Public assistance program modifies application process to accommodate more families during pandemic

Updated: Oct. 21, 2020 at 10:53 PM CDT
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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WBRC) - The pandemic has changed the way we do many things, including applying for public assistance.

The Women Infants and Children program, also known as WIC, encouraged those who qualify to apply; they even updated the application process to help more families.

WIC gives qualifying pregnant women and children up to age five, money to buy food.

WIC Assistant Nutrition Director, Mandy Darlington, said because of the COVID-19 pandemic, they’ve made provisions to the application process which used to require in-person interviews and lab work for the entire family, now it’s mostly done over the phone.

“We try to make any accommodations necessary, that it would take, for us to be able to still do the service, but a good quality service without actually coming into contact with them to keep them safe,” said Darlington.

WIC has also incorporated an app (iPhone/ Android ) that has many features including important updates, qualifying, and nutrition information.

You can also scan products with the app to see if they qualify for the program, before getting to the register.

Also gone are the days of vouchers. Now the money is easily loaded onto an electronic benefit transfer card also known as an EBT card.

“So grateful to already have had a lot of these things in place like the EBT, online education and then the ease of people being able to email from phones or take a picture of their documents that they needed to submit and were able to send them and we had a platform available to receive them,” said Darlington.

According to WIC stats, the number of families seeking benefits is up from 116,437 families in October 2019, to 117,629 families; that’s only up by 1,192 more people.

Because of the pandemic, the program suspected more people are eligible, they just don’t know it.

“Even more so now than ever, if your family needs us, maybe they’ve never needed us before, but we want to be here to help if we can.”

Darlington said to apply for WIC in your area call your local office. You can find those numbers here.

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