Brown, Portman Applaud USDA Approval of Ohio COVID-19 Disaster Food Distribution Program

Senators Joined Ohio House Members in Urging the Swift Approval, Which Allows the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ (ODJFS) to Operate Disaster Household Feeding Program that Will Get More Meals to Ohio Families During the COVID-19 Outbreak

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senators Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Rob Portman (R-OH) announced that the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) has approved the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ (ODJFS) request to operate the Disaster Household Distribution Program. The announcement comes after the senators were joined by Ohio House Members in a letter to USDA Secretary Sonny Perdue last week urging swift approval of ODJFS’ request to operate the program. In addition to Brown and Portman, the letter was also signed by Reps. Marcy Kaptur, Tim Ryan, Mike Turner, Brad Wenstrup, Marcia L. Fudge, Steve Chabot, Robert E. Latta, Joyce Beatty, David Joyce, Steve Stivers, Troy Balderson, and Anthony Gonzalez. 

USDA has approved the Disaster Household Distribution Program through April 30, 2020. Food packages will be distributed through Ohio’s network of foodbanks, with on-site pickup or drive-through pickup options.  

“ODJFS’s request would apply to households using the foodbanks across the state during the period of the request, which is estimated to be 1,251,200, approximately 10.7 percent of Ohio’s population. Approval of Ohio’s Disaster Household Feeding Program will help protect the lives, safety and health of the citizens of Ohio and reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19,” the members wrote in their original letter.  

USDA’s Disaster Household Distribution Program is run through the Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and works to feed hungry families more efficiently and safely in times of crisis like the COVID-19 outbreak. USDA’s approval will now allow foodbanks throughout Ohio to distribute more food across the state by removing administrative burdens, which will in turn make it easier for staff and volunteers at foodbanks to maintain social distancing protocols, keeping themselves and their clients safe. 

According to ODJFS, as of March 26, 2020, the state had received more than 187,800 new claims in unemployment in a single week. During this time, many foodbanks reported a significant – greater than 50 percent – increase in clients, with roughly two-thirds of the total utilizing emergency food services for the first time. ODJFS’ application estimates that 1.25 million Ohioans – 10.7% of Ohio’s population – will be served at foodbanks by April 30th.  

A copy of the letter the senators sent last week can be read here and below.  

Dear Secretary Perdue: 

We write in support of the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ (ODJFS) request to operate the Disaster Household Feeding Program, and to urge you to act swiftly on this request for the State of Ohio. 

Ohioans are facing significant economic challenges as the country takes action to halt the spread of COVID-19. As more Ohioans lose work, emergency food providers in every part of the state are seeing a massive increase in demand for food assistance. According to ODJFS, as of March 26, 2020, the state has received more than 187,800 new claims in unemployment in a single week. During this time, many food banks reported a significant – greater than 50 percent – increase in clients, with roughly two-thirds of the total utilizing emergency food services for the first time.  

Our emergency food system has not seen this kind of demand before. While we appreciate USDA’s proactive issuance of waivers for some nutrition assistance programs and swift adoption of new authority for others, ODJFS requires more tools and additional flexibilities to meet increasing demand while keeping staff, volunteers, and clients safe.  

ODJFS’s request would apply to households using the foodbanks across the state during the period of the request, which is estimated to be 1,251,200, approximately 10.7 percent of Ohio’s population. Approval of Ohio’s Disaster Household Feeding Program will help protect the lives, safety and health of the citizens of Ohio and reduce the rapid spread of COVID-19.    

We fully support ODJFS’s request, and urge your prompt consideration. Thank you for your attention to this urgent matter. 

Sincerely,

 

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