After months of constant and bold WIC waiver advocacy and coalition building by NWA, USDA announced an extension of WIC flexibilities until thirty days after the end of the nationally-declared public health emergency. The next day, the House of Representatives advanced a continuing resolution that extends USDA waiver authority through September 30, 2021. This hard-fought extension is the result of dedicated advocacy by NWA and the WIC community, centering the health and safety of WIC participants, clinic staff, and families.
NWA remains committed to assisting state agencies and frontline providers with navigating the federal emergency response and delivering quality services throughout the pandemic.
USDA has extended the majority of approved waivers, relaxing statutory and regulatory requirements related to physical presence, remote benefit issuance, the food package, and additional options for pick-up of foods. These waivers will ensure that WIC can continue to provide remote or modified services that reduce in-person contact and protect families and clinic staff from COVID-19.
USDA did not extend a number of waivers related to state agency management of authorized vendors, including waivers of in-person vendor monitoring requirements. State agencies that wish to pursue further waivers on vendor monitoring must communicate their request to USDA.
Instead of a set deadline established by USDA, this decision connects WIC waivers with the public health emergency declaration, authorized under Section 319 of the Public Health Service Act. Section 319 also provides flexibilities for Medicare, Medicaid, CDC, SNAP, and other public health programs. This declaration must be renewed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services every 90 days. While the most recent declaration is set to expire in mid-October, the public health declaration will likely be renewed each quarter well into the 2021 calendar year.
After receiving significant input about the challenges of reopening clinics, USDA also extended waivers for a 30-day window after the expiration of a public health emergency. This window will provide an additional buffer for providers should the public health emergency expire prematurely.
Once the continuing resolution passes the Senate, USDA will have continued authority to extend waivers or approve new waivers until September 30, 2021. As the waivers are now attached to the public health emergency declaration, NWA will continue to communicate the ongoing need to the Secretary of Health and Human Services as quarterly extensions are considered. Should the public health emergency declaration expire prematurely before September 2021, USDA will have the authority to issue additional waivers.
Once waivers are phased out, WIC providers will have to comply with existing statutory and regulatory requirements. Most notably, WIC providers will have to resume in-person services. Nonetheless, NWA has been deeply engaged with state and local providers about the many innovations implemented throughout COVID-19. WIC providers need greater flexibility in clinic services and support in incorporating technology throughout the WIC experience. NWA is committed to a vision of WIC services that draws on lessons learned throughout COVID-19. Together, we will lift up this possible future for WIC through legislative and regulatory advocacy and programmatic innovation.
If you have any questions, please reach out to Brian Dittmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org.