JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – After visiting a federal vaccination center at Gateway Mall on Monday, the next stop for Vice President Kamala Harris was at a local food bank to raise awareness of food insecurity and explain how the Coronavirus Ease Act is supposed to address the issue.
Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried helped facilitate a discussion between Harris and other local lawmakers on the issue at a roundtable at Feeding Northeast Florida.
“The president says it all the time, the most important thing we can do when people are suffering is to see them, hear them and help them,” said Harris. “And when we think about food insecurity, let’s be clear we’re talking about American hunger. And this is a topic that existed before the pandemic and was greatly exaggerated and amplified in the process. “
In total, Harris said the auxiliary bill delivers approximately $ 1 billion aimed directly at food insecurity, including:
The American Rescue Plan increases SNAP benefits by 15% or $ 230 / month through September.
The P-EBT program, which provides funding for children who receive free and reduced lunches, will be extended until the end of the pandemic.
The WIC benefits were extended by approximately $ 880 million.
Fried said 40% of Florida black and 39% Hispanic families suffer from chronic hunger.
“We are working hard to address this at the state level. We are monitoring 246 million school meals served to children this year and 149 million pounds of food distributed to families and seniors in need,” Fried said.
Harris told the group that she was concerned about the impact of the pandemic on children and “what will affect their ability to develop and achieve their God-given ability”.
The government said the relief bill will also bolster support to farmers in the food supply chain by providing $ 4 billion in debt relief for socially disadvantaged farmers to pay off onerous debts and $ 1 billion for the USDA to “create a racist justice commission.” and to address longstanding problems “provide discrimination.”
Harris also addressed concerns from people who have not yet received aid that should go to millions of Americans with adjusted gross incomes of $ 80,000 or less, or $ 160,000 for joint claimants.
“For example, we urge people to file their taxes, even if they have no income or significant income, for them to be in the system, and that’s one of the things I would love to help you with,” Harris said the group. “Let people know how you want to be in the system so they can get this direct deposit asap.”
The Help Is Here tour continues Tuesday, and President Joe Biden travels to Ohio to highlight how the American rescue plan will help cut healthcare costs.
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