COVID-19 relief package, stimulus checks could be lifeline for Floridians facing economic hardship

Coronavirus

TAMPA (WFLA) – Gina DeBiasi started a home cleaning company called SunGlow Services in Indian Rocks Beach in early 2020 right before the coronavirus pandemic.

“The tourists stopped coming and I do a lot of the turnovers and I do a lot of the vacation rentals so that just killed my business,” she said.

Struggling to make ends meet and having maxed out credit cards, DeBiasi contacted 8 On Your Side because she is still waiting on unemployment assistance from the state.

“My first filing was on March 30, 2020,” she said. “I haven’t received a check. I’ve received a lot of run around and I’m gonna be honest with you, it’s such a helpless feeling.”

But she is feeling a little more hopeful Wednesday night now that the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, including $1,400 stimulus checks for most Americans, is headed to President Biden’s desk.

“I’m so happy they’re doing this again,” DeBiasi said. “I’m very thankful for the government when they step up to the plate and we can get the help.”

Just like the vote in the House and Senate, reaction to the passage of the massive COVID-19 relief bill from Florida’s congressional delegation is split along party lines.

“The American Rescue Plan will put more shots in arms and more money in the pockets of our neighbors and small business owners who need it at this precarious time in the public health and economic crisis,” Rep. Kathy Castor (D-Tampa) said. “Americans need a bridge to survive the pandemic, and this historic emergency aid package will help families put food on the table, keep Floridians on the job, lift children out of poverty with an expanded Child Tax Credit, operate schools safely and make up for lost ground for our students.”

Republican Senator Rick Scott sent a letter to members of Florida’s delegation urging them to join him in voting against the bill.

“The Democrats in Congress, led by President Biden, Senator Schumer and Speaker Pelosi, have lied to the American people,” Sen. Scott said in a statement. “This is not a COVID-19 relief bill and the completely partisan approval of this massive, wasteful and untargeted $1.9 trillion ‘American Rescue Plan Act’’ is one of the most shameful, costly and political moves ever made by Congress.”

The massive COVID-19 relief bill increases funding for vaccine distribution and schools. It also includes $300 weekly unemployment payments to supplement state assistance through September.

“They’ll also have tax forgiveness on the first 10,200 of UI benefits they received in 2020, so that’s a huge deal,” Vanessa Brito said.

DeBiasi is thanking 8 On Your Side for connecting her with Brito, a community activist from South Florida who is focused on helping Floridians across the state navigate the flawed unemployment system.

“I saw quite a few of your newscasts in the last few days,” DeBiasi said. “You’ve been really talking about the unployment system and how broken it was, it is, so i just went for it.”

According to the White House, President Biden is expected to sign the bill on Friday. The stimulus checks or direct deposits could start going out as early as next week.

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