Seattle will provide $800 each in vouchers to more than 6,000 families to help them buy food, cleaning supplies and other household goods at Safeway supermarkets during the coronavirus pandemic, Mayor Jenny Durkan said Monday.
Pending City Council approval this week, the funding will come from Seattle’s sugary beverage tax revenues, the Mayor’s Office said.
Durkan also plans to impose a moratorium on commercial evictions of small businesses and nonprofit organizations, she said in a news release about the city’s latest attempt to help people rocked by the impacts of the public health crisis on the local economy.
Measures meant to slow the spread of the virus have led many businesses to shut down and disrupted the gig economy, and school closures have created child care challenges for many working parents.
The city will spend $5 million on the supermarket vouchers, which will be distributed to 6,250 families already enrolled in city-subsidized child care and food-assistance programs, the Durkan news release said. Each family will receive two $400 vouchers, in installments, through the mail, the release said.
The vouchers will be usable at any Safeway in Washington for food and household goods, not including tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets and fuel, according to the release. Families will be required to sign up for free Safeway memberships, the release said. That’s because member numbers will trigger the vouchers in the company’s system, said Kelsey Nyland, a spokeswoman for the mayor.
City Councilmembers Lorena González, Teresa Mosqueda and Tammy Morales expressed support for the action in Monday’s release. Seattle has been using its soda tax revenue to fund healthful eating and education initiatives, including a Fresh Bucks fruits and vegetables voucher program that previously was allocated about $5 million for 2020.
The city is partnering with Safeway for the new vouchers because it already partners with the company on Fresh Bucks, Nyland said.
“We know that working families in Seattle are already struggling because of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Durkan said in a statement, referring to the illness caused by the virus. “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.”
The city is working with private donors to grow the new supermarket voucher program and to “support dislocated workers, particularly gig economy workers” not covered by traditional protections and benefits that apply to employees, the Durkan release said.
The mayor signed an order Saturday imposing a moratorium on rent-related residential evictions.
Since the coronavirus outbreak began, Seattle also has suspended water and electric service shutoffs, deferred taxes for small businesses and allocated $1.5 million for grants of up to $10,000 to small businesses. Durkan intends to allocate $1 million more because the city has been flooded with applications, Deputy Mayor Mike Fong said Monday.
Seattle has created an online resource page for residents and small business owners.