Mid-South assistance organizations preparing for increased need after pandemic benefits end

Updated: Jun. 18, 2021 at 9:10 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - For organizations like the Mid-South Food Bank and the Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association (MIFA), requests for assistance have not slowed during the pandemic.

They’re expecting more need once federal pandemic unemployment benefits for Mid Southerners are cut next month.

With more than 200,000 jobs open in Tennessee, Governor Bill Lee opted the state out of the extra federal unemployment benefit of $300 a week. So did governors in Arkansas and Mississippi.

Those benefits will end July 3.

“We are anticipating an increased need for at least the next six months, to let people find a job and get their finances leveled out as we go through this healing process,” said Cathy Pope, president and CEO of Mid-South Food Bank.

The Mid-South Food Bank said it’s prepared for the likely uptick in need it will see when the benefits are cut. Since the start of the pandemic, the food bank has given away about five million pounds a food a month, compared to 1.5 million pounds a month pre pandemic.

MIFA also expects to see an increase in applicants for its rent and utility assistance and emergency housing programs.

“The only true gauge we have is last year when the benefits were cut,” said Mary Hamlett, vice president of MIFA’s family programs. “We saw a three or four fold increase in applications.”

That means about 900 applications a month.

Lee has said he wants the end of the benefits to encourage people to fill the current job openings in the state. Both the food bank and MIFA said throughout the pandemic, much of the need has come from people within the working poor group.

“Even though they are working, if they are at minimum wage or the federal poverty line, they’re still going to need the food bank service,” Pope said.

“Anytime there is an interruption in funds, there is no bank account or savings account that will help folks ride through the wave, and that’s where MIFA comes in,” Hamlett said.

For more on the Mid-South Food Bank’s services and how to donate, click here. To see MIFA’s services or donate, visit this link.

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