Bill to allow WIC funds be used for online grocery purchases, delivery fees advances

By: - December 1, 2023 6:57 am

The measure would also permit WIC participants to roll over their leftover benefits and use the funds to buy infant formula in containers of varying sizes. (Getty Images)

Online grocery orders and food delivery fees would be covered by a state program that provides food benefits to New Jerseyans under legislation advanced by lawmakers Thursday.

The bill would allow people receiving benefits under the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children — known as WIC — to use their monthly funds toward online food purchases. Currently, recipients must buy approved products in person.

Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera (D-Gloucester), chairwoman of the Assembly Women and Children Committee, said delivery charges from third-party apps like Instacart or DoorDash would be covered under the bill.

That sparked some criticism from Assemblywoman Aura Dunn (R-Morris), who expressed apprehension that WIC funds would go toward delivery fees. She suggested finding ways to ensure third-party services aren’t price-gouging.

“This is to fully protect households. We know the cost of food is exorbitant, and it’s getting harder and harder to make ends meet,” she said. “We just want to make sure that no one is exploiting these households.”

Other members of the committee noted that the bill would benefit homebound residents and mothers of young children.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight (D-Hudson) recalled receiving the benefits when she had her first child, and how overwhelming it was to shop at a grocery store while taking care of her baby.

“I do understand your concern,” she told Dunn, “but I do know there are many moms who love this because they don’t have a babysitter or they don’t have a car.”

The measure, which passed the full Senate unanimously in June, would also permit WIC participants to roll over their leftover benefits and use the funds to buy infant formula in containers of varying sizes. Under the current law, participants are limited to the size of formula purchases.

The committee advanced the bill Thursday with three yes votes and two abstentions.

 

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Sophie Nieto-Munoz
Sophie Nieto-Munoz

Sophie Nieto-Muñoz, a New Jersey native and former Trenton statehouse reporter for NJ.com, shined a spotlight on the state’s crumbling unemployment system and won several awards for investigative reporting from the New Jersey Press Association. She was a finalist for the Livingston Award for Young Journalists for her report on PetSmart's grooming practices, which was also recognized by the New York Press Club. Sophie speaks Spanish and is proud to connect to the Latinx community through her reporting.

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