#wakeupwednesday: snap and wic

Wednesday, May 6, 2020

Hello and welcome to #WakeUpWednesday, a segment where I scream into the blackhole of social media about things we should know. A few weeks ago on IG we discussed SNAP and WIC due to a PSA a lot of us saw floating around social media, and this post incorporates the original information with info/feedback collected from readers. The PSA encouraged people who do not rely on SNAP or WIC benefits to avoid shopping on the first week of the month since this is when benefits hit recipients' accounts, and to avoid buying to WIC qualified items. It's important (for a lot of reasons) to understand what all of this is and how it works.

Immigrant Families Appear to be Dropping Out of Food Stamps (Politico)
The Trump administration plans to kick 700,000 off food stamps during a pandemic (Vox)

The Basics
  • SNAP (aka Food Stamps): Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program. Federally funded program run by the USDA.
  • WIC:  The Special Supplemental Program for Women, Infants, and Children. Federally funded program run by the USDA.
Who Qualifies
  • SNAP: Can vary by state but generally a single monthly income of $1,287 or two people in the household with a combined income of $1,726. You may have $2250 in countable resources (i.e. a bank account). 
  • WIC: WIC provides assistance for pregnant women, new moms (up to six months post-partum), infants (up to first birthday) and children (up to fifth birthday) whose income is at or below 185% of the US poverty guidelines.  
How It Works
  • SNAP: Individuals/families receive a plastic card (Electronic Benefits Transfer aka EBT card) that is used as a debit card and has funds added monthly. Card restrictions prevent users from purchasing anything BUT food - EBT cards cannot purchase tobacco, alcohol, pet food, hot food, prepared food, vitamins, etc. Most states have different windows for distribution, not just the first of the month.
  • WIC: Individuals/families receive vouchers or checks to be used at local grocery stores and farmer's market for WIC-approved items only as indicated by a little sticker (below). WIC approves nutritionally fortified foods and provides nutrition education, breastfeeding support and social services. 

Why this matters
This is a HUGE topic in policy and election conversations. It's important to understand what it really is, who it benefits, and how it works to make sure you can make informed votes. Hot topics in policy conversations include:
  • Undocumented immigrants qualifying for benefits
  • Tightening the requirements for beneficiaries (on April 1 as the pandemic took over and the US experienced unprecedented unemployment levels, the Trump administration quietly enacted a requirement that any able-bodied SNAP recipient without kids will be required to work 20 hours per week. Where are people finding work right now? Won't this force people into unsafe conditions that further spread the virus by trying to meet the minimum?) 
  • Should recipients be required to pass a drug test to receive benefits?
  • Should employment be required to receive benefits? 
We had an intense conversation about this over Instagram that includes debates around drug testing/work requirements, WIC qualification, and misperceptions. This conversatoin is in my highlights under #WakeUp. 

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