Following $1 Million Donation from Oak View Group and NHL Seattle, Mayor Durkan Launches Expanded Grocery Voucher Program to Provide $800 Vouchers to Workers Impacted by COVID-19 Pandemic

Expanded Grocery Voucher Program Will Support Workers Who Have Recently Lost Their Jobs or Experienced a Significant Reduction in Hours Due to COVID-19

NHL Seattle Donation Also Provides Grants to 21 Seattle Center Arts and Nonprofit Tenants

Seattle (April 14, 2020) – Mayor Jenny A. Durkan today launched the City of Seattle’s expanded grocery voucher program, which will provide $800 grocery vouchers to 1,000 working people who have recently lost their job or experienced a significant reduction in hours due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition, 21 Seattle Center non-profit tenants will receive a grant to mitigate the continued impacts of COVID-19 on Seattle’s artists and cultural organizations. These efforts are possible due to a $1 million donation from Oak View Group (OVG) and NHL Seattle leadership, staff, and partners, including $200,000 for artists and cultural organizations and $800,000 to United Way of King County’s Community Relief Fund, to support the City’s continued efforts to expand access to healthy, affordable food, and combat the effects COVID-19 has on workers. 

“We know that working people in Seattle are struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our region is transitioning from having one of the lowest unemployment rates anywhere, to seeing unemployment claims soar statewide,” said Mayor Durkan. “These grocery vouchers will be critical to helping working families put food on the table. I’m deeply grateful to our partners at OVG and NHL Seattle for their efforts to support families and non-profits in Seattle. Our city has been working on many new initiatives as it relates to rental assistance, meals, and support for artists and small businesses, but we know it is not enough for those who are struggling. For the tens of millions of families struggling right now, we need Congress to provide urgent relief for housing, food, and workers.

“Thank you to OVG and the NHL Seattle. The need is great in our community, and because of your generosity, many more Seattle families and workers will have enough to eat tonight. Your commitment to our city and your tremendous kindness will not be forgotten,” said Councilmember Debora Juarez (District 5, North Seattle).

“Our dreams for an NHL team and a new arena in Seattle were born out of a strong collaboration and partnership with the City to create something powerful and lasting for our community,” said Tod Leiweke, CEO of NHL Seattle. “In that spirit, we are committed to giving back and supporting those families with an urgent and immediate need and our non-profit neighbors at the Seattle Center who need a lift. We know better days are ahead, but we want to help bridge the gap during this time of uncertainty.”  

$800,000 of the OVG and NHL Seattle donation will go to the United Way of King County to support the Office of Sustainability and Environment’s (OSE) expanded grocery voucher program. The expanded program will initially provide 1,000 workers impacted by COVID-19 with 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. The City will continue to fundraise with the goal of providing an additional 1,000 recently displaced workers these grocery vouchers. 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.

United Way of King County is partnering with community-based organizations to distribute the vouchers, with a focus on recently displaced workers who are unable to access other forms of government aid due to structural or institutional barriers, like language barriers, fear of deportation, or experiencing gender-based violence. Partner organizations include: Asian Counseling and Referral Services, Ingersoll Gender Center, Providence Regina House, Refugee Women’s Alliance, and Villa Comunitaria.

Gordon McHenry, Jr., president and CEO of United Way of King County, said this donation represents a great start toward the City’s vision of raising $15 million from the community to help meet the nutritional needs in the county. United Way is actively raising donations to reach this goal.

“We are grateful for this very generous gift from OVG and NHL Seattle, which will enable us to provide food for hundreds of families in our community,” said Gordon McHenry, Jr., president and CEO of United Way of King County. “We know the need for food assistance at this time of crisis is great and still growing, and this voucher program puts the purchasing power directly in the hands of people in need. We hope to continue to provide help to as many people as possible. The number of people we can help is only limited by the donations available in our Community Relief Fund.”

This expanded program builds off the Mayor’s earlier $5 million investment to provide 6,250 families currently enrolled in City-supported child care programs and food assistance programs with $800 in grocery vouchers. Eligible households have already received $400 in grocery vouchers and will receive another $400 in grocery vouchers to help with food assistance needs in May.  

$200,000 of the OVG and NHL Seattle donation will provide the following Seattle Center non-profit tenants with a grant to support their continued operations: A/NT Gallery; Book-It Repertory Theatre; Cornish College of the Arts; KCTS/Cascade Media; KEXP; Classical KING-FM; MoPOP; Northwest Folklife; Pacific Northwest Ballet; Pacific Science Center; Pottery Northwest; Seattle Children’s Museum; Seattle Children’s Theatre; Seattle Opera; Seattle Rep; Seattle Shakespeare Company; Seattle International Film Festival (SIFF); Skate Like a Girl; Teen Tix; Theatre Puget Sound; and The VERA Project. In addition, the City of Seattle is currently forgiving April and May rent for all non-profit organizations and artists that rent City-owned facilities.

“We at SIFF are grateful to OVG and NHL Seattle for their donation. Their generosity is greatly appreciated, especially during this challenging time. We are happy they are members of the Seattle Center family, and their gift demonstrates their commitment to the campus. We look forward to the day when we can all gather together at our organizations, and when we are doing the same at the arena experiencing NHL hockey,” said Andrew L. Haines, executive director of SIFF.

There are many efforts via the City, state, and non-profit agencies to help ensure food security and access during the COVID-19 pandemic. The City’s Human Services Department (HSD) put together this interactive Food Resource Map to help residents find available food resources in their neighborhood. In addition, residents can visit the City’s comprehensive COVID-19 resource website for a compilation of food resources and information on how to access those resources.

Mayor Durkan and the City of Seattle have worked to implement a series of actions that support artists, non-profits, small businesses, and workers, including: