PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) – People who receive Women, Infants & Children benefits are eligible to receive extra fruits and vegetables through March, thanks to funding from the American Rescue Plan Act.
The standard monthly benefit amounts for WIC fruits and vegetables are $9 per child and $11 per adult. But these increased benefits allow $24 for every child who’s older than 13 months, $43 for participants who are pregnant and who are not breastfeeding, and $47 for participants who are breastfeeding.
The extra benefits were scheduled to only last through December, but Congress recently decided to extend them.
“There hasn’t been an increase in many years. And so during the pandemic, there was definitely a higher need with some of the higher grocery prices right now. And so, I think that was really what drove the decision to continue this for an extra few months,” explained Tara Olson, Washington County WIC program supervisor.
While these extra benefits are exciting, Olson said more people could be taking advantage of them.
She said Washington County saw an increase in people applying for and receiving WIC benefits during the pandemic, but she knows there are qualified families out there who haven’t applied.
“If somebody is on Oregon Health Plan insurance or SNAP, food stamps benefits or Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, then they would automatically qualify for WIC,” she said.
She said the income guidelines to qualify are pretty generous. For example, a family of four qualifies if its monthly income is $4,086 or less.
She also pointed out that fathers, stepfathers or other guardians of kids under five can enroll their children.
Olson said that while WIC is often recognized as a food assistance program, it also offers a variety of other things to parents and caregivers such as breastfeeding support, nutrition and growth assessments, and it can help connect families with other forms of assistance and find insurance through Oregon Health Plan.
“Our funding is dependent on caseload. So the more people that participate, the more funding we get, the more good we can do for the community,” she said.
Olson said WIC officials are currently advocating for more benefits and she hopes the extra fruits and vegetables offered will extend beyond March, but it will be up to lawmakers.
To get access to the additional fruits and vegetables benefit, participants in Washington County can use their eWIC card.