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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

In an effort to revive shuttered main streets and empower mom-and-pop stores, a number of U.S. cities are passing laws to limit the rapid expansion of dollar stores in their neighborhoods.

Why it matters: Around 14 million people live in food deserts, per the USDA. Experts say one contributor to the crisis is the meteoric rise of dollar chains, which are popping up on every street corner, crowding out other retailers and grocers, and very rarely selling fresh food.

"If you saturate a neighborhood with dozens of dollar stores, there’s just no room left in the market for anyone else."
— Stacy Mitchell, co-director at the Institute for Local Self-Reliance

The big picture: There are about 30,000 dollar stores in the U.S. today — more than the total number of Walmarts and McDonald's combined. And Dollar Tree and Dollar General have plans to open 20,000 more.

The problem is more acute in some cities than others, per a report from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, a nonprofit research and advocacy group that opposes concentrated economic power.

Consider Birmingham, where close to 70% of city residents live in food deserts and the 2 dollar giants have opened more than 40 locations in the last decade. Since 2005, 5 Birmingham supermarkets — undercut by the cheap chains — have closed, and the city has struggled to get new grocers to come to town, the report notes.

  • Now Birmingham has passed a pair of laws: The city is banning new dollar stores from setting up shop within a mile of an existing location and it's financing the opening of new supermarkets.

Northeast Oklahoma City was confronted with the problem of dollar stores after its last grocery store closed in July.

  • The city has now prohibited new dollar stores from opening within a mile of old ones unless the store commits to saving 500 square feet of floor space for fresh produce.

The other side:

  • A Dollar General spokesperson told Axios: "We are disappointed a small number of policymakers have chosen to limit our ability to serve their constituents and communities."
  • "Our stores provide an affordable and convenient fill-in shopping option for our customers in between their weekly or bi-weekly grocery store trips, all while creating more jobs and investing in the communities we serve," a Dollar Tree spokesperson said.

The bottom line: The backlash against dollar stores is here — and spreading. More cities, from small ones like Hutchinson, Kansas, to big metros like Cleveland and Fort Worth, are considering laws to limit the chains.

Go deeper

DOJ: Capitol rioter threatened to "assassinate" Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez

Supporters of former President Trump storm the U.S. Captiol on Jan. 6. Photo: Kent Nishimura / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

A Texas man who has be charged with storming the U.S. Capitol in the deadly Jan. 6 siege posted death threats against Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), the Department of Justice said.

The big picture: Garret Miller faces five charges in connection to the riot by supporters of former President Trump, including violent entry and disorderly conduct on Capitol grounds and making threats. According to court documents, Miller posted violent threats online the day of the siege, including tweeting “Assassinate AOC.”

Schumer calls for IG probe into alleged plan by Trump, DOJ lawyer to oust acting AG

Jeffrey Clark speaks next to Deputy US Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen at a news conference in October. Photo: Yuri Gripas/AFP via Getty Images.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Saturday called for the Justice Department inspector general to investigate an alleged plan by former President Trump and a DOJ lawyer to remove the acting attorney general and replace him with someone more willing to investigate unfounded claims of election fraud.

Driving the news: The New York Times first reported Friday that the lawyer, Jeffrey Clark, allegedly devised "ways to cast doubt on the election results and to bolster Mr. Trump’s continuing legal battles and the pressure on Georgia politicians. Because Mr. [Jeffrey] Rosen had refused the president’s entreaties to carry out those plans, Mr. Trump was about to decide whether to fire Mr. Rosen and replace him with Mr. Clark."

3 hours ago - World

Brazil begins distributing AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine

Containers carrying doses of the Oxford/AstraZeneca vaccine arrive in Brazil. Photo: Maurio Pimentel/AFP via Getty Images

Brazil on Saturday began distributing the 2 million doses of the AstraZeneca coronavirus vaccine that arrived from India Friday, Reuters reports.

Why it matters: Brazil has the third highest COVID-19 case-count in the world, according to Johns Hopkins University data. The 2 million doses "only scratch the surface of the shortfall," Brazilian public health experts told the AP.