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CLEVELAND (WJW) – The long line of cars at the Muni Lot during the Greater Cleveland Food Bank‘s weekly distribution only seems to be growing. 

“Over the summer, we were seeing an average of about 1,500 households every single week,” said Director of Advocacy and Public Education Kimberly LoVano. “Since the fall hit, over the past about two months, we’ve been seeing an average of 2,200 families every Thursday afternoon.”

The hunger-relief organization is bracing for even more need in the community now that the federal expanded child tax credit has expired. 

It was part of the Biden Administration’s response to the pandemic.

“That benefit has been a life-saver for so many families. The overwhelming majority of lower-income families have used that benefit for things like food, utilities, childcare. I have a little one at home. I can tell you diapers are expensive. Those are things that aren’t covered by SNAP benefits,” said LoVano.

LoVano says even though the benefit was not intended to be a federal nutrition program, in many ways that is what it became. 

“About 60% of households that were lower-income used the child tax payments to pay for food,” she said.

The monthly benefit has now ended after Congress failed to reach a deal to extend it just as the latest surge of COVID cases is keeping more people home from work. 

“When Jan. 15 comes, families won’t receive their advance child tax credit payment like they have been since July, so for a lot of families, that means a huge drop in their monthly grocery budget which is a huge concern for us,” LoVano said.

LoVano says the food bank will always be here for the community, but the current inflation on groceries is not making things any easier. 

“We’ve seen food prices go up by about 25% over the past few months and that means when we buy food in the millions of pounds every year, when food prices go up even if it’s by 5%, we feel it,” she said.

But their advocacy will continue on the front lines and behind the scenes. 

“That’s on our agenda for the next few weeks, is making sure that the Senate specifically understands how absolutely critical the child tax credit is to families, especially families struggling to make ends meet,” LoVano said.

LoVano also says they are working with school districts to help fill the gaps when they go remote or can’t get free or reduced-price school meals to families.

She encourages families to see if they’re eligible for the state’s pandemic electronic benefit transfer program, or P-EBT, which provides money for groceries in those circumstances.

They are also sorely in need of volunteers and donations are a big help at this time. They encourage anyone who needs help to call their help center at 216-738-2067.