Many working families that struggle to put food on their tables may now be eligible to receive benefits from the Women, Infants and Children federal supplemental feeding program.
Income guidelines have increased again, which means more families can maintain benefits and additional families will receive assistance.
We dont tend to slow down our outreach because we want to get WIC out there, said Angel M. Carter, WIC coordinator for Jefferson, Lewis, St. Lawrence and Franklin counties. Were more aggressive to get the new guidelines out there to people.
As of the end of April, more than 10,500 people were actively enrolled in the program, with 5,499 in Jefferson County, 1,060 in Lewis County, 2,773 in St. Lawrence County and 1,181 in Franklin County. Mrs. Carter said those numbers are expected to increase as long as families dont just assume they are not eligible.
People just think its low-income and they assume they dont qualify, Mrs. Carter said. The majority of the gap is families working. We really try to stretch our hours in all four counties because working families do qualify.
During the first part of the year, families that do not qualify may be eligible once income guidelines increase.
The 2013-14 income guidelines will allow a family of two to have a gross annual income of $28,694, compared with the $27,991 in the 2012-13 fiscal year.
A family of three may have a gross annual income of $36,131, and a family of four can make up to $43,568.
The program is for pregnant women, breast-feeding mothers, infants and children up to age 5. Participants may receive food vouchers valued at more than $100 per person per month. Vouchers are good for fruit, vegetables, eggs, cheese, cereal, milk, juice and peanut butter.
Formula, infant cereal and juice also are available.
WIC participants also will receive a one-time $24 check to use at a local farmers market for fresh produce. That benefit is offered only during summer months.
More information, including income eligibility guidelines, is available by calling the following WIC offices: 782-9222 for Watertown, 376-6427 for Lowville, 386-8128 for Canton and 518-483-4262 for Malone.
Mrs. Carter said the value of vouchers may fluctuate to reflect the rising cost of food, but what program participants are allowed to get will not change.