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The Use and Impact of Federal Waivers During the COVID-19 Pandemic: Summary Findings From Surveys of WIC State and Local Agencies

Resource type
Research, Analysis & Background
Research type
Assessing/Improving Operations
Policy Analysis
Program Access
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Summary (191.66 KB)
PDF Icon Final Report (3.30 MB)

Under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act of 2020 (FFCRA, PL 116-127), the U.S. Department of Agriculture's (USDA) Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) had the authority to grant certain programmatic waivers to state agencies that administer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).

FNS issued waivers to provide flexibilities to requirements that could not be met as a result of the Coronavirus Disease 2019 (COVID-19) pandemic and support continued access to WIC services. By the time FFCRA waiver authority ended on Sept. 30, 2021, FNS had approved 16 types of WIC waivers and 831 individual waiver requests across the 89 WIC state agencies. This report summarizes details on the use and impact of these waivers.

Key Findings
  • For the majority of waivers, WIC state and local agency respondents indicated the waiver was either extremely or very important for ensuring participants received quality WIC services and WIC foods during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly by promoting social distancing and keeping participants and staff safe.
  • WIC state and local agencies reported that most of the waivers were at least slightly challenging to use, and the most commonly reported challenges were related to communication in a remote environment.
  • During the COVID-19 pandemic, WIC state agencies most frequently used physical presence (88 state agencies), remote benefit issuance (81 state agencies), and food package substitution (58 state agencies) waivers.
  • WIC state and local agencies supported the continued use of several waivers after the COVID-19 pandemic, such as physical presence, remote benefit issuance, food package substitution, and vendor routine monitoring.
Related Research

The following links are related reports on the use of FFCRA waivers in WIC during the COVID-19 pandemic:

Page updated: December 20, 2023