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Washington food and cash assistance spikes in the wake of coronavirus outbreak

Since the start of the outbreak, requests for food and cash assistance rose sharply in the economic aftermath of the area's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Many Washington families are feeling the strain in the wake of the economic impacts of the coronavirus pandemic, as state food and housing assistance saw increases in applications since mid-March.

The global coronavirus pandemic has made major impacts to the economy, as governments and public health officials have closed businesses and mandated that people stay home to prevent spreading the novel coronavirus that causes the respiratory illness COVID-19.

According to the Washington Department of Social and Health Services, requests spiked the second week of March, which is when state and health officials implemented widespread responses to curb the spread of the disease.

  • Food assistance increased by 82% for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance and Food Assistance Programs (SNAP/FAP).
  • Cash assistance increased by 158% for the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program and 72% for the Aged, Blind, or Disabled (ABD) and Housing & Essential Needs (HEN) Referral programs.

That demand has risen or stayed about the same in weeks since then, according to state figures.

Families that need assistance can apply for benefits online via www.washingtonconnection.org or by calling 877-501-2233, as close to 8 a.m. as possible. DSHS reports that the busiest call times are between 11 a.m. and 2 p.m.

RELATED: Washington residents on food assistance will get extra money during coronavirus crisis

The major financial impacts to families and companies come as government and public health officials have tried to slow the spread of the outbreak.

The efforts are aimed to prevent an extreme spike in cases of COVID-19, the respiratory illness caused by the new coronavirus, which can overwhelm hospitals, leading to the reduction of hospitals' capacity to care for those with severe symptoms. The majority of those who get the illness experience mild to moderate symptoms.

Earlier this month, Washington state saw an 843% week-over-week increase in claims for unemployment benefits after businesses like sit-down restaurants started to temporarily close under state-mandated orders to slow the spread of coronavirus. 

RELATED: Washington unemployment claims spike 843% in one week

Before that, major employers were also allowing employees to work from home, school in-person classes were canceled and events and gatherings were banned, cutting the foot and commuter traffic that many businesses depended on for survival.

RELATED: Gov. Inslee issues stay-at-home order for Washington residents

Major employers are also seeing the economic effects of the global pandemic. Seattle-Tacoma International Airport has seen a drastic drop in passengers. Boeing today announced voluntary buyouts for employees that "aims to reduce the need for other workforce actions." 

RELATED: Boeing offers voluntary buyout to employees amid coronavirus pandemic

KING 5 and Northwest Harvest are partnering to make sure that no one in our state goes hungry during this difficult time. Help us raise $5 million to feed those in Washington state who need our help. Donate today at northwestharvest.org or text STOPHUNGER to 41444 to give. As of April 3, we have raised more than $3 million.