|DATE:||April 14, 2023|
|SUBJECT:||FY 2023-2024 WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Implementation Grant – Notice of Funding Availability|
|TO:||All FNS Regional Offices
All WIC State Agencies
The American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (PL 117-2, ARPA) provided the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) with $390 million, available through fiscal year (FY) 2024, to carry out outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts to increase participation in and redemption of benefits in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC).
As part of the WIC innovation and modernization efforts to be funded under ARPA, FNS will fund non-competitive grants to WIC state agencies to complete projects aimed at improving the WIC shopping experience in FY 2023. If funds remain available in FY 2024, another round of applications will be accepted under this notice; FNS will inform state agencies prior to the application date. State agencies are strongly encouraged to identify their needs and apply in FY 2023. The primary goal of funded projects must be to improve the shopping experience, as evidenced by increasing the redemption of WIC benefits, improving customer satisfaction, and/or improving participant access to vendors, including for underserved communities and individuals.
This is an announcement of the availability of funds for project implementation grants to be awarded in FY 2023 and FY 2024 (pending funding availability) to WIC state agencies with proposed projects that meet the technical requirements outlined in this notice.
All 89 WIC state agencies are eligible to apply for grant funding under this announcement. Only one implementation grant application per state agency will be considered in either FY 2023 or FY 2024. This includes any applications submitted as a part of a multi-state agency collaboration. State agencies that receive implementation funding in FY 2023 are not eligible for additional implementation funding in FY 2024. However, state agencies that receive a planning grant in FY 2023 are eligible to receive an implementation grant in either FY 2023 or 2024 (pending funding availability), if they are otherwise eligible. State agencies must not apply for funding to work on the exact same activities through multiple grants. State agencies are eligible to apply for an implementation grant regardless of whether they received a prior WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Grant in FY 2022.
FNS expects to make awards up to $750,000 per state agency or per member of a multi-state agency collaboration. A lead state agency must be selected for a multi-state agency collaboration. FNS may elect to fund an application in its entirety, may limit funding to specific items of the proposals contained in an application, and/or may negotiate with proposed applicants to stay within available funding and/or the goals of the grant.
Funding of these implementation grant awards will be provided through the Grant Award/Letter of Credit process. The awards will be made via an FNS-529 Grant Award Agreement between FNS and the grantee, with accompanying terms and conditions. The grants will be awarded on a non-competitive basis, subject to the availability of federal funds. See the “How to Apply” section for application due dates.
Regional office GMAS will make funds available to state agencies for approved grants only after grant agreements are fully executed (i.e., FNS-529 signed by both FNS and the state agency).
FY 2023 Implementation Grants
The period of performance for FY 2023 funding is from July 10, 2023 through Sept. 30, 2025.
FY 2024 Implementation Grants
If funds remain available in FY 2024, the period of performance for any grants that are awarded will be from April 1, 2024 through Sept. 30, 2026.
As part of this grant opportunity, FNS will provide funding for implementation projects that aim to improve the WIC shopping experience. Projects should be examined for scalability and transferability to other WIC state agencies and, to the extent possible, project plans should be made available for scaling and transfer. Information on anticipated annual costs to operate and maintain the project after the grant period of performance and an explanation of how the project will continue to be used and funded by the grantee must be considered and included.
Project suggestions include, but are not limited to:
- Implementing or expanding self-checkout
- Providing shopping related resources to individuals with limited English proficiency(LEP), including translation of WIC approved food lists/cards into additional languages
- Helping WIC participants find supplemental foods in store (e.g., by improving shelf labels, working with vendors to develop a “store within a store” model where WIC-eligible products are grouped together, developing store maps, and/or coordinating strategic product placement, providing in person shopping training, implementing a shopping help hotline, developing video tutorials) Improving vendor customer service to WIC participants (e.g., through the development and/or deployment of WIC-specific cashier training programs and/or updating general vendor training curricula, to include customer service specific training)
- Making participant-centered changes to expand variety and choice, including improving approved product lists (APLs) and communication materials (e.g., state agency WIC-approved food lists/cards, websites)Improving UPC/PLU collection efforts to ensure that WIC approved foods are not rejected in the checkout line
- Improving vendor complaint reporting procedures to ensure meaningful, participant-centered resolutions
- Implementing online shopping solutions
- Implementing mobile pay solutions
- Enabling CVB use at farmers and farmers’ markets
- Please note a waiver request is required for state agencies choosing to implement CVB concurrently under this project: 7 CFR 246.12(b)
- Other innovative solutions to improve the WIC shopping experience
State agencies should use the Blueprint for WIC Online Ordering Projects (the Blueprint) for all online shopping projects. The Blueprint is an iterative, informational resource for statewide EBT WIC state agencies and their partners working to implement online ordering and internet based transaction projects.
