You wouldn’t think that financially challenged families would need any encouragement to seek more help during these very challenging times.

However, recently the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services [NCDHHS] was offering that encouragement loudly.

The department sent out a press release to media outlets across the state instructing everyone who qualifies to take full advantage of an add-on food program meant to especially help women and their children during the COVID-19 crisis.

“The [NCDHHS] is encouraging North Carolinians who are enrolled in the federal Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to use their food benefits during COVID-19 to support good nutrition for their families,” the release states. “All WIC participants are getting monthly food benefits automatically added to their eWIC account because of the pandemic.”

According to state officials, many of the program’s would-be beneficiaries in North Carolina haven’t been using their full food benefits each month since Friday, May 22 – the day the state ordered most people to state at home in response to COVID-19.

Since WIC allowances don’t roll over benefits from month to month, beneficiaries lose any food balance that they don’t spend during a month.

In addition to offering beefed up benefits this year, the state and federal government is also reducing the amount of red tape that individuals and families must cut through before getting benefits. On Friday, March 20, for instance, the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) of the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) waived the longstanding requirement that participants attend their appointments in-person at a local WIC clinic to renew their families’ food benefits each and every month. According to state officials, the change allowed both WIC beneficiaries and WIC clinic staff to “avoid unnecessary in-person contact during COVID-19, supporting states’ efforts to slow the spread of the virus.”

NCDHHS is also simultaneously working to increase awareness in the state that WIC food allowances are being auto-issued each month on participants’ family issue date so that North Carolinians can get the full benefits of the federal program. Families enrolled in WIC can download the Bnft App from Apple’s App Store or the Google Play store, and then can enable notifications to make sure they don’t miss an update to their eWIC account.

More information for WIC participants can be found on the department’s new Use Your WIC During COVID-19 digital flyer, which is available in English and Spanish.