The New WIC Card

The Massachusetts WIC Program is quickly moving forward on the development of an electronic benefit system that transforms the current WIC paper benefit process to a magnetic stripe card system. The new system, called the “WIC Card”, benefits WIC participants and retailers by delivering seamless WIC transactions at the cash register. WIC transactions will now work like other debit or credit card transactions, helping to remove any stigma for the WIC customer. The WIC Card also eliminates the paper handling and processing of WIC checks, removing check printing from the local program clinics and expediting payments to retailers. The WIC Card is the new way of delivering benefits to WIC participants in Massachusetts. The WIC Card will be piloted in July, 2014 with a statewide rollout in October, 2014. Additional advantages for participants and cashiers include:

  • Benefits for all family members are aggregated into one household account using a single card.
  • The system determines the valid use dates for benefits and whether food items are approved for purchase.
  • WIC items do not need to be separated by items on checks.
  • Participants no longer have to buy every item on a check or lose that benefit.

How does it work? When a food item is scanned into the cash register system, the UPC (the bar code on the item) is checked against an Approved Product List (APL) to determine if it is a product authorized by WIC. The system then determines if the household has a benefit for that item available for the current benefit period. This happens automatically in less than a second. The items purchased are removed from the account and the remaining items are saved for purchase at another time. Based on the experience of other states which have already implemented similar WIC electronic benefit transactions, using the WIC Card takes less time at the register and is more pleasant for participants and store clerks.

Behind the scenes, WIC staff are working diligently on:

  • Developing participant, retailer and staff materials for using the WIC Card.
  • Getting retail vendors ready to accept WIC Card transactions. Massachusetts WIC has scheduled retailer information sessions for the month of March 2014. The schedule and locations were emailed to all retailers and is posted below.

The New WIC CARD Informational Sessions

The Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program will be changing the way WIC foods are issued to participants — moving from WIC checks to an electronic WIC Card. WIC customers will use their WIC Card to purchase approved foods at authorized grocery stores.

We will be conducting WIC Card Informational sessions for currently authorized WIC vendors. The goal of these sessions is to get vendors prepared for the new WIC Card system. The sessions will be held at six different locations throughout Massachusetts. Attendance at one of these sessions is mandatory for WIC vendors to continue on the WIC Program.

Vendors play a critical role in the implementation of the WIC Card System; accordingly it is important that all stores participate in required sessions where WIC procedures and requirements are explained. Remember that attendance at these sessions is required by the FY2014 WIC Vendor Agreement, section 1.

Vendors in the pilot locations must attend the special session that has been designated for them. For all other vendors, we are recommending a session for you to attend based on the first two numbers of your WIC vendor stamp. If the first two numbers of your vendor stamp appears in multiple sessions, then you have the option to select which location is more convenient for you. Please plan to attend the session that we have recommended, unless you make other arrangements with the state WIC vendor staff. The morning sessions will begin at 9:45 and end at 12:00 while the afternoon sessions will begin at 1:00 and end at 3:00.

The sessions will cover:

  • What is the WIC Card?
  • How does it work?
  • Why now?
  • What’s the timeline for rollout?
  • What do I need to do?
  • Readiness Checklist
  • Next Steps

We look forward to working with you and are confident that the transition to the WIC Card will be smooth and result in better, more effective services for you, as a vendor, and our shared WIC customers. If you have any questions or concerns, please do not hesitate to call the vendor staff at 1-617-624-6100 or the WIC Retail Store Hotline at 1-800-552-9425.

Vendors

Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program has approximately 1000 authorized vendors, statewide, to accept WIC checks. These stores include large chains, medium independents, chain pharmacies, independent pharmacies, commissaries, and small neighborhood grocery/convenience stores.

WIC vendors ensure that WIC participants receive the correct type and amount of food in the month it is intended to be received. The vendor's role is critical and essential in making the Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program successful.

Annual Vendor Training

Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program: Vendor Training

The purpose of the Vendor Training is to ensure that all retailers are familiar with Massachusetts WIC Program policies and procedures and understand their WIC obligations, specifically how to:

  • Comply with the WIC Vendor Agreement
  • Process and transact a WIC check
  • Identify the WIC approved foods
  • Maintain sufficient varieties and quantities of the WIC Mandatory Minimum Inventory of WIC Approved foods
  • Treat WIC participants with respect and courtesy

Vendor Training certifies that retailers are aware of and understand the WIC Program Sanction Policy for vendor non-compliance and the different class violations. Non-compliance with or violation of the WIC Program Sanction Policy voids the vendor’s participation in the WIC Program. The training's listed below are mandated by USDA/FNS who oversees the WIC Program.

Active Vendors – Mandatory Annual Training

Active vendors are required to attend the Annual Vendor Training that is held every September and/or October, in order to renew their WIC Vendor Agreement with the Massachusetts WIC Nutrition Program. The local WIC program, in your community, conducts the Annual Vendor Training. Notifications, identifying the date of training, time and location, are mailed to each retailer in August and/or September. Failure to attend the Annual WIC Vendor Training will render your WIC Agreement null and void.

New Vendors – Mandatory Training

The Massachusetts WIC Vendor staff conducts monthly training for those vendors who have successfully completed the application process by meeting all the selection criteria for becoming a WIC authorized vendor. Award letters, identifying the date of training, time and location, are mailed out to these approved retailers. Failure to attend this training will render the retailer from not participating in the WIC Program.

Both the active and new vendor training sessions are conducted in English and Spanish. The store manager and/or employee designated to attend the training must be authorized to sign the WIC Vendor Agreement on behalf of the vendor and responsible for ensuring all other retail staff are appropriately trained.

Customized Training

Massachusetts WIC offers customized training to authorized retailers for their employees at the request of the retailer. These trainings are structured to meet the specific needs of the retailer and are held at the retailer’s location. Any retailer interested in this type of training must call the WIC Vendor Hotline at 1-800-552-9425 for arrange for a training.