Stafford County, Virginia Uses Federal Grant to Provide Restaurant Vouchers to SNAP Recipients

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Stafford County is sending some extra cash to its 3,900 Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) recipients in the form of $150 worth of restaurant vouchers to one of 100 local restaurants. County Board of Supervisors Chair Meg Bohmke said the nearly $800,000 program is the first part of the Stafford Cares initiative, a series of programs aimed at helping the county recover physically, mentally, and financially from COVID-19.

“The initiative supporting families in need is an innovative way to help out the most vulnerable people and assist our local restaurants at the same time,” Bohmke said in an announcement.

From February 15 through February 26, restaurants can apply to be part of the “Supporting Restaurants and Families in Need” program. The Economic Development Department will purchase the gift cards in amounts of $7,500 or more from the restaurants. The Department of Social Services will then give recipient families two $75 gift cards, one in March, and one in June. To apply to participate, restaurants should visit GoStaffordVA.com.

Bohmke said, “These families will be able to use the cards at one of the 100 restaurants participating in Stafford Cares, helping to supplement their food budgets and give them new experiences during the pandemic.”

County spokesman Andrew Spence told The Virginia Star that county officials applied for the nearly $800,000 federal Community Development Block Grant, and that stipulations of the grant required the two-fold approach focused on helping restaurants and SNAP recipients, instead of merely being used as a cash handout.

“It’s really an innovative way to utilize the Community Development Block Grant, which has really specific stipulations of what you can and cannot do with the funds,” Spence said.

Bohmke also announced another piece of Stafford Cares — signs promoting mental health with a link to the Rappahannock Area Community Service Board hotline. More Stafford Cares plans are in the works.

“The other members of the Board of Supervisors and I have been concerned about the pandemic’s overwhelming impact on our restaurants and their workers,” Bohmke said. “Helping restaurants stay in business and continuing to employ our citizens while affording SNAP recipients more options for access to food is a win-win for our county.”

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Eric Burk is a reporter at The Virginia Star and the Star News Network.  Email tips to [email protected]

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