06.22.20

Senate Agriculture Committee Urges Secretary Perdue to Extend WIC Flexibilities

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senate Committee on Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry Chairman Pat Roberts, R-Kan., and Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow, D-Mich., wrote to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue requesting the extension of existing flexibilities for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) through September 30, 2020, as authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

“We appreciate the Department’s actions to utilize administrative authorities as well as to implement temporary, emergency authorities provided by Congress in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to waive certain regulations in order to more effectively feed children during school closures and support social distancing,” wrote the Senators.

“WIC program flexibilities granted by the Department for the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, through state agencies, have helped eligible pregnant women, mothers, and their infants and young children access and use food benefits while navigating social-distancing protocols of their own, as well as those followed by state agencies, health providers, and vendors.”

“Extending these existing state-based waivers through September 30, 2020, would provide certainty and availability to WIC participants, providers and vendors navigating variable phased re-opening procedures across public, private, and health sectors.”

The bipartisan letter was signed by several members of the Committee, including: Michael Bennet, D-Colo.; John Boozman, R-Ark.; Mike Braun, R-Ind.; Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio; Bob Casey, D-Penn.; Dick Durbin, D-Ill.; Joni Ernst, R-Iowa; Deb Fischer, R-Neb.; Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y.; Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa; Cindy Hyde-Smith, R-Miss.; Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn.; Pat Leahy, D-Vt.; Kelly Loeffler, R-Ga.; Tina Smith, D-Minn.; and John Thune, R-S.D.

The full text of the letter to U.S. Agriculture Secretary Sonny Perdue is below. A PDF of the letter is available here

Dear Secretary Perdue:

We write today regarding flexibilities provided by Congress, issued by the Secretary of

Agriculture, and utilized by state agencies and other stakeholders to continue feeding those in need during this COVID-19 pandemic emergency period. We appreciate the Department’s recent extension of several of those flexibilities, most notably, existing school and summer feeding program waivers.

Therefore, we ask for your continued, shared commitment in providing certainty for those served by the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) by also extending existing WIC program flexibilities, provided through emergency measures through September 30, 2020, as authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act.

We appreciate the Department’s actions to utilize administrative authorities as well as to implement temporary, emergency authorities provided by Congress in the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act to waive certain regulations in order to more effectively feed children during school closures and support social distancing.

WIC program flexibilities granted by the Department for the COVID-19 pandemic emergency, through state agencies, have helped eligible pregnant women, mothers, and their infants and young children access and use food benefits while navigating social-distancing protocols of their own, as well as those followed by state agencies, health providers, and vendors. Some examples include temporarily: allowing remote and extended benefits issuance to reduce in person paperwork exchanges; suspending the “physical presence” requirement prior to enrollment or re-enrollment to reduce unnecessary in-person visits to state agency or clinic offices, and allowing vendor food substitution and stocking flexibility. Month to month extensions are challenging for states to plan effectively and increase administrative burden.

Extending these existing state-based waivers through September 30, 2020, would provide certainty and availability to WIC participants, providers and vendors navigating variable phased re-opening procedures across public, private, and health sectors.

We appreciate the Food and Nutrition Service’s continued efforts to address this unprecedented challenge, and we encourage the agency to continue engaging with state agencies, participants and stakeholders during this pandemic emergency situation.

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Press Contact

Meghan Cline (Roberts): 202-224-2035

Jess McCarron (Stabenow): 202-224-1437