Today, U.S Senators Kirsten Gillibrand and Roger Marshall (R-KS) introduced the bipartisan More Options to Develop and Enhance Remote Nutrition in WIC Act (MODERN WIC). The bill would make WIC benefits more accessible to low-income families by allowing them to certify and recertify for WIC services remotely. When the pandemic-era waivers expire, under current law, WIC participants will have to get certified for, pick up, and reload benefits in person at a WIC office. This time commitment can pose a challenge for busy families, and it means that many children and families may not get the food they are eligible to receive. Gillibrand’s bill would remove this barrier to access and help increase child retention in the program. The bill also provides $60 million in funding to help WIC offices around the country upgrade technology to make these changes to the program.
Representatives Brian Fitzpatrick (R-PA) and Suzanne Bonamici (D-OR) are introducing companion legislation in the House.
“Offering WIC services remotely is an easy way to make sure children don’t go hungry,” said Senator Gillibrand. “Something as simple as loading a WIC EBT card should be easy and flexible – not a roadblock that keeps families from putting food on the table. I’m proud to be reintroducing this legislation to make sure that all children and infants have a healthy start to life.”
“Having worked extensively with the WIC program as an OBGYN for more than 25 years, I truly understand how important WIC is for raising healthy infants and children,” said Senator Marshall. “Our legislation builds on lessons learned from the pandemic and preserves vulnerable American families’ access to critical services that ensure good nutrition starts at a young age. Senator Gillibrand is an excellent partner to strengthen our WIC program, and I am proud to team up with her to lead this important effort.”
“The MODERN WIC Act and the WIC Healthy Beginnings Act take important steps in updating WIC to streamline administration and better meet the needs of busy families,” said Dr. Jamila Taylor, President & CEO of the National WIC Association (NWA). “Since remote services were implemented, the WIC program has already seen a 12% increase in child participation, reversing a historic decline. The MODERN WIC Act seeks to further improve access to WIC services and enhance participation rates, eliminating long-standing barriers in child retention. By enabling remote certifications and remote issuance of benefits, the legislation will make it easier for busy families to participate in the program, matching the experience participants have in healthcare settings. The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act will likewise reduce burdens for WIC agencies and industry partners alike, promoting competition to best meet the needs of WIC families. NWA applauds Senators Gillibrand and Marshall for their leadership on this crucial legislation, and we urge Congress to pass both bills swiftly.”
“New York WIC families have benefitted from flexibilities that offer a more modern program, specifically remote service,” said Lauren Brand, chair of the WIC Association of New York State. “It is time to pass the MODERN WIC Act to make permanent important WIC program flexibilities. With the busy lifestyles of young families, remote WIC services and online shopping will greatly enhance the WIC experience and allow this generation of parents to access nutrition support and provide healthy foods with ease.”
“The need to modernize the WIC program has been felt for quite some time. The MODERN WIC Act will allow the program to be more flexible in the way services are provided. With this flexibility, I believe more families will participate, resulting in healthier infants and children,” said David Thomason, director of the Kansas WIC program. “Getting the best value for WIC participants is important. The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act will make it easier than ever for infant formula manufacturers to learn about and respond to requests for bids for WIC rebate contracts. Improving the procurement process benefits everyone, including WIC participants and formula manufacturers.”
The two waivers proposed to be codified in this bill would:
1. Allow participants to get WIC certification or recertification through video teleconference or phone and
2. Allow participants to receive their WIC benefits on WIC EBT cards through mail or remote issuance instead of physically picking up or reloading benefits in person at a WIC office.
The legislation also requires the Secretary of Agriculture to submit a report to Congress outlining the uses of remote technologies, impact of remote technologies, and best practices.
In addition to the MODERN WIC Act, Senators Gillibrand and Marshall introduced the WIC Healthy Beginnings Act to promote competition and quality for infant formula manufacturers by creating an online database to centralize state solicitations. The database would be administered through USDA and would help streamline bids from formula manufacturers to state WIC programs. Currently, an infant formula manufacturer would have to sift through all contract solicitations in all 50 states in order to make bids. This legislation will increase transparency in the solicitation bid process and help prevent disruptions in getting essential nutrition to children and infants.
The MODERN WIC Act is endorsed by the National WIC Association, 1,000 Days, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Association of State Public Health Nutritionists, March of Dimes, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, National Association of Counties, Save the Children, Save the Children Action Network (SCAN), and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
The WIC Healthy Beginnings Act is endorsed by the National WIC Association, 1,000 Days, Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, American Heart Association, Association of State and Territorial Health Officials, Association of State Public Health Nutritionists, March of Dimes, MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger, and Society for Maternal-Fetal Medicine.
The full text of the legislation is available here.