CORAL SPRINGS, FL – Signs of financial distress from Covid-19 are on display every Wednesday at a food distribution site in Coral Springs where hundreds of families wait in a long line of cars to get a box of produce.
“People are coming to us – they need help, especially with food,” said Rabbi Avraham Friedman, executive director of Chabad of Coral Springs, which organizes the food distribution.
The pandemic crippling the American economy is predicted to increase poverty to levels not seen in close to a half-century.
With jobs vanishing at startling rates, a wave of hardship is hitting residents of cities across the nation, including wealthier places such as Coral Springs, where median family income is $77,629.
In Coral Springs, the poverty rates has doubled since 1990, according to city data. It’s gone from 5 percent rate in 1990 to 10 percent in 2020.
The city’s poverty rate is lower compared to 14 percent in Broward County and 15 percent in the United States.
Poverty has increased in Coral Springs as more minorities have moved into the city in the past 20 years.
National data shows that African-Americans and Hispanics account for higher rates of poverty than whites in many communities.
The African-American population in Coral Springs has gone from 3 percent of the city’s populations in 1990s to 21 percent in 2019, according to city data. The Hispanic share of the total population grew from 7 percent in 1990s to 28 percent in 2019.
There’s no clear indication yet of whether poverty will go up in Coral Springs due to Covid-19, although studies done by Columbia University show a sharp rise in poverty across the nation if unemployment rates continue to rise.
But there are plenty of indications of distress facing families in Coral Springs.
In addition to the growing number of people showing up to get food at Chabad of Coral Springs every week, congregants at many churches are stepping up to help others in need by paying for food, car bills, and other important expenses.
While helping fellow congregants and others is a tradition at most religious institutions, the coronavirus emergency has heightened those efforts, said Randal Cutter, pastor of New Dawn Community Church in Coral Springs and co-chair of the Clergy Coalition of Coral Springs, Parkland, and Northwest Broward.
“There’s certainly more of that happening now than in the past,” Cutter said. “People are watching over each other to make sure everyone is covered.”
That’s particularly true for families with children.
Children raised in poverty, on average, have lower earnings, worse health as adults, and higher incarceration rates, data shows.
Whichever way the poverty rate goes during the pandemic will largely depend on whether unemployment goes up or how soon it will drop.
Unemployment in Coral Spring was 10.9 percent in June – down from 15 percent in May, records show. It was 2.8 percent in February.
For the moment in Coral Springs, families going through economic distress are getting help mainly through the food distributions.
Friedman said he may push to get deliveries of more boxes of produce donating from Simply Fresh, if more and more families keep showing up.
The families getting food aren’t required to provide any information, so it’s hard to know the difficulties they are facing, he said.
“What’s clear is that people aren’t getting paid. That’s the reality,” Friedman said. “People are thanking us and telling us, ‘this is putting food on our table.’”
He added: “The need is there. We see it.”
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