Policy changes in response to COVID-19

COVID-19 Response Overview 

In response to the ongoing outbreak of the COVID-19 virus in Washington state, the DSHS Community Services Division has been rapidly identifying and implementing waivers from federal and state requirements and making policy and service delivery changes to help meet the needs of our clients and staff.

IMPORTANT PEAF UPDATE: PEAF benefit ends May 31, 2022.

The Pandemic Emergency Assistance Fund was created to provide additional assistance during the COVID-19 crisis to low-income families who have eligible children under the age of 18. PEAF is a temporary, one-time cash payment for certain families with minor children.

Prior to PEAF's ending, in order to qualify for PEAF, families would have had to meet all of the following:

  • Have a minor child (under age 18) living in the home.
  • The minor child received cash or Basic Food benefits for the month of May 2022. 
  • Have income at or under 75% of the Federal Poverty Level.  

As of May 31, 2022, no additional PEAF payments will be made. You can learn more about eligibility here. (En Español)


Emergency Food Supplements – DSHS implemented supplemental funding for recipients of food assistance due to the impacts of COVID-19. These emergency allotments started April 4, 2020, for March and April benefits and have continued on a month-to-month basis with federal approval. Recipients get the difference between their regular monthly benefit and the maximum amount for their household size or $95, whichever is greater.

Effective May 1, 2021, households approved for Basic Food but receiving a regular benefit amount of $0 are not considered participating SNAP households for emergency allotments. Up until this time, households receiving zero benefits in Basic Food would get an emergency allotment to bring their benefits up to the maximum allotment for their household size. These households no longer qualify for emergency allotments, which means their regular monthly benefit will return to $0. For more information, please see the FAQs They will soon available in following languages: HindiKoreanArabicCambodian (Khmer)Chinese (simplified)Chinese (traditional)VietnameseLaotianMalaysianRussianSomaliSpanishUkrainian.

Changes to Basic Food Eligibility for Students of Higher Education – On January 16, 2021, DSHS temporarily expanded Basic Food eligibility for students. This includes students who either:
  • Are determined eligible for work-study; or
  • Have an Expected Family Contribution of $0 in the current academic year.
  • These new temporary Basic Food rules will continue until 30 days after the COVID-19 Public Health emergency is lifted.

Basic Food Allotment 15% Increase- Maximum allotments for food assistance were increased by 15% from January 2021 to Sept. 30, 2021 as approved by U.S. Congress. Households should have seen an increased amount on their cards beginning with their February allotments. Effective Oct. 1, 2021, U.S. Department of Agriculture increased the food benefit amounts by 21% of the current amounts, permanently replacing the 15% increase.

Basic Food Employment and Training – All BFET providers remain open statewide and are providing various services to BFET participants during this current state of the COVID-19 pandemic. Please contact BFET providers directly to obtain information about their services during this time. The BFET website has a “Find a Provider” feature here: BFET - Find a Provider     

Abled-Bodied Adults Without Dependents – USDA Food and Nutrition Service partners have approved a statewide waiver for Able-Bodied Adults Without Dependents time-limit rules in Washington state. Effective immediately, ABAWD clients in King County who were required to participate under our previous waiver are now exempt. Clients should not notice any change in their benefits or service as we were previously allowing good cause for ABAWD clients who could not participate due to the pandemic. The waiver is in effect from June 1, 2021 through May 31, 2022.

Pandemic EBT 1.0 – DSHS implemented the Pandemic EBT program during the 2019-20 school year in collaboration with the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. P-EBT is a food benefit provided to families with children in grades K-12 who were eligible for schools’ free or reduced-price meal programs. This assistance was for the period schools closed due to COVID-19, from March-June 2020. Initial P-EBT benefits were issued between June 28-July 7, 2020 for households already receiving Basic Food for each school-aged child. These families did not need to apply for P-EBT.

Families with children who were eligible and approved by their school district for free or reduced-price meals but who did not receive Basic Food benefits needed submit an application to DSHSfor P-EBT by Sept. 23, 2020, which aligned the end of the program with the 2020 Federal Fiscal Year -- Sept. 30, 2020.

Pandemic EBT 2.0 -- U.S. Congress approved the extension and expansion of the P-EBT program into the 2020-21 school year and to children in child care, also known as Children Under 6. In February 2021, DSHS received approval for a second round of P-EBT for students eligible for free or reduced-price meals during the 2020-21 school year who had limited on-site meal service as reported by their school. Benefits were distributed automatically on a unique P-EBT card and families did not need to apply for P-EBT. In June 2021, USDA Food and Nutrition Service approved Washington state’s plans to extend P-EBT benefits through the summer months of July and August 2021 and include children under age 6. 

Pandemic EBT 3.0 -- U.S. Congress approved extension of the P-EBT program into any school year with a federal COVID-19 public health emergency. On Aug. 26, 2021, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service released information on P-EBT for the 2021-22 school year. DSHS must submit a state plan and receive approval from FNS before delivering P-EBT benefits for the 2021-22 school year. Currently, DSHS is reviewing a plan and will post updates when they become available on the DSHS P-EBT website.


IMPORTANT DCAP UPDATE: Governor Inslee has designated 14 counties as disaster areas as a result of recent severe weather and requested the Disaster Cash Assistance Program be made available to Washington residents who are eligible. If you live in Clallam, Grays Harbor, Island, Jefferson, Lewis, King, Kitsap, Pierce, Mason, San Juan, Skagit, Snohomish, Thurston or Whatcom County, you may have been eligible for a temporary cash assistance grant. Applications closed Dec. 17, 2021. You can learn more about eligibility here. En Español.