As a part of this grant opportunity, FNS may consider state agency waiver requests to waive WIC legislation and federal regulations, consistent with the authority granted by ARPA. To request an ARPA waiver, state agencies must submit a written formal waiver request 45 days in advance of the submission of the grant application. Projects that require a waiver to implement will only be funded after a waiver request is submitted and approved.
The waiver request must include:
- A brief summary of the project
- A statement that reads as follows: “Consistent with American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 (PL 117-2), this project is intended to carry out an innovation and/or program modernization effort, to increase participation in and redemption of benefits in the program.”
- Anticipated start date (month/year) and completion date (month/year)
- The specific regulatory and/or statutory provision(s) requested to be waived to implement a successful project. For each regulatory and/or statutory provision requested to be waived, the state agency must provide:
- The rationale for the requested waiver, identifying why the regulatory/statutory requirement cannot be met within the project and the specific flexibilities requested
- How the state agency will ensure the waiver, if approved, will not risk the purpose or integrity of the WIC program
- As applicable, any additional documentation the state agency deems necessary to support the waiver request
FNS regional program offices will provide regional GMAS offices with waiver approval confirmation. Any required waivers must be approved before the state agency can receive a fully executed FNS-529 Grant Award Agreement. A state agency may only begin obligating funds once a fully executed FNS-529 Grant Agreement is in place.
To apply for a WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Implementation Grant, interested state agencies or multi-state agency collaborations (with one state agency identified as the lead) must submit their application via email to their respective FNS regional office grants management administrative services (GMAS) POC with cc: to the relevant regional office program staff listed below. State agencies must use the attachment FY 2023-2024 Non-Competitive WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Implementation Grant Proposal Template and ensure all information required under “Project Proposal” and “Budget Proposal” is included. Applications must be received no later than 11:59 PM Eastern Time by the deadlines outlined in the table below; late applications will not be considered.
|FY 2023 Deadline for Submission||FY 2024 Deadline for Submission
(pending funding availability)
|June 12, 2023||Feb. 13, 2024|
State agencies may reach out to their respective FNS regional office GMAS POC with questions or technical assistance requests when preparing the submission. The regional office GMAS will coordinate with the WIC program POC, as applicable. All Standard Forms (SF) listed below can be found on Grants.gov (where they must be opened in Adobe and saved as PDF) or as an attachment to this announcement. Please ensure all Standard Forms (SF-424, SF-424A, SF-424B, SF-LLL) have wet signatures (i.e., print, sign, and scan/email with application).
|FNS Regional Office||GMAS POC||WIC POC|
|Mid-Atlantic Regional Office||Howard.Lockstein@usda.gov||Jaime.VanLieu@usda.gov|
|Midwest Regional Office||Michael.Chambers@usda.gov||Kristina.Fox@usda.gov|
|Mountain Plains Regional Office||Deborah.Hammack@usda.gov||Sandra.Clark@usda.gov|
|Northeast Regional Office||Li.Liu@usda.gov||Michelle.D'Auria@usda.gov|
|Southeast Regional Office||Dionne.Bounds@usda.gov||Sandy.Benton-Davis@usda.gov|
|Southwest Regional Office||Jeff.Wingate@usda.gov||Darrell.Allen@usda.gov|
|Western Regional Office||Rebecca.Hobbs@usda.gov||Chad.Davis-Montgomery@usda.gov|
A complete application will include:
- Attachment FY 2023-2024 Non-Competitive WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Implementation Grant Proposal Template (to be completed by state agency or lead state agency in a multi-state agency collaboration
- SF-424 Application for Federal Assistance
- SF-424A Budget Information for Non-Construction Programs
- SF-424B Assurances for Non-Construction Programs
- SF-LLL Disclosure of Lobbying Activities
Please Note: FNS may adjust the award amount depending on the availability of funds. Additionally, for multi-state agency collaborations, the lead state agency will be responsible for the funds, which includes the submission of the SF-424 Application Package and all required reporting to FNS.
