Feds deny Snyder’s request to raise Flint WIC eligibility

Melissa Nann Burke
Detroit News Washington Bureau

The U.S. Department of Agriculture has rejected Michigan's request to increase access for Flint children ages 5 to 10 to the federal nutritional program for low-income women and children.

The state had made the request as part of its effort to help mitigate the negative effects of lead exposure in Flint's children, stemming from the ongoing public health emergency in the city.

“While we understand the state's desire to extend this important program to children up to age 10, the federal statute governing the (Women, Infants and Children program) limits eligibility to children up to age 5,” according to the rejection letter on Friday from the Midwest Region of the USDA.

“Any changes to WIC eligibility requirements would require congressional action."

Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder, in a statement on Saturday, asked the USDA to reconsider, saying while he understands that WIC funding does not normally cover children over 5, but the improved health and developmental growth that would result from better nutrition for lead-exposed children should allow for a waiver of the rule.

“I have strongly and continually stated that it is essential for all levels of government to work together to help Flint recover from this crisis, as it was all levels of government that failed Flint," Snyder said.

"We must draw on all resources possible and work cooperatively to meet the needs of the residents of Flint, both immediate and long-term."

The $28 million supplemental spending bill signed Friday by Snyder appropriated $957,000 the state health department to cover the requested WIC eligibility expansion, nutrition education and screening.