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VP Harris touts food security provisions of COVID-19 rescue plan in Fla. visit

Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a roundtable discussion on food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic at Feeding Northeast Florida. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI
Vice President Kamala Harris participates in a roundtable discussion on food insecurity in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic at Feeding Northeast Florida. Photo by Kevin Dietsch/UPI | License Photo

March 22 (UPI) -- Vice President Kamala Harris promoted provisions fighting food insecurity contained in the administration's $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan Monday during a visit to Florida.

Harris participated in a roundtable conversation led by Florida Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried at Feeding Northeast Florida, a local food bank, focusing on how the ARP's food security measures are meant to speed recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic.

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She said that Biden often says that "the most important thing that we can do when people are suffering is to see them, to hear them and to help them."

"When we think about the issue of food insecurity, let's be clear, we are talking about hunger in Americans," Harris said. "And this is an issue that existed before the pandemic and was grossly exaggerated and amplified during this."

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She noted the plan includes $1 billion directly focused on addressing food insecurity, including increasing SNAP benefits by $230 per month through the end of September; extending WIC benefits by about $880 million; and funding benefits for P-EBT -- a program that providing free and reduced lunches for children -- through the end of the pandemic.

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Earlier in the day, Harris visited a federal vaccine facility where she thanked health workers and spoke with residents receiving doses.

The administration's "Help is Here" tour aims to demonstrate how the COVID-19 relief package is aiding small businesses and individuals, many of whom have already received a $1,400 stimulus payment through the legislation. The massive bill also includes money to support the federal vaccination sites and help reopen schools.

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Harris visited Las Vegas and Denver last week to promote the plan while Biden visited the Philadelphia area. They had also intended to tout the package Friday in Atlanta, but the focus of that trip instead became one of support after eight people in the city were killed during a shooting spree.

The trip to Florida is partly strategic. The state voted for former President Donald Trump last November and its two Republican senators have publicly opposed the relief package, which didn't receive a single Republican vote in Congress.

"Democrats in Washington can't keep ignoring America's debt crisis and the toll it will take on America's families and businesses," Sen. Rick Scott said in a statement last week.

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"We could have had a $1,400 checks and increased the child tax credit without sending stimulus checks to prisoners and illegal immigrants, spend $86 billion on an unrelated pension bailout and use your tax dollars to fund Planned Parenthood and abortions," Sen. Marco Rubio added.

No illegal immigrants were given stimulus payments under Biden's plan.

During Monday's event, Harris also addressed concerns of people who have yet to receive their stimulus payments, encouraging them to ensure their information is on file with the Internal Revenue Service.

"We are urging people, for example, to file your taxes, even if you didn't have an income or a significant income so that they are in the system and that's one of the things I'd love your help with," she said. "Let people know how to be in the system, so they can get that direct deposit as quickly as possible."

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