WASHINGTON – Some people may have already seen stimulus checks or will soon see checks with the federal government is rolling out the $1,200 direct payments this week. But food banks are worried if those checks will even make a difference in Southern California.
Thousands of Southern Californians lined up throughout the week to get meals from Food Share of Ventura County.
“We’ve never seen anything like this before,” Monica White, the CEO said.
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White said food demands doubled this month, which left them scrambling to create new pop-up pantries to meet the need.
“It came so fast, it’s unbelievable,” White said. “Watching and hearing about all the people who are filing for unemployment, they were also showing up in line to be able to receive food.”
Unemployment skyrocketed in the last three weeks, with nearly 17 million workers filing for jobless claims. Congress’ latest stimulus package boosted unemployment benefits and approved checks for many Americans, but White said she’s worried it won’t change much in the expensive state of California.
“I’m not sure there’s anything the government can do to lower the demand until we’re through this,” White said. “I would love to think that $1200 will make a difference. Where it makes a difference to us as an organization is that we’ve already had people come in and give us checks for $1,200 saying ‘we know that you can use this’, ‘we know that this is where our money needs to go.’”
White has been reaching out to new corporations and organizations for donations, projecting the need for another $300-$400,000 each month, just to keep up with demand.
“We can’t do this alone. We can’t do this without the support of our community and every community has a food bank and if everyone could reach out and support them with some dollars, some food, some hours; it would go a long way,” White said.
Although White thinks the latest coronavirus bills might not lower the demand for food they’re seeing, she believes the government could help their organization elsewhere with protective gear.
“That’s the part that’s hard,” White said. “[Volunteers] are on the front line now and we’re trying to reach out to these people and do these pop-up distributions and we don’t have masks; we don’t have the equipment that I understand that the medical agencies need those, but we are also out there at the front line and that’s what we’re looking for, at this point, is our biggest challenge is to keep our volunteers and staff safe so we can continue to feed people as long as possible.”
White said she’s thankful to the Air National Guard and other volunteers who are putting their lives at risk to answer the call for help. White said she also applied for federal loans, also known as PPP Loans, which come from the latest coronavirus bill and said she’s still waiting to hear back.