I’ve been asking the bank for this report for a couple of weeks now, and I don’t have it yet. Without it, I don’t have what I consider to be essential information for monitoring most aspects of our supplemental food program. The bank people tell me that it’s impossible to produce a timely report when WIC is responsible for the delay. We used to have a pretty good relationship, but things are starting to get a little tense.
Emily Foster, Assistant Director for Food Delivery at the Women, Infants, and Children Program (WIC), was referring to WIC’s contract with National Bank, in which the bank provided space for three WIC Voucher Monitors, who screened WIC’s food and infant formula vouchers deposited by store owners in their bank accounts, and rejected violative vouchers. WIC routinely rejected 3,500 to 4,500 vouchers a month for violations, at an average voucher price of $7.60.
Data on valid payments and bounces (as rejections were called) were keyed into the bank’s computer system and became part of a comprehensive monthly report of food delivery activity in the WIC Program. The bank’s contract called for it to file the report for each month at WIC on or before the 21st day of the following month.
Vouchers were similar to checks. Issued to participants in the WIC Program, they were redeemed at authorized food stores, which deposited them directly in their bank accounts. Like regular checks they were cleared through the Federal Reserve System and were subject to a state law requiring payment within 24 hours. In fact, since the WIC Program was liable for payment of any voucher that was not cleared within the required 24 hours, they were assumed to be paid unless rejected by the WIC Voucher Monitors within the 24-hour period.
At one point that fall, WIC screening activity was 21 workdays behind schedule, and therefore vouchers that were found to be in violation of WIC redemption regulations were being rejected by the monitors as much as a month after the vendors had deposited them.
The Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants and Children was established in 1972 (with an amendment to the federal Child Nutrition Act of 1966) to provide supplemental foods to low-income, pregnant, postpartum, and nursing mothers, and to infants and children up to age 5 who were diagnosed to be at nutritional risk. (Standards for determining nutritional risk were defined by the United States Department of Agriculture and further refined by each state administering a program.) In addition to specially-prescribed foods, WIC also provided nutrition counseling, education, and access to health care.
WIC enjoyed strong bipartisan support in Congress. In fact, when funding for other nutrition programs was being cut in the early years of the first Reagan administration, WIC received a substantial increase. In hearings before the Senate Subcommittee on Nutrition, the Assistant Secretary of Agriculture testified:
[WIC] is amazingly cost-effective.Our 1982 budget contains a substantial increase for the program, primarily because several recent studies have demonstrated the value of the WIC Program. One study . . . found that the . . .
- Prepare a process flow analysis for the WIC Program. What problems, if any, does it reveal? What is the cost of these problems?
- What other operational problems does the WIC Program have? What must it do well if it is to be successful?
- What recommendations would you make to Ms. Foster?