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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Spokane County awards $4.4 million in federal COVID-19 aid funding for food

Second Harvest Food Bank volunteers Robert Riedel, left, and Kristen Nicholson, stack and pack dry food items into emergency baskets for the mobile market program to be delivered to the Northeast Youth Center, Tuesday, April 7, 2020 in Spokane, Wash. Both have volunteered for the past three weeks at Second Harvest Food Bank in Spokane, Wash. (Dan Pelle/The Spokesman-Review via AP) ORG XMIT: WASPO103  (DAN PELLE)

Spokane County commissioners unanimously voted to award $4.4 million in federal COVID-19 aid funds to Second Harvest food bank to address rising food insecurity in Spokane County.

Second Harvest has seen an 87% increase in the demand for food, and the nonprofit expects that number to increase as financial stress from the pandemic continues, according to the organization’s request to the county. Second Harvest is a nonprofit that supplies smaller food banks with food and has food distribution sites throughout Eastern Washington and northern Idaho.

The county awarded the nonprofit $61,000 for transportation costs, $337,000 to store food and $4 million to purchase food.

In a news release sent after the commissioners approved the funding, the president and CEO of Second Harvest, Jason Clark, said the funding will help the organization provide food for families who are struggling going back to school in different formats and help them adapt to the community’s needs as they evolve.

“We’re in a position we’ve never been before,” Clark said. “While our warehouses are chock full today, we know that various pandemic-related programs are scheduled to end soon, so the situation will likely flip on a dime and we’ll be scrambling for food.”

This award is the county’s second to the nonprofit, after awarding $2.1 million in June.

Spokane County commissioners used a portion of their $91 million allotment of Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act funds, a $2 trillion economic aid package Congress passed in March, for the award.

According to county documents, commissioners have spent about $41 million of the total $91 million available. Other COVID expenditures include $11 million for a small business grant program, $8 million for the Spokane Regional Health District and over $2 million for a marketing campaign.

Spokane County Commissioner Josh Kerns said he’s hopeful the award will supply Second Harvest until the end of the year, which is when the federal COVID-19 aid expires. Kerns said if the need for food expands beyond the federal funds they have already allocated, he would be open to contributing more.

“It’s absolutely the goal to make sure nobody goes hungry because of COVID,” he said.

County Commissioner Al French said he’s hopeful the allocation will address basic needs, but there are more funds available if food banks in the area still need assistance.

He said the commissioners have set aside, but not yet allocated, some funding for the health district, and he hopes to use more CARES funds for additional small business grants and possibly for rental assistance if the $5.9 million grant the county has ac received from the state is not enough to address the community’s needs.