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Wisconsin WIC welcomes furloughed employees to check eligibility

April 24, 2020

As unemployment rises in the midst of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the Wisconsin Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program continues to provide services for its participants and encourages eligible parents and expecting parents to sign up. 

“We are working remotely, but it is not impacting participants’ benefits at all,” Oneida County WIC director Katie Sislo said. “And we are able to contact our normal number and we are taking calls remotely as well, we’re still able to access our phones.”

Sislo added the WIC office was encouraging the recently unemployed and furloughed to sign up or contact the office to check eligibility.

“We do look at both future income and past income when looking at this,” Sislo said. “So, that means if a family was recently furloughed, their future income is taken into account, that they were laid off and they’re going to be laid off for that period. We look into that versus what they would normally be making.”

The Wisconsin Department of Health Services website assures all 69 of the local WIC agencies are continuing to serve families during the COVID-19 crisis and recommends contacting the local WIC office for more information about income eligibility.

“For Vilas County, all services are continuing remotely,” Vilas County WIC director Laurel Dreger said. “We’re not having any in-person services.”

While the county has discontinued the in-person services for the program, Dreger said the process was being conducted remotely.

“We call our clients on the phone, we get the information we need from them,” Dreger said. “There’s two components to it, kind of the financial screening of candidates and the nutrition counseling.”

Dreger continued, stating everything was being done remotely, including issuing benefits.

“There’s really no change in the way they experience it, except for the fact that they don’t have to come into the clinic to have appointments,” Dreger said.

The WIC program serves lower income pregnant, postpartum, breastfeeding women, infants, and children under the age of five with health and nutrition risks.

“Dads, grandparents and other caregivers of children under the age of five may also sign up kids for WIC,” a press release from the Wisconsin WIC Program reads. “Foster children and Kinship Care recipients under age five, and foster teens who are pregnant are eligible for WIC.”

According to the press release, applicants must meet four criteria to be eligible for WIC, including:

• Must live in Wisconsin

• Pregnant or breastfeeding women, women within the first six months postpartum, infants up to age one, or a child up to the age office

• Have a health or nutrition need

• Be income-eligible. All sources of gross income, including overtime, in the household before any deductions are made, including but not limited to, child support, unemployment, and Supplemental Security Income (SSI) payments.

The Wisconsin WIC program also assures WIC is “not planning to make any changes to the way in which participants receive their benefits” and benefits were being issued remotely to a participant’s WIC card.

“Grocery stores are especially busy and stock levels for WIC-approved foods may be low. Please be assured that this is not a food shortage,” the press release said. “Manufacturer warehouses are fully stocked, so WIC is encouraging participants to shop early in the morning to increase their likelihood of finding fully stocked shelves.”

As of April 10, Dreger said there hadn’t been any “drastic” increase in WIC program applicants.

Kayla Houp may be reached via email at [email protected]

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