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The United States Department of Agriculture announced it is expanding a critical program that provides relief for farmers negatively impacted by the coronavirus. This comes after U.S. Sen. Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga., requested that USDA broaden the applicant pool to better serve Georgia’s expansive and diverse agricultural industry, which has experienced significant losses due to the virus.

ATLANTA — When she first took office, Georgia Sen. Kelly Loeffler pledged to donate her full Senate paycheck to charities and nonprofits across the state. Since January, she’s donated more than $70,000 to about 20 organizations.

Several of Loeffler’s donations went to organizations in the Albany area. So far, she has donated $3,800 apiece to Colquitt Regional Medical Foundation and the (Tift Area) Pregnancy Care Center. This is in addition to the $1 million donation she recently made to Phoebe Putney Memorial Hospital in Albany.

Loeffler donated funds to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Foundation that helped with COVID-19 response, and the Second Harvest of South Georgia food bank used the contribution it received to aid with meal distribution for families dealing with the economic fallout of the pandemic.

When she was appointed by Gov. Brian Kemp to the Senate seat left vacant when former Sen. Johnny Isakson stepped down for health reason, Loeffler pledged to donate her $174,000 pay to charity. She’s made good on her word with little fanfare.

“I know that I’ve been blessed to live the American dream; I want that for more people across Georgia,” Loeffler told The Albany Herald in an earlier interview.

The first of Loeffler’s donations were mailed out March 15. Political opponents and some in the news media have accused her of trying to deflect negative attention away from a stock sale, for which the senator was investigated and cleared, by highlighting instances when she used her riches to help others, such as sending a private plane to rescue stranded cruise ship passengers or the $1 million gift she and her husband made to Phoebe to help with the treatment of coronavirus patients. Albany was one of the nation’s “hot spots” for the virus and at one time was listed among the three worst areas for COVID-19 patients and deaths per capita in the world.

A second round of checks was mailed out in early May. Recipients included the Georgia Council of the Blind, food banks, a nonprofit that custom builds homes for injured veterans and a southwest Georgia hospital.

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