ORLANDO, Fla. — While all eyes are on the Senate to see if Friday's late-night deal can turn into an approved COVID-19 relief bill, many families in Central Florida are just weeks away from seeing some of their federal benefits expiring.
If those benefits do expire, food pantries like Second Harvest Food Bank say they anticipate even more families coming in for help.
What You Need To Know
- Senate Democrats agree on jobless bill; continue work on relief bill
- Many Americans, including in Central Florida, are weeks away from seeing some benefits expire
- HOW TO HELP: Second Harvest Food Bank Central Florida
"We should anticipate seeing an increased need which we have seen when federal unemployment went away in the middle of the pandemic, we saw an uptick in our pantries as well. And hopefully, Congress takes a hard look at this issue not just about unemployment but food insecurity, it’s on the rise here in central Florida," said Kelly Quintero, Director of Advocacy and Government Relations with Second Harvest Food Bank Central Florida.
With food insecurity rising from the pandemic, Quintero said it's important that any stimulus bill Congress passes includes increased help for families through the Supplemental Nutrition Assisistance Program - or SNAP. That’s because those dollars stretch further and allow families to pick up the food they want at the store.
If added SNAP benefits can pass, Quintero said that means fewer families will need to turn to food pantries like theirs. But right now - many families are forced to turn to food pantries and they're stretching thin to meet the demand.
“One year later from the start of this pandemic, we’re still seeing double the need here in central Florida," Quintero said. "To give an example, we were doing 150,000 meals out of our doors every single day and it’s still at 300,000 meals every single day that we’re distributing here in central Florida. So that need is still present in our community."
A lot of those coming in, Quintero said, are hospitality workers who have been laid off in this pandemic, needing help while the economy still struggles to rebound through this pandemic.
Even if the Senate does pass a COVID-19 relief bill this weekend, it won’t immediately be signed into law. Because they're likely to make changes and amendments to the original House bill, their version once approved would be sent back to the House for a vote before heading to President Joe Biden's desk.
If you or someone you know is in need of food assistance and want to find a pantry near you, OR if you want to donate or volunteer to help out here at Second Harvest - you can head to feedhopenow.org.