By Ted Scouten

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – Early Tuesday morning, hundreds of Miami residents lined up and awaited their turn to receive a $250 grocery gift card.

The City of Miami handed them out to those in need at Jose Marti Park. It couldn’t come soon enough for Maria Gomez. She got in line Monday night just to make sure she’d get some help.

“I need to buy food. I don’t have anything to buy food right now. I ran out of food stamps. I don’t have a job, I don’t have anything,” she said.

“(It’s) everything, the pandemic is bad with the jobs, the food wise, everything’s expensive. No child care, it’s hard for us to work,” said Jessica Negron as she stood in line.

Negron said it’s been hard to keep up with less money coming in. She’s an Uber driver.

“Uber went down the salary, the tips, everything went down,” she said.

Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said it’s sad to see so many in need. He wants more funding to give more help.

“We need Congress to act and pass the next CARES Act and we need entities like Miami-Dade County to be responsible and give it to the cities that understand how to distribute it to the people,” he said.

Miami was not alone in a gift card distribution.

Miami Beach was giving out about one thousand $100 Publix gift cards.

“It helps a lot. A lot of people sometimes feel they don’t need help. I’m not ashamed to say, some people need help, regardless,” said Geraldo Camejo as he waited in line.

Miami Beach City Commissioner Michael Gongora said the city scraped together the money to get it done.

“The city found money, $30 thousand we didn’t use for our holiday party, $70 thousand from the CARES Act. We bought one thousand $100 gift cards,” he said.

Five hundred of the cards were given away at the Miami Beach Police Department Headquarters in the morning. The other 500 were handed out in the afternoon at the North Beach Bandshell. They’re given out on a first come-first served basis.

“Well honey, we need food. Everybody needs food,” said Cari Ortiz who got in line at 4.m.

She, like everyone here, is hoping for a little help.

“We have 3 kids. So a hundred dollars would do good, at least put something on the table. Something’s better than nothing,” said Zoraida Pacheco.

Pacheco relies on help like this, as well as food distributions since her husband was laid off from his hotel job months ago.

“My husband is not working. My kids, I got them home because of home school. And you know they be opening the refrigerator looking for something to eat. We doing so so, we’re alive,” she said.

City officials said food insecurity during the pandemic has been the biggest issue, but they’ve been giving out other assistance as well.

“We’ve done a number of programs to help our residents, including rental assistance, utility assistance, food distributions, small business grants, a number of things,” said Marcia Monserrat, chief of staff for the City Manager.

Miami Beach officials said they hope to do more to help residents during this time.

The City of Miami said they are going to have another gift card distribution for grocery stores on December 29th at West End Park.

Ted Scouten