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Rep. Hayes introduces legislation to remove barriers for women and children enrolled in WIC

WIC, created to ensure low-income mothers can afford food, is crucial to help infants and children up to the age of 5 with the nutrition needed for healthy growth.

WASHINGTON D.C., DC — New legislation introduced by two congresswomen is taking aim at barriers to a nutritional program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). 

Congresswoman Jahana Hayes and Congresswoman Jenniffer González-Colón introduced the WIC for Kids Act this week.

Hayes said that removing barriers would ensure millions of eligible mothers and children are able to get on the WIC Program and stay there while they need it. 

WIC, created to ensure low-income mothers can afford food, is crucial to help infants and children up to the age of 5 with the nutrition needed for healthy growth.

Hayes said the current retention rate for WIC participants is low due to the long process of getting recertified.

The process can include income documentation with in-person verification at a clinic, pay stubs, tax returns, income verification letters, utility bills, and rent receipts. 

With all of that, Hayes said that the process can sometimes require several trips to a clinic, which isn't always an option for struggling families. 

The WIC for Kids Act takes aim at the arduous process, working to make it quick and easy for families to reapply. 

Hayes said the Act is similar to enrolling in WIC through adjunctive eligibility, which is a one-minute process that requires a WIC participant to present their Medicaid card or demonstrate a receipt of SNAP or TANF benefits. 

According to Hayes, working off the other model of enrollment, it would also cut down on administrative cost and burden for WIC staff. 

The bill confers automatic eligibility for WIC for mothers and children who:

  • Reside in a household in which a member participates in SNAP
  • Participate in the State Children’s Health Insurance Program
  • Participate in Head Start or reside in a household in which one or more children are enrolled in Head Start.
  • Reside in a household that participates in Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations
  • Are members of a family of a pregnant woman, postpartum woman, infant, or child that receives medical assistance from Medicaid or the state Children’s Health Insurance Program.
  • The bill also allows for certification periods to be adjusted to help align family certification periods, and directs states to include a plan on how they will serve kinship families as part of their state plans.

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“Congresswoman Chisholm dedicated her life’s work to uplifting families in poverty and underrepresented communities. It has been a humbling experience to continue her work as Chair of the Nutrition, Oversight and Department Operations Subcommittee," said Hayes. "I introduced the WIC for Kids Act of 2021 to make it less burdensome on families to enroll in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) by streamlining the process and providing automatic eligibility for WIC when families have documented eligibility in other programs. It has been demonstrated that WIC improves the health of children, benefits local economies, and promotes lifelong healthy habits. However, millions of mothers and children who are eligible for WIC do not access the benefit. In fact, only 56.9 percent of eligible Americans participate in WIC, with a 30 percent decrease in retention of children in the program from 0-5 years old."

This is not the first bill that Hayes has introduced that would help with childhood hunger and food insecurity. 

In June, Hayes introduced the CARE for Kids Act, which would make sure that local education agencies can provide automatic eligibility for children who face food insecurity.

Congresswoman Hayes said she a personal connection with this act, she was raised by her grandmother and understands the need for free and reduced meals from school.

RELATED: Gov. Lamont calls on eligible children to participate in summer meal programs

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