Alabama’s WIC program transitioning to electronic transfer cards
State Health Officer Dr. Scott Harris announced the beginning of Alabama’s eWIC pilot project which will be launched in two phases starting today. Participants in the Alabama WIC Program in Autauga, Elmore and Montgomery counties are being issued the state’s first eWIC electronic benefit transfer cards.
WIC is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Services. The mission of the WIC Program is to improve the health and nutritional status of women, infants and children during critical times of growth and development.
Through this new system, benefits for WIC-approved foods are automatically entered onto a card that is similar to a debit card. This card replaces the current paper-based food instruments and cash-value vouchers which are redeemed at WIC-authorized stores statewide. Each month more than 120,000 Alabama participants at nutritional risk receive WIC benefits through all county health departments and with two private local agencies. There are currently 638 WIC-authorized stores in the state. In 2018, participants redeemed almost $97 million in food instruments at WIC-authorized stores statewide.
Alabama WIC Program Director Amanda Martin said, “I want to thank all of the program staff that have been involved with eWIC implementation and our clinic staff who see participants daily to provide WIC services. We have been working towards this milestone since 2009 and are extremely happy to begin this pilot.”
Recognizing the value of eWIC, the federal Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 mandates that each state WIC agency implement an electronic benefit transfer system throughout the state by October 1, 2020.
Stacey Neumann, WIC Vendor Management director and eWIC project manager, said, “We are very excited to begin our eWIC pilot. Vendor enablement is a key piece to implementing eWIC. I want to thank all our authorized WIC vendors for their hard work in preparing for eWIC implementation.”
EWIC will bring many benefits to WIC participants and authorized WIC vendors. These benefits include:
- Less stigma for the WIC participants
- Smoother transaction at the register
- Reduced time “in lane”
- Automatic electronic payments to the vendors
Ellie Taylor, Alabama Grocers Association president, said, “AGA was proud to partner with the Alabama Department of Public Health, WIC Division, on the planning and implementation of eWIC in our state. For retailers and WIC participants, eWIC will be a tremendous improvement to the overall shopping experience with smoother transactions at the register, streamlining of processing, and reduced checkout times. Our retailers are excited to move forward with eWIC as we continue to offer quality customer service to all Alabama consumers.”
The second phase of the eWIC rollout will begin April 1, and includes the remainder of the counties in the East Central and the Northeastern districts of the Alabama Department of Public Health. These are Blount, Bullock, Calhoun, Chambers, Cherokee, Clay, Cleburne, DeKalb, Etowah, Lee, Lowndes, Macon, Randolph, Russell, St. Clair, Shelby, Talladega and Tallapoosa counties. The pilot area has 36,000 participants, 27 clinics and 192 authorized WIC vendors.
After the pilot, implementation in other districts is scheduled as follows:
- June: Northern District (approximately 24,961 participants, 15 clinics, 143 WIC vendors)
- July: West Central and Jefferson Districts (approximately 24,967 participants, 20 clinics, 130 WIC vendors)
- August: Southeastern, Mobile and Southwestern Districts (approximately 34,292 participants, 35 clinics, 174 WIC vendors)
Contact your county health department for more information or visit alabamapublichealth.gov/WIC.
eWIC Transaction at Eastbrook Food Outlet in Montgomery, Alabama