WIC Eligibility Requirements
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To satisfy WIC qualifications, a candidate must be eligible by four categories. Only families that meet the categorical, residential, income and nutritional risk requirements are fully qualified for WIC. How long a candidate is able to participate in the program depends on the severity of their need and whether they qualify for the priority list. The WIC program is intended for low-income women, infants and children, but any family can complete the WIC application process as long as at least one family member meets the categorical requirements.
To claim WIC benefits, an applicant must also provide proof of his or her address and collect cash assistance only from the nearest state office. There are 90 state agencies that administer WIC, and most of the continental United States only have one or two main WIC service offices. The eligibility standards are the same across all 90 offices, but some states offer preferences to certain categories of applicants. For example, Georgia offer priority to postpartum minors.
Categorical WIC Requirements
WIC food assistance is available to women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or have recently given birth. Infants and pregnant women who are underweight or suffer from other nutrition-related health conditions will qualify the family for priority placement. As per the program name, there are three categories of applicants who are eligible for WIC: women, infants and children. Children and infants are categorically differentiated by age. Infants are classified as 1 year of age or younger, and children are eligible if they are younger 5 years of age.
Pregnant mothers do not have to be married or have other children of age for the WIC to apply for benefits. To prove eligibility for WIC, a woman must be:
- Postpartum, up to six months after birth.
- Breastfeeding, up to the infant’s first birthday.
Postpartum mothers who want to sign up for WIC should know that the WIC program highly encourages breastfeeding, and women who are breastfeeding will be prioritized over non-breastfeeding, postpartum women.
Fathers can also apply for WIC, though they do not have categorical eligibility. Entire families benefit from nutrition assistance, and families qualify as long as one member of the family meet all the eligibility requirements. Fathers, step-parents, foster parents and legal guardians can all collect from WIC if they have a child under 5 years of age.
WIC Income Guidelines
WIC income limits are divided into three categories: Alaska, Hawaii and the 48 continental states plus D.C. These income limits are revised every financial year, and the latest set of requirements released by the United States Department of Agriculture cover mid-2018 to mid-2019. The federal income requirements are determined by family size and the national poverty level.
Find the WIC income requirements for your family by comparing your gross annual income to the latest set of established guidelines for family size. When considering family size, you should count pregnant women as two people. For WIC purposes, a family does not have to prove legal relationship.
To prove your WIC income eligibility, you will be required to provide documentation during the application process. To check the for the income guidelines your state, download our comprehensive guide.
Applicants who are already participating in other government programs have automatic income eligibility. Candidates enrolled in the following programs are WIC qualified:
- SNAP, also called food stamps.
Additionally, on a state-by-state basis, some WIC administration offices consider candidates automatically eligible if they are enrolled in certain state programs.
WIC Nutritional Risk Requirements
WIC guidelines require that candidates schedule a doctor’s appointment to estimate nutritional risk. The nutritional risk assessment is one of the most significant qualifications requirements and one of the prime ways that WIC differs from other food assistance programs. How WIC determines nutritional risk is a key part of applying for WIC and is necessary to establish eligibility.
Candidates can visit a WIC program location to see a nutritionist or doctor for free. They can also visit their own physician if they or their children feel more comfortable with a familiar doctor. Medical documentation from this doctor’s visit must be presented as evidence of risk during the application process. In order to receive WIC assistance, the categorically eligible member of the family must be the one who has the nutritional risk condition.
WIC nutrition risk is classified a medical or diet-related condition, such as anemia, a history of difficult pregnancy or a diagnosis of being underweight. Participants must have at least one of the conditions listed in the WIC manual to qualify. Further, the medical report must contain the candidate’s height, weight and bloodwork.
Where to Apply For WIC
WIC services will only be available to candidates from their nearest WIC agency. Applications must be submitted to the local office, and benefits may only be distributed from the correct agency. Luckily, there is no time requirement for how long a family must live in a certain service district to qualify for benefits there.
WIC program benefits may still be available to your family for the remainder of their participation period if you move. After moving, your family will be added to the top of their new state’s waiting list and will receive benefits again when the local office has additional benefits to give. If you are moving, you can perform the WIC benefits transfer process.
Who qualifies for WIC priority?
WIC assistance is offered quickest to families who have the highest priority need. The purpose of the priority system is to ensure that the participants who need WIC the most are allotted the highest urgency to their case. Priority is determined at the state agency office, and a candidate who has a certain priority level at one agency may not qualify for the same level at another.
There are seven levels of priority, and priority levels are dependent on income, age and medical conditions. State agencies may also choose to define the homeless as higher priority, but this is not a federal guideline. Priority I includes underweight pregnant women or infants and Priority VII includes current WIC participants who are at risk for medical or dietary conditions without WIC. To learn more about priority levels, download our free guide.