New Debit Cards Will Create Convenient Shopping Experience for More than 300,000 WIC Families Statewide by Spring 2019
New York's Implementation Ahead of USDA 2020 Deadline to Adopt eWIC Technology
Mobile App WIC2Go Launches as User Friendly Tool to Access WIC Benefits
Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today announced the launch of eWIC, an electronic benefits transfer card which eliminates paper checks and provides a more convenient way for families in the Women, Infants and Children program to shop for WIC foods. The Capital Region pilot is the first implementation of this technology in New York, with the potential to benefit 12,000 local WIC participants. eWIC technology will be introduced statewide for all WIC clinics and vendors by spring 2019.
"New Yorkers in need should never feel stigmatized in order to provide their families with the nutrition and resources they need," Governor Cuomo said. "This updated technology will not only help remove the stigma unfairly associated with this service, but it will also help to make the WIC program more accessible for families across the state."
"As a mother I can't imagine the pain of knowing you don't have the ability to give your child their next meal," said Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul. "The new eWIC system will go a long way toward giving New York families peace of mind by ensuring they have convenient access to nutritious food, without the shame that can be felt holding up a grocery line using an outdated system."
eWIC, which works like a debit card, will make shopping with WIC benefits more discreet and will allow WIC vendors to be reimbursed faster. The new eWIC technology will also allow families to roll over any unused benefits from a shopping trip toward future use. The Whitney M. Young Jr. Health Center in Albany was the first WIC clinic to debut the new technology. The first eWIC purchase took place today at the Market 32 on Delaware Avenue in Albany.
In addition to eWIC, the Department of Health launched a new mobile application called WIC2Go to make shopping for WIC foods easier. WIC2Go allows users to scan the barcode on a product to see if it is WIC-eligible. Users can also check their account balance, view their upcoming WIC appointments, and locate WIC vendors and clinics.
WIC offers nutritious foods, education on nutrition, advice for healthy living, breastfeeding support, and health care referrals to eligible New York families with young children, and women who are pregnant. Registered dietitians are on staff at WIC sites to give one-on-one nutrition advice. WIC serves more than 400,000 women, infants, and children each month with services provided at 400 clinics throughout the state. WIC food benefits can be redeemed at approximately 3,000 authorized WIC stores across the state.
WIC is funded and monitored by the USDA. USDA has mandated that all states adopt eWIC technology by the year 2020. Today's eWIC launch at clinics and vendors in Albany, Schenectady, and Rensselaer counties will serve as the pilot program to gain USDA approval for statewide implementation. The remainder of the counties within the Capital Region are scheduled to rollout in the fall of 2018. New York State will continue to release eWIC in Upstate New York, Central New York, the Southern Tier and Western New York in the fall and winter of 2018 before moving downstate in early 2019. The last downstate clinic site will launch eWIC in the spring of 2019.
Commissioner of Health Dr. Howard Zucker said, "Increasing access to healthy, nutritious food is critical to the wellbeing of New York's women and children. The launch of the eWIC program transforms the way WIC families shop and access benefits. This comprehensive program will work to promote a healthy lifestyle and better health outcomes for families who rely on this program."
Whitney M. Young Health Center WIC Coordinator Katie Palmer said, "Whitney Young WIC program is proud and honored to be the first WIC program in New York State to test the new NYWIC/Electronic benefit program. Our participants are extremely excited to start using the eWIC card as it will make their shopping experience much more discreet, and allow more flexibility as they can now purchase just the items they need at that time."
Mona Golub, Vice President of Public Relations and Consumer Services said, "Price Chopper/Market 32 is pleased to usher in this welcome evolution to the WIC system here in New York. With transactions now occurring live between retail and the e-WIC system, the checkout process will definitively be quicker, more efficient, and more accurate for all."
Fathers, grandparents, foster parents, and other caregivers may apply for WIC benefits for their infants and young children. Many working families qualify and individuals who are already enrolled in Medicaid, SNAP or TANF automatically meet the income qualifications for WIC. To find a local clinic, applicants can call the Growing Up Healthy Hotline at 1-800-522-5006, visit the New York State Department of Health website at www.health.ny.gov/wic, or use the WIC2Go mobile application. For more information on eWIC, families can visit www.health.ny.gov/wic and vendors can visit www.nyswicvendors.com.