Grant Agreement: When awards are made, state agencies and FNS must sign an FNS-529 Grant and Cooperative Agreement Award form. A fully executed FNS-529 form, with accompanying terms and conditions, will serve as the official grant agreement. Grant funds will not be released to any state agency until the FNS-529 is returned with signature and can be fully executed.
Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA): The Catalog of Federal Domestic Assistance (CFDA) number for this grant project award is: 10.557.
Reporting: Selected applicants will be required to provide quarterly FNS-908 Performance Progress Reports and quarterly SF-425 Financial Status Reports.
FNS-908 Performance Progress Reports will be submitted via email to the regional office program POC in PDF form. Only pages 1-3 need to be completed. Page 1 contains the applicant’s information while pages 2 and 3 contain 8 questions that should be completed. State agencies are not required to complete anything beyond page 3, including the Program Activities and Objectives. This report must be submitted on a quarterly basis to the regional office program POC listed above. This report allows the grantee to provide periodic project updates to FNS to be reported to the Secretary of Agriculture in accordance with Executive Order 14058. Upon award, FNS will send instructions on completing the FNS-908 Performance Progress Report for these awards.
The SF-425, Financial Status Report must be submitted in FNS’ Food Program Reporting System (FPRS) on a quarterly basis. The title for this report is: PAN-WIC-ARPA-SHOP-IMPL.
Final reports will be required for both the FNS-908, Performance Progress Report, and the SF425, Financial Status Report 120 days after the period performance has ended. For the FNS-908, the grantee shall submit a final summary using the narrative portion of the FNS-908 to include evaluation results of the project as they relate to improving the shopping experience, as evidenced by increasing the redemption of WIC benefits, improving customer satisfaction, and/or improving participant access to vendors, including for underserved communities and individuals.
Throughout the course of the project, FNS will be conducting an evaluation of ARPA-funded projects on WIC outreach, innovation, and program modernization efforts. Per the WIC program regulations at 7 CFR 246.26(k), State and local WIC agencies and contractors must cooperate in studies and evaluations conducted by or on behalf of the Department, related to programs authorized under the Richard B. Russell National School Lunch Act and the Child Nutrition Act of 1966 (42 USC 1786). The grantee must participate in FNS-sponsored research related to the overarching evaluation of ARPA-funded WIC modernization that will be managed by the national program office; this evaluation may include surveys, interviews, and/or focus groups for grantees. The grantee must also be willing to participate in activities to share best practices, such as FNS regional office webinars, roundtables, conferences, etc.
Section 508 Compliance: Deliverables, systems developed, and any WIC shopper-facing technology must be designed to be Section 508 compliant (i.e., software/applications/sites are designed to be interoperable with assistive technology). Chapter 5 of the Revised Section 508 Standards and 255 Guidelines (access-board.gov), outlines the key components to achieve such accessibility and interoperability.
Grants will be awarded and managed by the FNS regional offices. The FNS regional program offices will provide ongoing technical assistance to state agencies via the quarterly FNS-908 Performance Progress Reports and the GMAS offices will provide quarterly reviews of the FNS-425 Financial Status Reports. These reports are designed to monitor the grantee’s project activities and ensure costs are within the WIC Shopping Experience Improvement Implementation Grant scope. Regional FNS program office staff may also provide periodic on-site and off-site technical assistance to provide evaluation and guidance on project activities and outputs as they relate to this project, including:
- Review of project plans and milestones;
- Review of project documents;
- Evaluation of technology, including systems and/or apps;
- Other technical assistance and program evaluation related to project objectives.
If you have questions on this grant opportunity, please contact your respective FNS regional office GMAS POC.
Director, Office of Innovation
Supplemental Nutrition and Safety Programs