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Hundreds of thousands of New York families will lose WIC benefits if Congress follows through on cuts

  • / Updated:
  • Edwin Viera 

Congress’ proposed cuts to the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will have significant effects on New York families.

Should the cuts come to fruition, 328,000 families in the state could lose WIC benefits. Nationally, the cuts would affect more than 5 million families.

David Nemiroff, president and CEO of Harmony Health Care Long Island, said draconian cuts are the last thing WIC families need and argued WIC needs a boost in funding, not a cut.

“We haven’t seen a change in funding for nine years,” Nemiroff pointed out. “We have computers that are nine years old and they’re falling apart. It needs some basic infrastructure to manage the program and then it needs just dollars to support the people working in it. I believe, personally, an investment in WIC will reduce health care costs and other costs down the line when you have a good social safety net.”

The cuts are being proposed at a time when child food insecurity is on the rise. A report from the U.S. Department of Agriculture found around 9% of children were food insecure at different times during 2022, up from around 6% in 2021. The report also showed more than half of food insecure respondents were in one or more federal nutrition assistance programs like SNAP and WIC.

Inflation and the rising cost of living have only brought more people to the WIC program. Nemiroff noted the pandemic only broadened families need for WIC. He observed having a foot in both worlds of food assistance and health care demonstrated how one affects the other.

“When we were testing people for COVID, we were giving out food boxes because people had to isolate,” Nemiroff recounted. “WIC shot up in terms of people needing WIC benefits because they had to be home, and folks had trouble sometimes working because things had to be shut down.”

The Food Research and Action Center reported New York saw a 6% increase in people using WIC during the pandemic, and child participation was up 14%. Despite the numbers, the data show WIC is still not reaching enough people who need it.