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COVID-19 Relief in Seattle Will Be Funded by Soda Tax Revenues

By Karena Yan

Seattle will use its soda tax revenues to provide $800 supermarket vouchers to families in need

Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that the city will distribute $800 supermarket vouchers to over 6,000 families. These vouchers serve as relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has displaced thousands of people from their jobs, shut down businesses, and closed school and childcare facilities. Seattle was America’s first major city to be hit by the virus and has been ahead of the rest of the country in trying slow its spread.

In total, Seattle will spend $5 million on the vouchers and provide them to the 6,250 families already enrolled in city-subsidized food-assistance programs. The vouchers can be used at any Safeway in Washington state to buy food and household goods, excluding tobacco, alcohol, lottery tickets, and fuel.

The funding for these vouchers comes from the revenues of Seattle’s sugar-sweetened beverages (SSB) tax, which has been in effect since January 2018 and raises about $23 million annually. SSB taxes aim to reduce the consumption of sugary beverages, and their revenues allow cities to invest in the health and well-being of their communities. Previously, the tax in Seattle has been used to fund programs like Fresh Bucks to Go, which delivers fresh fruits and vegetables to families participating in Seattle’s subsidized preschool programs, and the Parent-Child Home Program, which provides literacy education to two- and three-year-old children from low-income families. To learn more about where soda tax revenues go, see here.

Seattle has also suspended water and electric service shutoffs and allocated $1.5 million in grants to small businesses. Additionally, the city plans to delay commercial evictions of small business and nonprofit organizations.

Many other states are also organizing services amid the COVID-19 crisis. For example, several cities are providing free meals to children under the age of 18, including San Francisco, Chicago, and Boston. The Trump administration has also announced expanded Medicare telehealth coverage, which will allow recipients to access healthcare services online without having to travel to a hospital or clinic.

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