Richmond County families using the WIC program to acquire baby formula, bread and other staples no longer will have to shuffle three months’ worth of paper vouchers at a time.
On March 19, those administering benefits to Women, Infants and Children will begin issuing plastic cards instead of the vouchers, part of a seven-month lout of electronic bank transfers statewide.
“It’s supposed to make things much easier for the WIC staff and WIC program, and the recipients,” said Dr. Tommy Jarrell, director of Richmond County’s Health Department, which administers WIC. Under the new eWIC system, “you don’t have to keep up with those vouchers.”
Families who receive Aid to Families with Dependent Children — once known as “food stamps” — began using EBT cards some years ago. But, Jarrell said, the WIC system wasn’t ready for that transformation until more recently, when the state upgraded its computer software. The state began piloting the WIC EBT rollout in October.
Because WIC recipients receive three months of vouchers at a time, not all Richmond County clients will receive their cards in March. Only those whose vouchers have run out will do so.
State WIC officials recently visited Richmond County, to bring staff members up to speed on changes within the system, Jarrell said Friday.
When clients begin receiving the WIC EBT cards, staff will educate them on the changes, handing out educational fliers and booklets along with the cards. Clients also will have the opportunity to learn personal identification numbers or “PINs” so no one else will have access to their accounts.
Because WIC limits the amounts and brands clients may purchase at any one time, the new cards will be programmed with those limits. Clients also won’t have to separate their purchases on the grocery store conveyor belt into WIC and non-WIC items. The card will sort that out and send updated benefits balances to clients’ smartphones.
WIC is a special supplemental nutrition program for Women, Infants and Children, including pregnant women, new mothers and children from infancy to age 5. Eligibility is based on income.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture pays for the program, which states administer.
Jarrell estimated that Richmond County served about 1,500 WIC clients.
Reach Christine Carroll at 910-817-2673 or [email protected]