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Changes in WIC Operations During the COVID-19 Pandemic: A First Look at the Impact of Federal Waivers

Resource type
Research type
Assessing/Improving Operations
Policy Analysis
Program Access
Resource Materials
PDF Icon Preliminary Report (318.62 KB)

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, the USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) granted certain programmatic waivers to state agencies that administer the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The purpose of these waivers was to provide flexibilities to program requirements that state agencies could not meet due to the COVID-19 pandemic and that were needed to enable continued access to WIC services.

This preliminary report summarizes key changes, improvements, and challenges to WIC operations delivered under the physical presence and remote benefit issuance waivers, the two most commonly used waiver types, as reported by state and local WIC agencies. These findings represent a first, high-level look at survey data collected from state and local WIC agencies to fulfill reporting requirements for waivers issued under the Families First Coronavirus Response Act (FFCRA). Further reporting, including findings on the impacts of other FFCRA WIC waivers, will be published in a forthcoming report.

Key findings include:
  • In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, nearly all WIC local agencies (99 percent) conducted certification appointments remotely (up from 12 percent prior to the pandemic) using the flexibilities under the physical presence waiver.
  • Nearly all local agencies (99 percent) offered certification appointments by telephone, 22 percent continued to offer in-person appointments, and 11 percent used video call platforms.
  • All, or nearly all, state agencies reported that the physical presence and remote benefit issuance waivers made WIC safer, more accessible, and more convenient for participants’ schedules during the pandemic.
  • Overall, 82 percent of local agencies reported the transition to remote appointments was at least slightly challenging, though only 5 percent found it very challenging or extremely challenging. In particular, 71 percent of local agencies reported that getting in touch with WIC participants remotely was a challenge.
Page updated: November 15, 2023