Advocates Call on Congress to Adequately Fund WIC

(June 23, 2023) The National WIC Association is winding up a week of WIC advocacy calling for an allocation that will accommodate the program’s growing caseload.

The National WIC Association is winding down a week of WIC advocacy calling for an allocation that will accommodate the program’s growing caseload. Advocates are thankful to see the week wrapping up with bipartisan support for WIC from the Senate appropriations committee.

Last night, the Senate unveiled a bill that fully funds WIC at the levels proposed by President Biden. In March, President Biden requested $6.3 billion in budget authority for WIC to serve a projected increase in caseload to an average of 6.5 million participants across fiscal year 2024. With data available to reflect actual WIC participation for the first six months in fiscal year 2023, the rate of participation growth in WIC is already accelerating. According to the National WIC Association’s FY2024 funding brief, nationwide upticks in participation have mostly increased thanks to remote WIC enrollment, particularly in rural areas.

Last week, the House advanced legislation that would cut WIC benefits, impacting thousands of children and families across the country. The Cash Value Benefit (CVB) increases in benefits for fresh fruit and vegetables would be reversed under this proposal.

“If Congress does not adequately fund WIC, providers would have to institute waiting lists for the first time in three decades,” the National WIC Association said in their FY2024 funding brief.

Here in Pennsylvania, Thriving PA’s statewide Participant’s Brief showed that PA WIC participants believed that increased fruit and vegetable benefits should be a priority for the WIC program. In addition, Thriving PA recently published our updated fact sheets highlighting the increased participation rates in WIC.

Thriving PA continues to work toward increased participation in the state’s WIC program, through modernization efforts to promote and support ease of access to nutritional supports for pregnant and postpartum women and young children, including:
Improving WIC technology to remove barriers to access and meet families where they are by developing an online Smart Card to redeem WIC benefits and permanently implementing telehealth policies.
Integrating and improving cross-system communication to simplify the application and recertification process for families.
Modernizing outreach methods, such as texting and social media, to capture more eligible WIC participants, including education for community-based organizations, health care professionals, and other service providers on the benefits of the WIC program.

Due to a downward trend in participation between 2009 and 2019, federal funding for WIC in PA decreased by nearly 18%, and in the previous three fiscal years, funding remained stagnant. This begins a vicious cycle—with less funding, the program’s ability to increase participation through outreach and other program improvement efforts decreases. Inadequate WIC federal funding, as has been proposed in the House and the eventual waiting lists, would only further complicate WIC’s ability to feed our most vulnerable young children. In order to ensure that WIC can serve its projected caseloads and provide necessary nutrients to children, it’s essential to at least maintain WIC funding and extend enhanced fruits and vegetables as proposed by the President and the Senate.

Interested in taking action on the issue or learning more?

Check out the National WIC’s Facebook Page for more information!

Let your representatives know you support adequate funding for WIC and extending the increase in the fruit and vegetable bump! Your voice is necessary to stop these harmful cuts!

Cristina Codario, Allies for Children Health Policy Director