By Bobeth Yates

MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The Feeding South Florida Food Bank is one of several locations families turned to during the pandemic and now that the COVID recovery bill has been signed, organizers are hoping the families will finally get long-term assistance.

“The year before the pandemic Feeding South Florida distributed 61 and half-million pounds, now we went from 61 million to 183 million pounds, that’s a threefold increase so there’s been a huge surge in demand,” said Paco Veleze, the CEO of Feeding South Florida.

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Veleze adds the pandemic left thousands in need, but he’s encouraged that the American Rescue Plan has carved out billions to expand the Food Stamp Program to help many of those families.

“They have extended the 15% increase to those food stamp benefits through the end of September so that’s a huge win for them as far as the after the school meal program. They’re extending those free meals through the end of summer and they’re also providing pandemic EBT similar to SNAP for those kids who are not going to school,” said Veleze.

But, the $1.9 trillion COVID stimulus package isn’t stopping there, it also includes an up to $1,400 direct payment for those making less than $80,000 a year and $2800 couples making less than $150,000. The $300 unemployment benefit has also been expanded and there are several new tax credits. Political consultant and strategist J. Craig Gordon said money has also been allotted to help the hospitality industry.

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“There are special appropriations strictly for the restaurant industry, the theater industry, and movie theaters, along with cities and counties getting means that they did not get in one of the last stimulus packages,” said Gordon.

The state will receive $10.2 billion, cities across Florida will get an additional $1.4 billion, counties $4.1 billion, and $1.3 will go to other local governments, for a state’s total COVID funding of $17.6 billion. And, Gordon says there is also money for schools.

“A lot of the CDC guidelines that were recommended for schools to open came without any funding if you can imagine that, so one thing this recovery act does is empowers school systems to be able to pay for those measures. Everything from PPE to enlarging classrooms and cafeterias, partitions on desks so that students can be safe and teachers and staff can be safe as well.

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Gordon said respective government committees will work on their distribution plans.