New Funding for WIC Outreach
Welcome to WARMRegards! We’ve recently restarted our popular e-newsletter aimed at helping WIC agencies discover the latest developments in technology, applications, and tips-of-the-trade. It’s our goal to support you in reaching and retaining more WIC clients.
On March 11, President Biden signed into law the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021. This Act provides ample financial resources to WIC programs to enhance outreach and increase participation. The goal of the Act is to provide WIC benefits to a larger number of people during a time when many families are in need of assistance—this starts with reaching out to eligible non-WIC members to get them signed up for benefits. In this month’s newsletter, we’re going to look at some great outreach strategies you can incorporate in your clinic to increase your caseload.
Medicaid and SNAP Outreach
A lot of people who are on Medicaid or SNAP may not realize that they’re also eligible for WIC benefits. According to the USDA, the income requirement for WIC is automatically met in individuals who participate in Medicaid, SNAP, or TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families). This is because all of these programs have the same income standard, so meeting the requirements for one means meeting the requirements for all.
So how can you reach out to moms who participate in these programs to let them know they qualify for WIC? The easiest way to let prospective clients know about their eligibility is through text outreach. Check with your state’s Medicaid and SNAP agencies to see about getting a list of phone numbers you can use for texting about WIC benefits.
Busy moms might not know WIC benefits are available to them and might not be sure how to sign up. You can set up a simple webpage that provides clear information about requirements for WIC, as well as a portal to sign up. Make sure the webpage outlines the many ways moms, babies, and children benefit from WIC membership. Then, send a quick text message letting your prospective clients know about their eligibility and pointing them to that webpage. Certain texting programs can even direct people to their local WIC agency so their texts are handled by their nearest clinic.
Make sure to use a texting program that has the capacity to text all numbers during WIC’s business hours, so their questions are addressed immediately. It’s also helpful to include a link to your webpage or a method for people to respond. You can direct people to an encrypted chat app if they have personal questions they’d like to ask or if they need to share private health information. For example, a person might have personal questions involving their income and how it affects their eligibility—this would be a great opportunity to use an encrypted chat so their questions and your answers are kept private.
Another great way to increase your client base is to create targeted outreach programs aimed at the specific demographics in your area. According to a report by Wilder Research, many non-English speakers are unaware of their WIC eligibility status. Your clinic can overcome this obstacle by making sure websites, forms, text messages, and program information are available in multiple languages. It’s important to look at the cultural makeup of your community to be sure under-served populations are receiving outreach as well—not just those in the majority.
You could also consider hiring bilingual staff that can serve the various cultures represented by your potential client base. Often, the staff at a WIC clinic doesn’t necessarily match the cultural/ethnic makeup of the people served by the clinic. This lack of representation can create apprehension in moms who want to feel like their specific needs are being met. Having staff on hand that look like your clients and speak their language can help you create an inviting environment.
But what can you do if hiring bilingual staff isn’t possible in your area? If you can’t find people to fill the roles, you can use the new WIC outreach funding to offer text and chat programs in multiple languages to meet these needs. A busy Spanish-speaking mom isn’t going to have the time or patience to deal with an outreach text or appointment reminder that’s in English. Sending these texts in her native language allows her to understand the information and respond quickly without interrupting her busy life. Look for WIC translation services which are experienced in building the scripts needed for automated messaging.
Whether you’re dealing with prospective clients or current WIC members, the need to ask personal questions or share sensitive information may arise. People might be nervous about sharing this type of information online, which could hinder their ability to sign up for or receive benefits. Setting up a mobile chat app with text encryption allows you to communicate with clients or non-WIC members without risking the security of their private information. This is especially useful in areas where getting to a clinic might be difficult, or when working with moms who have scheduling conflicts. Your clients and prospective clients can still get the most out of your clinic, at their own convenience.
In a time when many families are struggling to make ends meet, access to healthcare information and food assistance can help them stay afloat. The new funding provided by the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 is meant to help WIC clinics increase their outreach programs to recruit more people into WIC so they can start receiving the benefits their families need as soon as possible. Take advantage of this funding to boost your outreach programs and increase your caseloads!
By Shela Ward
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