Governor Inslee’s last order allowed us to offer Disaster Cash Assistance Program related to COVID-19 through June 30, 2021. That program has now ended.

The Consolidated Emergency Assistance Program, or CEAP, remains available for families with children or pregnant women who are not eligible for other cash programs. CEAP has no citizenship status requirements and is not a public charge program. Call 877-501-2233 to apply or apply online at WashingtonConnection.org.



Time Limit Extensions – Effective April 1, 2020, DSHS expanded TANF 60-month Time Limit Extension criteria to support families experiencing hardships due to the COVID-19 emergency. The department has funding to continue this suspension of time limits through June 30, 2022. Participants who exhaust 60 months on TANF cash assistance and are currently experiencing hardships due to COVID-19 are not denied benefits. WorkFirst staff connect with participants who are at or who have exhausted their 60 months on TANF, review all other TLE hardship categories and discuss barriers with the family. If the participant does not meet any other hardship category, they are approved for a pandemic-related TLE until June 30, 2022. 

WorkFirst Participation Requirements Resume – Effective Sept. 1, 2021, WorkFirst participation requirements resume. WorkFirst mandatory participation and associated sanctions have been suspended since March 16, 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. In August, CSD sent a notice and made automated calls to all adult TANF/SFA recipients explaining that the suspension of WorkFirst participation requirements is ending and participation will be mandatory again in September. CSD WorkFirst staff began scheduling appointments on Sept. 1. The purpose of these appointments is to work with the parent to get an update on their situation and goals, develop a plan for WorkFirst activities, and provide needed support services.

As mandatory WorkFirst participation resumes, the WorkFirst sanction process is no longer suspended. 

Suspending Home Visits for the Teen Living Assessment – In compliance with federal law, DSHS conducts a Teen Living Assessment, which may include a home visit for all unmarried, minor parents applying for TANF cash assistance, to determine eligibility and offer support to the household. Effective March 16, 2020, the home visits are suspended until further notice. WorkFirst Social Service Specialists make their best effort to determine a safe living environment and situation for the teen and their child, by completing required assessment screening tools in the office or over the phone.

Telephone WorkFirst Orientations – All WorkFirst orientations are being conducted via the telephone.


Effective March 18, 2020, DSHS suspended treatment monitoring and good cause for participation in medical treatment for ABD, participation in substance use assessment and treatment and participation in vocational rehabilitation. DSHS continued to facilitate Supplemental Security Income applications by phone and mail when possible; however, it discontinued pursuing good cause for those individuals who did not follow through with SSI applications.

Effective March 26, 2020, DSHS amended the administrative program rules (WACs) allowing the department to postpone ABD disability reviews, modify HEN referral incapacity reviews and expand medical evidence rules for eligibility purposes.

Effective May 12, 2021, DSHS resumed case planning activities for ABD recipients who entered the caseload after May 12, 2021. DSHS continues to suspend the good cause process until further notice while the public health emergency may still be in effect.

Mental Incapacity Evaluation contracts have been amended to allow for telephonic psychological evaluations.


Certification periods for renewals were extended for three months beginning in March. Certification periods will continue to be extended in three month increments until the end of the public health emergency. Benefits will also not close for recipients of Medicaid unless the individual requests their benefits be terminated, the individual is no longer a Washington state resident or the individual is deceased. 

Additional changes regarding Medicaid eligibility to support clients include:

  • Reinstating Medicaid coverage if closed on or after March 18, 2020.
  • Allowing a 30-day extension to provide verification of circumstances.
  • Accepting self-attestation of income and resources at application, renewal and change of circumstances.
  • Accepting self-attestation for medical expenses incurred needed to meet spenddown amounts for purposes of medically needy eligibility.


In April 29, 2020, DSHS extended certification periods for households with Eligibility Reviews due in the months of April, May and June for six additional months, extending these certifications through October, November and December 2020. Mid-Certification Review requirements for April, May and June were also waived, and benefits will continue through the end of certification periods while households meet all other eligibility requirements. This applies to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; Aged, Blind or Disabled and Housing Essential Needs; Working Family Support; and all Food Assistance programs.

After the passage of Section 4601 of the Continuing Appropriations Act on Oct. 1, 2020, DSHS again extended certification periods and waived Mid-Certification Reviews. Households with Certification periods ending in November and December 2020 extend two additional months (i.e., to January and February 2021). Certification periods scheduled to end in January and February 2021 extend four additional months (i.e., to May and June 2021). All cash and food Mid-Certification Reports required under WAC 388-418-0011 were waived from November 2020 to June 2021 while households meet all other eligibility requirements.


The U.S. Department of Agriculture's Food and Nutrition Service approved a DSHS request, as allowed through the Families First Coronavirus Response Act, to waive mid-certification reviews. Mid-certification reviews are waived for January, February and March 2022. Households receiving TANF, SFA, ABD/HEN Referral and SNAP/Basic Food Assistance will continue to receive benefits, while they meet all other eligibility requirements, through the end of their annual certification period.


ORIA received a waiver from the federal Office of Refugee Resettlement to continue expanded eligibility for refugees and other eligible immigrants that have been impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. This waiver expired Sept. 30, 2021.  

Refugee Health Screening
Given the impact of COVID-19 on the healthcare system, ORR has waived the 90-day requirement for completing the Refugee Health Screening. ORIA requests that contracted RHS providers notify ORIA and DOH directly about any post-90-day refugee health screenings.

COVID-19 Response Services and Emergency Support Services for Refugees
ORIA has also extended the opportunity for organizations to continue to provide COVID-19 Response Services and the flexibility needed to continue to provide services remotely and safely. Funding for rent and utility assistance will also continue to be available through funded organizations.