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Senators applaud USDA approval of Ohio COVID-19 disaster program

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Sens. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, and Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, announced Tuesday that the U.S. Department of Agriculture has approved the Ohio Department of Job and Family Services’ 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.

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

USDA’s Disaster Household Distribution Program is run through the Emergency Food Assistance Program 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 food banks 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 food banks to maintain social distancing protocols, keeping themselves and their clients safe.

According to ODJFS, as of March 26, the state had 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.

ODJFS’ application estimates that 1.25 million Ohioans — 10.7 percent of Ohio’s population — will be served at food banks by April 30.