TALLAHASSEE, FL – There are urgent calls for legislators to act quickly to ensure all Florida families can meet their basic needs during and after the COVID-19 crisis. Census data show about half of Florida’s households include someone who lost income through the pandemic.
While President Donald Trump issued an executive order to extend emergency unemployment benefits, it was scaled back by half, from $600 to $300, leaving it up to states to add an extra $100. Trudy Novicki, president and CEO of Florida Impact to End Hunger, says the federal cutback is discouraging as she looks at the growing needs of Floridians.
“Needs are going up, SNAP, people applying for food stamps has increased threefold since the pandemic began and it’s not ending,” she states.
The U.S. House in May passed the HEROES Act, a $3 trillion aid package that includes a broad range of supports, including extended unemployment benefits, hazard pay, housing assistance and funding for cities and states. However, some lawmakers have strongly criticized the bill’s price tag and its provisions to expand unemployment compensation.
Senate Republicans are pitching their own stimulus bill for $2 trillion less, with caps on benefits closer to the president’s executive order. The HEROES Act passed the House on a party-line vote. Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs, says the act will help address the unprecedented challenges families are facing.
“We have not experienced anything like this for 100 years,” she points out. “We’ve got a stubborn disease that is keeping our economy from functioning the way it should.
“We cannot let our families suffer in this way. The consequences to children are so grave.”
State and local governments are facing plummeting revenues due to the crisis, and Gov. Ron DeSantis says the state will likely take out a loan to cover its part of the president’s executive order. Meanwhile more than two million Floridians are struggling through the state’s beleaguered unemployment system, and with rising COVID-19 cases and hospitalizations in Florida, Weinstein contends it’s crucial for federal leaders to pass a relief package to help the most vulnerable.