COVID-19 Policy Response
Get local updates on COVID-19 related policy changes and guidance related to food assistance programs in the District.
Resources that you can use
COVID-19 D.C. Food Resources
Find updates on COVID-19 related policy changes and guidance related to food assistance programs in the nation’s capital.
D.C. COVID Webpage
See updates on the changes city agencies and organizations are making to their regular operations to mitigate the spread of the virus. Information is subject to change.
FRAC COVID-19 Webpage.
FRAC’s webpage closely tracks the policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic and provides the latest changes to federal nutrition programs.
D.C. Hunger Solutions has released a new report Putting Food on the Table: Food Insecurity, Nutrition Assistance, and COVID-19 Trends Among Food-Insecure Immigrant Communities in Washington, D.C. The report highlights the disproportionate impact of COVID-19 among food-insecure immigrant households in Washington, D.C. The report is available to read in full.
The D.C. Council passed the COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 on March 17, 2020, to address the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. The act includes multiple pieces of emergency legislation addressing the coronavirus pandemic:
- Extends unemployment compensation to include individuals who are temporarily unemployed due to the emergency or the pandemic.
- Expands employment protections under the District’s Family and Medical Leave Act.
- Authorizes extension of public benefit programs such as the Healthcare Alliance, TANF, and SNAP. The intent is to give everyone flexibility as to deadlines for renewals and minimize in-person visits for renewals or initial applications.
- Prohibits disconnection of electric, gas, and water utilities, and prohibits evictions during the public health emergency for both residential and non-residential tenants.
- Amend the Homeless Services Reform Act, primarily to give flexibility to the Mayor concerning the potential spread of the coronavirus.
- Extends deadlines under TOPA and prohibits landlords from charging late fees.
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) provides nutrition benefits to supplement the food budget of families in need so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. D.C. has received the following waivers to increase SNAP access:
- Extends SNAP certification periods through March 2021.
- Waives SNAP interviews or allowing SNAP interviews to be done over the phone, allowing applicants to avoid service centers.
- SNAP benefits will be increased for all SNAP households with emergency allotments, excluding those already receiving the maximum benefit amount, during the declared emergency period in D.C.
- Increases SNAP benefits by 15 percent through June 2021.
SNAP benefits can now be used to order groceries online. SNAP participants may shop across three grocery options including Amazon, Amazon Pantry, and Amazon Fresh. Delivery fees may apply. Amazon Prime memberships are also available to those with an EBT or Medicaid card for a discount ($5.99 a month). For more information, visit amazon.com/SNAP-ebt or dhs.dc.gov/snapinfo.
WIC provides food benefits, nutrition education, breastfeeding support, and healthcare referrals to pregnant women, infants, and children under five. DC WIC has received waivers that will allow the program to get benefits out to participants as quickly and safely as possible:
- Physical Presence Waiver eliminates the requirement for mother and/or child to be physically present for certification, recertification, and check-ups.
- Remote Benefit Issuance Waiver which allows WIC to distribute benefits remotely (via mail). If you are currently on WIC please visit dcwic.org for additional updates related to COVID-19 and to update your mailing address.
- Separation of Duties Requirement Waiver allows DC WIC to more easily enroll new WIC participants remotely during the crisis by reducing administrative burden.
- Food Package Substitution Waiver allows for substitutions in the WIC food package for flexibilities in the milk, cheese, and yogurt, infant fruits, and vegetables, eggs, whole wheat/whole grain bread selections.
- Medical Documentation Waiver allows DC WIC to waive medical documentation requirements for existing benefits and specific supplemental foods (e.g. prescribed formulas etc.).
- Q&A related to COVID-19 in the WIC program provides answers to clarifications to commonly asked questions related to WIC operations during the COVID-19 crisis.
- The National WIC Association has recommended additional waivers state agencies request during the COVID-19 crisis.
During the COVID-19 crisis, schools and sponsors of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, also known as the D.C. Summer Meals Program) can serve meals through SFSP or the Seamless Summer Option (SSO). There are also waivers related to the Child Nutrition Programs (NSLP, SBP, CACFP, and SFSP):
- Congregate Meal Waiver allows non-congregate meal service in all Child Nutrition Programs. This waiver allows meals to be eaten off-site.
- SFSP & SSO Meal Delivery Guidance outlines meal delivery options for SFSP and SSO. This guidance also allows state agencies to permit multiple days of meals to be provided at one distribution. In D.C., meal sites can provide up to seven days worth of meals per child per distribution. (14 meals per child)
- Parent/Guardian Meal Pickup Waiver allows parent or guardian meal pick-up. Children do not need to be present at meal distribution.
- Meal Times Waiver allows flexible mealtimes.
- Afterschool Activity Waiver eliminates the afterschool activity requirement in At-Risk CACFP and NSLP Snack programs (i.e. Afterschool Meals).
- Meal Pattern Waiver provides flexibilities to meal patterns (dictates the food group components of the meal) in the Child Nutrition Programs (NSLP, SBP, CACFP, and SFSP) allowing for disruptions in availability or practicality of components during the COVID-19 crisis (e.g. type of milk, whole grain vs. non-whole grain, etc.).
- CEP Data Waiver extends state agency and LEA deadlines for Community Eligibility Program data reporting.
- Waivers of Child Nutrition Site Monitoring includes five waivers that eliminate the site monitoring requirement for state agencies and sponsors in the School Meals Programs, SFSP, and CACFP during this public health emergency
- Waiver of 60 Day Reporting Requirements for January and February 2020 applies to NSLP, SBP, SMP, CACFP, and SFSP and extend the deadline for state agencies, school food authorities, and SFSP/CACFP sponsors to submit claims.
The USDA has compiled Child Nutrition: Questions and Answers related to COVID-19 to answer commonly asked questions regarding Child Nutrition Program operations during the COVID-19 crisis. One important clarification is that meal sites using SFSP/SSO can serve meals on weekends and during scheduled school closures (e.g. spring break, teacher professional development days, etc.).
The issued additional policy guidance for local education agencies and SFSP sponsors and specified that up to seven days' worth of meals per child can be distributed at one time (14 meals). Additional guidance and waivers can be found on OSSE’s website.
The Families First Coronavirus Response Act authorized Pandemic EBT (P-EBT) for communities experiencing pandemic-related school closures for five or more consecutive days. This program provides benefits to both SNAP and non-SNAP households with children who have lost access to free or reduced-price meals through the National School Lunch Program. The value of benefits will equal the Federal reimbursement rate for breakfast and lunch at the free rate.
P-EBT was extended and expanded in the most recent federal relief package passed by Congress. State agencies must create and submit state plans to USDA for approval before implementation. D.C. The Department of Human Services (DHS) is currently working on a state plan for federal approval.
More information on P-EBT can be found on DHS’s website.
Best practices for implementing these policies can be found in the Food Research & Action Center’s Pandemic-EBT webpage. We also encourage reading the Guide to Ensuring Children Have Access to Nutrition (COVID-19).
DC Health has issued guidance for emergency food providers serving meals during the COVID-19 crisis. This guidance and also best practices from around the country for food distribution sites, farmers’ markets, and home-delivered meals can also be found in a resource from the DC Food Policy Council.