WIC outage scheduled for this weekend – InkFreeNews.com
By Whitney Downard
Indiana Capital Chronicle
INDIANAPOLIS — Hoosiers who use supplemental food benefits under the Women, Infants and Children program will not be able to shop for groceries this weekend and will lose any benefits set to expire during that time.
Starting at 6 p.m. Friday, August 26, the entire process will come to a halt as the Indiana Department of Health updates its data warehousing system, with benefits expected to resume Monday, August 29. Meanwhile, vendors – such as grocery stores – will have to replace their outdated point-of-sale devices with new ones, which will process benefits under the new system.
“We know this is a major outage for our customers and suppliers, so we anticipate extensive communications ahead of the outage,” an Aug. 1 letter to suppliers said.
The letter included signage for stores to print and hang near cash registers.
In addition, the customer portal, the phone number on the back of the card and the app will not be available.
“We are migrating to a new platform to extend the capability of WIC electronic benefit transfer models into a new system called WIC Connect. The system uses a new portal that forces the supplier to change equipment; the timing is coordinated by provider EBT, which is implementing the change across all of its new WIC programs,” the Department of Health, which oversees the program, said in an email.
The department said it has notified customers via websites, social media posts and direct messages since announcing the change on August 1.
But customers using the service have decried the change online, noting existing limitations on buying allergen-free food and uneven participation from stores. For example, the state’s 582 WIC-approved stores do not include Aldi’s, a discount grocery chain, and neither Walgreens nor CVS, the major drugstore chains, have an eligible location in Indianapolis.
Recipient requests for comments were not returned by the deadline.
“We understand this is an inconvenience to customers and their ability to shop at the store, but doing so during the week would affect all clinics in the state and their ability to provide benefits and support customers,” the health department said.
For families using the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance program, their benefits will not be affected by the change in provider.
“If customers are in urgent need of food resources over the weekend, they can visit Indiana 211 Connect to find resources online, or dial 2-1-1 (866-211-9966) to speak to a navigator. community,” the health department said. by email. “They can also connect with Community Compass, which can guide families to statewide resources that include free meals, groceries and SNAP retailers during the outage.”
As designed, the WIC provides pregnant or breastfeeding parents with funding for nutritious foods, covering newborns up to one year after birth and children up to their fifth birthday. Health providers at the state’s 150 clinics perform an assessment to determine if an applicant is “nutritional risk” and if their income is eligible.
Some families already using SNAP, Medicaid, or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families are eligible. Otherwise, families can refer to state income guidelines to determine if they should apply.
A family of four earning less than $51,338 per year, or $4,279 per month, would qualify for benefits.
The Indiana Capital Chronicle is an independent, nonprofit news organization dedicated to providing Hoosiers with comprehensive insight into state government, politics and elections.
See original story posted here.