‘People are hungry.’ Springdale man said he hopes new stimulus package addresses Marshallese community needs


SPRINGDALE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — As the pandemic rolls into its one-year anniversary, many in Northwest Arkansas are still struggling. With a new stimulus package on the way, one community member said he hopes it helps to address some of the financial problems families face.

“It’s just crazy out there,” said Thomas Tulensa, who lives in Springdale. “It’s traumatizing people.”

Tulensa said the Marshallese community, which he’s a part of, has been hit particularly hard. He said people are struggling with rent, food and mental health.

“It makes me sad,” Tulensa said. “Why is it happening here, man? Come on, this is America!”

Tulensa is a member of the People’s Pantry NWA, a group that feeds people who need it. He said a lot of people need it.

“There are people that’ve been messaging me, ‘Do you guys pay for rent?'” Tulensa said. “We don’t have that capacity to.”

Wednesday, the U.S. Congress passed a $1.9 trillion stimulus package, and President Biden said he’ll sign it Friday. It’ll send $1,400 stimulus checks to people making under $75,000, and it’ll set aside more than $20 billion for emergency rental assistance. It also extends unemployment benefits.

Mervin Jebaraj is a University of Arkansas economist. He said this will help people in Northwest Arkansas immensely.

“A lot of the details in the package are really to provide relief for what happened last year,” Jebaraj said. “It’s going to be a relief. It’s going to help [people] catch back up on rent and mortgage payments, so they’re not turned out of their houses or wherever they’re living.”

Tulensa said the last two checks only went so far for many in the community.

“There’re a lot of people who haven’t received theirs’ yet,” Tulensa said.

Still, Tulensa said he hopes this helps chip away at the problems caused by COVID-19.

“People are hungry,” Tulensa said. “We need to get this fixed.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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