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Seattle to give $5 million in grocery vouchers amid coronavirus outbreak

Mayor Jenny Durkan said the funds will go to more than 6,000 Seattle families enrolled in assistance programs.


Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced the city will provide $5 million in grocery vouchers to families in need during the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.

Vouchers will be mailed out in two $400 installments to 6,250 qualifying households.

"We identified families who we thought were most in need,” said Jessica Finn Coven, director of Seattle's Office of Sustainability and Environment. "Those families are those that are already enrolled in child care assistance or food assistance programs, and that we know need this benefit."

The vouchers can be used at any Safeway in Washington state, and the money will help families purchase food and other household goods. The vouchers can't be used for alcohol, tobacco, lottery tickets or fuel. 

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“Working families in our city are balancing keeping their families and communities safe, providing care and education for their children, and the blunt economics of COVID-19,” Seattle City Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda said in a statement supporting the measure. “Food, housing, and health care are basic rights and this crisis is exacerbating our nation's deficiencies on providing these basic rights. Today's announcement provides some relief to working families and I'm proud that revenue spent supports a business whose workers have strong union protections.”

Durkan also announced a series of financial relief measures to help those in need during the pandemic including deferring utility payments and a temporary moratorium on residential evictions. 

While Durkan and other members of the Seattle City Council said providing grocery assistance was important, they stressed action needed to be taken at a congressional level. 

“Our city has been working on many new unprecedented efforts as it relates to housing assistance, meals, and small businesses, but we know it is not enough for the families struggling. Ultimately, we will need an unprecedented relief package from Congress to address the long-term consequences for working people who are already feeling the impact of this global pandemic,” Durkan said in a statement.

RELATED: Real-time updates: Coronavirus outbreak in Washington

The Office of Sustainability and Environment will mail the grocery vouchers this week.

"We hope they'll be in families’ hands either this weekend or early next week," Finn Coven said. 

The city says it's moving fast, using $5 million to fund what it sees as an urgent need, and they hope donations will allow the program to grow.

"What we're trying to do is raise an additional $15 million. That would allow us to serve over 25,000 families for eight weeks,” said Finn Coven.

Corporate and philanthropic partners can donate to expand the grocery voucher program through a community relief fund.