Feeding WIC Recipients During the COVID-19 Crisis
During the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis, state WIC agencies have been faced with multiple challenges. Conduent has partnered with our clients to provide support during the crisis on a number of fronts. Some of the challenges WIC agencies are facing include:
- WIC food shortages
- Changes to their standard clinic processes
- Disruptions to employee work environments
Because of disruptions in the food supply and the tendencies of many shoppers—not just WIC participants—to stock up on needed items, WIC shoppers in some areas have faced food shortages in specific WIC-eligible goods, including infant formula, peanut butter and dairy items. To help establish a wider range of eligible products and make it easier for WIC shoppers to get the nutrition they need in one shopping trip, Conduent staff partnered with WIC agencies to supply additional UPCs for WIC product redemption. Many WIC programs have also adjusted their issuance patterns to allow for additional flexibility in the redemption of certain products, with the same goal—reducing the need for WIC participants to shop more frequently and therefore helping them reduce their exposure to COVID-19.
Due to physical distancing requirements, state and local WIC agency personnel have had to limit their in-person exposure to WIC participants and vice versa. To comply with guidelines in their local areas, many WIC agencies have adopted the policy of mailing cards after they have been issued by remote located staff. Additionally, most WIC agencies have applied for extension waivers of 30, 60 or 90 days on participant certifications, which helps ease the participant load on local WIC agencies and clinics. USDA’s Food and Nutrition Services (FNS) has also modified its operating guidelines, currently not requiring WIC state agencies to provide immediate proof of income in order to qualify for the program, as is usually the case.
Physical distancing requirements have also disrupted the employee work environments at most, if not all, state WIC agencies. Conduent is currently working with multiple state agencies on approaches to remote vendor certification, as well as working with state agencies to confirm that all employees working remotely have the proper access. Additionally, many states are exploring mobile platform options for online shopping and benefits management, and Conduent staff are developing a mobile API to assist with this effort.
Our primary goal is to keep mission-critical services flowing, doing whatever we can to help our state clients serve the constituents who rely on them. Already-vulnerable populations, like WIC participants, have been particularly hard-hit by the crisis. However long the disruptions caused by COVID-19 last, Conduent supports our state and local government partners in these unprecedented times.