Miami Offering $250 Gift Cards to Those Impacted by COVID-19

Hundreds of people formed long lines as officials handed out free grocery voucher in Miami over the weekend, amid financial hardship caused by the COVID pandemic.

The Florida city has been handing out $250 gift card for the Publix supermarket to residents who are most in need.

Some residents told reporters that they had slept overnight to help ensure they were able to collect theirs. The numbers of gift cards are limited, depending on each district's need.

One man, Pierre Casseos from the District 5 area, told CBS Miami that he had slept on an overturned milk crate on Friday night to avoid missing out.

In Miami, hundreds stood in line on Friday - many for hours, some overnight - in hopes of obtaining a $250 Publix gift card distributed by the city. "The...

Long lines have been seen at distribution centres throughout the week.

On Wednesday one worker, Mabel Miller, said she used her only day off to join the line. "I don't get food stamps. I live off of my paycheck," she told CBS Miami.

"So when groceries, bills come first, then I buy groceries. Maybe $60 to $70. That's not enough groceries for me and my mom."

Unemployment rates have soared in Miami during the crisis, with latest figures showing 8.8% of workers are looking for a job in Miami-Dade County, where the city of Miami is located. Some experts have suggested the real figure could be higher as some may have given up on looking for work.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis lifted most restrictions for businesses in September. It means that all businesses, including bars, can operate at full capacity if they can offer enough space for people to maintain social distancing.

Discussing the long lines with Fox News, Miami Mayor Francis Suarez said the city had begun offering vouchers to help "the most needy people in our community," and stressed that federal help had been limited for the city due to its population being under an "arbitrary limit" of 500,000.

"The truth of the matter is the hospitality industry and the entertainment industry, which is a huge part of how me succeed, has been decimated," he said.

"Obviously people aren't traveling as much as they used to, they're not able to congregate in the ways that they used to.

"A big part of our economy was based on that socialization and congregation economy. We've definitely taken a hit but our city is extremely resilient."

He added that city officials were "urging" congress to pass a new Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to help.

Tens of millions of Americans received $1,200 stimulus checks last April as part of that $2.2 trillion package. However talks on a new stimulus have been deadlocked for months.

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are attempting to reach agreement on a relief package that could be worth up to $1.4 trillion. However, there are still significant differences between Republicans and Democrats about how the money should be spent.

Last week, Florida reported 64,341 new cases of coronavirus, taking the total since the pandemic began to 1,049,638, according to data compiled by John Hopkins University.

A further 642 people died with COVID that week, according to JHU, bringing the overall number to 19,084.

A Publix supermarket in Florida
Customers wearing face masks enter a Publix supermarket on July 16, in Miramar, Florida. Gift cards are being given out to residents in Miami who are struggling financially during the coronavirus pandemic. Johnny Louis/Getty