changed hands; three different presidents and an interim government in the last decade.

“One hundred to 150 years of construction was destroyed, including the presidential palace that was nearly 100 years old,” he said. “It wouldn’t take five to 10 years to rebuild.”

Haiti’s Notre-Dame cathedral is still in ruins 10 years later. (Valerie Laillet)
Haiti’s Notre-Dame cathedral is still in ruins 10 years later. (Valerie Laillet).
Janurary 12, 2020. (Valerie Laillet)
Janurary 12, 2020. (Valerie Laillet).
Still, he says, not much has been done. Léon says a lot of the new construction has been in the private sector and a lot of it is half-built. He points to projects like the Village Lumane Casimir, with 1,500 units. Only about half of the units are built, due to a lack of funds.

How were Canadian donations to Haiti 2010 earthquake relief spent?
Child victims of Haiti earthquake find hope at orphanage with Canadian ties
Léon says Haitians have been building out of necessity. Instead of waiting for the government, people have been building their homes over time.

READ MORE: Haiti earthquake survivor goes from orphanage to Oklahoma business analyst

More than one million people were displaced by the earthquake. In Canaan, about two hours from the capital, tents were set up to temporarily house displaced residents. But today, some people still live in the very tents that were put up 10 years ago. Others have built homes out of whatever they could find; wood and tin homes cover the mountains. A number of residents have built their homes out of cement blocks. People in Canaan have built a makeshift community with homes out of various materials, schools for those who can afford it, churches and grocery stores.

Léon says the mountains surrounding Port-au-Prince are covered with dwellings, with no roads or order. He says when you fly into or out of Haiti at night, you can see all of the lights emanating from homes, snake roads and lack of organization.

Katz says when it comes to Haiti, people often try to find a single villain. Bill and Hillary Clinton are often singled out. But Katz says “what failed was the system.”

“This should be a wakeup call.”

He says inequality, much more than the earthquake, is responsible for the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people.

National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery
National police shoot at protesters demanding the resignation of Haitian President Jovenel Moise near the presidential palace in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery. THE CANADIAN PRESS/AP, Dieu Nalio Chery
Over the last year, Léon hasn’t worked on any housing projects due to the political instability and violence in his country. He said there’s no work to be had in new builds. Instead, he’s been working on building fences, steel doors and other measures to make homes impenetrable by rioters. At his office, his windows are covered in wood to fend off rocks and Molotov cocktails.

Léon says the problem with Haiti is that the country is “managing misery.” Poverty, a lack of education and fighting for political power are some of the main issues. He says a lot of things other countries take for granted, Haiti cannot. Everything from water to electricity to roads are systems people have to build themselves, and in challenging circumstances.

Léon believes the development of a country “can only happen through its own people, through people who believe in it and support it.” He says the 10th anniversary of the earthquake is time for a ‘bilan,’ an assessment on the progress so far: “counting the blessings and counting your mistakes.” Léon, who is now in his 60s, says he hopes to see a better Haiti himself.

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