COVID-19 Policy Updates, Guidance, and Resources
Get local updates on COVID-19 related policy changes and guidance related to food assistance programs in the District here. Information is updated frequently and is subject to change.
For federal updates, please refer to the Food Research & Action Center’s COVID-19 update page.
For updates on local government operating status and DC Health updates, please refer to coronavirus.dc.gov.
The COVID-19 Response Emergency Amendment Act of 2020 was passed March 17, 2020 to address the effects of the coronavirus pandemic. Items that help low-income D.C. residents include:
- 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.
- Amends the Homeless Services Reform Act, primarily to give flexibility to the Mayor with regard to 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 needy families so they can purchase healthy food and move towards self-sufficiency. D.C. has received the following waivers to increase SNAP access:
- Extending SNAP certification periods through April 2020, allowing those SNAP recipients with re-certifications or mid-certification due in March and April to complete the certifications later.
- Allowing SNAP interviews to be done over the phone, allowing applicants to avoid service centers.
- Emergency Allotments: SNAP benefits will be increased for all SNAP households, excluding those already receiving the maximum benefit amount, increasing millions in SNAP benefits and providing vital nutrition to those in need during this crisis.
- In addition to Emergency Allotments, SNAP benefits have been increased by 15% through June 2021.
- In addition, the time limits for Able-bodied Adults without Dependents (ABAWD) participation in SNAP was temporarily and partially suspended by the federal Families First Coronavirus Response Act.
SNAP benefits can now be used to order groceries online at Amazon. 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]amazon.com/SNAP-ebt or dhs.dc.gov/snapinfo.
WIC — Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children
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. These include:
- Physical Presence Waiver which 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.
Meals for Children – Schools, Child Care Centers, and Community Partners
During the COVID-19 crisis, schools and sponsors of the Summer Food Service Program (SFSP, also known as the D.C. Summer Meals Program) are able to serve meals through SFSP or the Seamless Summer Option (SSO). Additional waivers related to the Child Nutrition Programs (NSLP, SBP, CACFP, and SFSP) include:
- Congregate Meal Waiver to allow non-congregate meal service in all Child Nutrition Programs. This waiver allows meals to be eaten off-site.
- SFSP & SSO Meal Delivery Guidance outlining meal delivery options for SFSP and SSO. This guidance also allows state agencies to permit multiple days of meals be provided at one distribution. In D.C., meals sites can provide up to seven days worth of meals per child per distribution. (14 meals per child)
- Parent/Guardian Meal Pickup Waiver to allow parent or guardian meal pick-up. Children do not need to be present at meal distribution.
- Meal Times Waiver to allow flexible meal times.
- Afterschool Activity Waiver to eliminate the afterschool activity requirement in At-Risk CACFP and NSLP Snack programs (i.e. Afterschool Meals).
- Meal Pattern Waiver to provide 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 extending state agency and LEA deadlines for Community Eligibility Program data reporting.
- Waivers of Child Nutrition Site Monitoring include 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 will apply to NSLP, SBP, SMP, CACFP, and SFSP and extend the deadline for state agencies, school food authorities, and SFSP/CACFP sponsors to submit claims.
- Child Nutrition: Questions and Answers related to COVID-19 provides answers and clarifications to 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 Office of the State Superintendent of Education 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 for communities experiencing pandemic-related school closures for five or more consecutive days. This program will provide 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 D.C. ‘s state plan for school year 2020-2021 P-EBT benefits.
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 and Action Center’s Guide to Ensuring Children Have Access to Nutrition (COVID-19) and Pandemic-EBT webpage.
Best practices for implementing these policies can be found in the Food Research & Action Center’s Guide to Ensuring Children Have Access to Nutrition (COVID-19).
Guidance for Emergency Food Providers
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.