In March, Seattle was one of the first cities in the nation to launch an emergency grocery voucher program for families who were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. The initial $5 million investment provided vouchers to 6,250 low-income families to help them purchase food, cleaning supplies, and other household goods at any Safeway store in Washington State.
Since March, the number of families served has grown to 8,690 and by September, the City will be serving over 10,000 families with emergency grocery vouchers. Assuming four people per household, that translates to supporting over 40,000 Seattle residents with their monthly grocery needs.
The Office of Sustainability & Environment continues to partner 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 Service (ACRS), API Chaya, Casa Latina, Entre Hermanos, Fair Work Center (and their partner organizations), Ingersoll Gender Center, Lake City Collective, Providence Regina House, Refugee Women’s Alliance, United Indians, Villa Comunitaria, and West African Community Council.
Partner organizations are determining voucher recipients based on the lists of clients and households they support in their work.
The partner organizations recently shared some examples of how the emergency voucher program is providing critical support for our residents in need. One comment from a voucher recipient:
“I really needed the extra support and got it from the City program…I appreciate the care the City took to provide these vouchers to my family . My family was impacted when Childhaven closed their doors . My kiddos ate breakfast, lunch, and snack at the facility 5 days a week – such a big hit my budget. Thanks to the City of Seattle for helping so many during uncertain times.”
Households receive $400 a month for their first three months in the program and $180 a month thereafter. Benefits can be used to purchase anything at Safeway stores except for alcohol, tobacco, gift cards, and lottery. Currently, 67% of the participants identify as Black, Indigenous, and people of color (BIPOC), 8% identify as White, and 25% prefer not to provide race/ethnicity information. Additionally, 48% prefer a language other than English.