Mayor Jenny Durkan Announces $5 Million in Grocery Vouchers for Families Impacted by COVID-19

Mayor Durkan Will Soon Send Down Additional Measures to Support Small Businesses Including an Emergency Order Declaring a Moratorium on Commercial Evictions of Nonprofits and Small Businesses 

Seattle (March 16, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan announced today that the City of Seattle will provide $5 million in grocery vouchers to help families impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The new grocery voucher program will provide 6,250 families $800 in vouchers to purchase food, cleaning supplies, and other household goods at any Safeway store in Washington state.

“We know that working families in Seattle are already struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. As schools and child care facilities close, we need to do everything we can to support families and ensure they can put food on the table,” said Mayor Durkan. “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.”

The Mayor’s $5 million grocery voucher program will be distributed to 6,250 eligible families who are currently enrolled in City-supported child care programs and food assistance programs. The Office of Sustainability and Environment (OSE) will distribute the grocery vouchers in two $400 installments, and vouchers will be distributed by mail as early as this week.

“I am heartened the City will be able to provide assistance for our most vulnerable families, regardless of status, to food access,” said Council President Lorena González (Position 9, Citywide). “In this time of uncertainty, having food on the table is one way that families can keep things feeling normal. I am immensely grateful to the grocery workers who are vital to making this possible by coming to work every day and serving our communities during this crisis.” 

“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. 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,” said Councilmember Teresa Mosqueda (Position 8, Citywide).

“As the days and weeks of this crisis continue on, our lowest-income families and hourly-wage workers need help NOW. All the economic relief in the world is no good if people are starving or struggling with survival. By providing vouchers, households can determine for themselves the best approaches to hygiene and follow public health protocols. Special appreciation to Safeway for helping the City establish swift and dignified way for families and individuals to make the best decisions for themselves and those they love,” said Councilmember Tammy Morales (District 2, South Seattle & C/ID).

“We appreciate the quick actions from the City of Seattle to keep food accessible to people impacted by the COVID-19 response.  We know firsthand there are already too many vulnerable households who are struggling to keep their kitchens stocked during this period of social distancing. The vouchers will be tremendously helpful, and we also encourage neighbors to reach out to neighbors to help those who have transportation challenges to access their local stores,” said Sarah Osborne, Director of External Affairs, Safeway.

Families will receive a total of $800 in vouchers that can immediately be used at any Washington state Safeway store to purchase food and household goods, not including tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, and fuel. Voucher use requires a free Safeway membership, which residents can immediately access at any Safeway location.

OSE has been working with private and philanthropic partners to scale the program to serve significantly more working families in the coming weeks. Private and philanthropic investments would support dislocated workers, particularly gig economy workers who lack access to standard worker protections and benefits. If you or your organization is interested in donating to the grocery voucher program, contact Office of Sustainability and Environment Director Jessica Finn Coven at Jessica.FinnCoven@seattle.gov.

Over the past week, Mayor Durkan has implemented a series of actions including, deferring utility payments and a temporary moratorium on residential evictions, to provide relief for working people financially impacted by COVID-19. For small businesses, she announced a relief package that included deferred business taxes and a stabilization fund. She continues to advocate for a comprehensive small business and worker relief package from Congress to provide immediate and lasting relief to Seattle communities impacted by COVID-19, and the City is working quickly to scale new programs.

The City has created a comprehensive resource page for residents and small businesses impacted by COVID-19. This page will be updated as more information becomes available.