Cantwell, Murray & Washington Democratic Colleagues Call for Increased Access to Food Assistance for Washingtonians

Washington, D.C. – U.S. Senator Maria Cantwell (D-WA) joined U.S. Representatives Derek Kilmer (WA-06) and Denny Heck (WA-10) in calling on the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to modify income verification requirements for food banks receiving Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) support in order to get more Washingtonians access to critical food assistance during the COVID-19 pandemic.

The letter was also signed by U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA) and Representatives Adam Smith (D, WA-09), Suzan DelBene (D, WA-01), Kim Schrier (D, WA-08), Pramila Jayapal (D, WA-07), and Rick Larsen (D, WA-02).

“Under current requirements, CDBG recipients must verify clients’ income by having each client complete and sign a form. While this system works under normal circumstances, the food banks serving our districts are concerned that the repetitive handoff of paperwork may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission for their clients and volunteers,” the lawmakers wrote. 

“Food banks are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, providing nutritious foods to those in need. Over the past month, food banks have been managing increased demand due to the economic ramifications of the outbreak,” they continued. “At the same time, they have had to change the format of operations in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. During this time of uncertainty, it is essential that food banks be enabled and encouraged to continue their work. They can only accomplish this if they are able to take necessary precautions to keep their clients, volunteers, and staff healthy.”

The full text of the letter can be found here and below. 

April 7, 2020

Dear Secretary Carson,

We write requesting that you modify income verification requirements for food banks receiving Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) support. Granting this flexibility will enable these CDBG recipients to continue providing critical services to those most impacted by the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Under current requirements, CDBG recipients must verify clients’ income by having each client complete and sign a form. While this system works under normal circumstances, the food banks serving our districts are concerned that the repetitive handoff of paperwork may increase the risk of COVID-19 transmission for their clients and volunteers.

Food banks are on the front lines of the COVID-19 crisis, providing nutritious foods to those in need. Over the past month, food banks have been managing increased demand due to the economic ramifications of the outbreak. At the same time, they have had to change the format of operations in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. During this time of uncertainty, it is essential that food banks be enabled and encouraged to continue their work. They can only accomplish this if they are able to take necessary precautions to keep their clients, volunteers, and staff healthy. 

We ask that you waive or modify income verification requirements for food banks receiving CDBG support. The CARES Act, signed into law last week, granted you the authority to waive these requirements for CDBG funds made available under the Act. Other federal agencies have taken steps to ensure the smooth operation of food banks. Last month, the United States Department of Agriculture modified similar income verification requirements that applied to food banks as a condition of their participation in the Emergency Food Assistance Program. We hope your agency will follow suit so that food banks can continue their work serving our community. 

Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,