May 14, 2024

Thriving PA Releases 2024 Fact Sheets for WIC Supplemental Nutrition Program

Thriving PA has released its 2024 state and county fact sheets for the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The fact sheets provide comprehensive data on WIC eligibility and participation.

Learn More

WIC plays an important role in providing essential nutrition to infants, toddlers, and pregnant and postpartum mothers. Children need access to nutrition to ensure that their growing bodies remain healthy and develop as they should.

Key data points from the 2024 fact sheets include:

  • Total WIC participation statewide is 180,885 individuals, or 61% of the eligible WIC population.
  • WIC participation rates have continued to grow since the program’s low in February 2022, when only 50% of eligible participants were enrolled.
  • Children ages one to five account for 55% of WIC participants, followed by infants at 23%.

WIC Anniversary

The release of the 2024 fact sheets coincides with the 50th anniversary of WIC in Pennsylvania. Services were first offered in Allegheny County in May 1974. Gov. Josh Shapiro’s administration recently celebrated the anniversary declaring May 2024 as WIC month in Pennsylvania.

For more information, view WIC state and county fact sheets on Thriving PA’s website.


July 6, 2023

State Budget Fails to Significantly Invest in Early Care and Education Amid Historic Labor Shortage

The principal partners of Early Learning Pennsylvania (ELPA), a statewide coalition of advocates focused on supporting young Pennsylvanians from birth to age five, recently issued the following statements regarding House Bill 611, which still awaits the signature of the Senate President Pro Tempore and Governor to become the enacted 2023-24 Pennsylvania state budget.

ELPA operates four issue-based advocacy campaigns: Pre-K for PA, Start Strong PA, Childhood Begins at Home and Thriving PA.

First Budget in a Decade to Not Expand Pre-K Counts and State Funding for Head Start

“The Pre-K for PA campaign is deeply disappointed by the failure to expand the state’s publicly funded pre-k programs – PA Pre-K Counts and the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program. When nearly 90,000 eligible 3- and 4-year-olds do not have access to these once-in-a-lifetime early learning opportunities, and pre-k and Head Start programs can’t keep teachers in their classrooms because of inadequate reimbursement rates, this budget bill is simply unacceptable.

Public investment in high-quality pre-k has historically been a consensus issue in Pennsylvania; aligning political parties, rural, urban and suburban communities, and families across the commonwealth on a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that improves the life chances of Pennsylvania’s children. In fact, a February 2023 Susquehanna Polling and Research poll showed that 98% of PA voters believe that early learning is important, and 78% of PA voters support increasing state funding to serve more eligible children in pre-k programs, which was an increase from 65% in 2022.

Unfortunately, HB 611 is a noticeable departure from a decade of growing investment in high-quality pre-k and threatens the stability of the early care and education sector and the futures of the 90,000 young children that lack access.”

With no new funding and all PA Pre-K Counts contracts up for renewal as part of a complete competitive rebid in FY 2023-24, Pre-K for PA urges the Shapiro Administration to maintain (to the greatest degree possible) the current per county slot allocation to ensure stability in access for our youngest learners.”

Budget Fails to Address Historic Labor Shortage & Furthers Impact on Working Families

“With a child care sector that is on the brink of collapse, the Start Strong PA Campaign is shocked by the lack of investment to address the child care teacher shortage in the state budget bill. Policymakers ignored calls from chambers of commerce, working parents, child care providers, military leaders and others to stabilize the sector by investing in child care wages. Failing to invest in the workforce, which supports all other sectors, will continue to harm the commonwealth’s children, working families and the overall economy.

HB 611 currently allocates slightly more than $100 million in new state funding to maintain the status quo in the child care system. This includes supporting the current child care subsidy caseload and utilization, as well as maintaining the increase in subsidy rates as one-time federal funding lapses. While maintaining the 60th percentile of market rates is important to help alleviate inflationary pressures on child care providers, it has not stabilized the child care workforce. This maintenance of effort of the subsidy system is simply woefully inadequate given the scale of the commonwealth’s child care crisis.

Across Pennsylvania, child care providers are closing classrooms and entire programs due to this historic child care teacher shortage. According to a February 2023 Start Strong PA survey of more than 1,000 child care providers across the state, 85% of responding providers had open and unfilled positions amounting to more than 3,600 open staff positions resulting in 1,500 closed classrooms, and a combined waitlist of more than 35,000 children.

Low wages within the child care sector are driving this staffing shortage. The average wage of a Pennsylvania child care teacher is less than $12.50/hour. At this earning potential, 21 percent of the child care workforce relies upon Medicaid for their health care coverage and SNAP to put food on the table. There is no county in the commonwealth where this wage covers the cost of living.

For families with young children, access to child care is a critical factor in their ability to go to work and ensure their children are in a safe and nurturing environment. Nearly 70 percent of all households with children younger than age 6 have all available caregivers in the workforce—that’s over 537,000 households.

For all other business sectors, the child care sector is the workforce behind the workforce. When families can’t get child care, their children suffer, their income drops and the state’s economy is shortchanged. In a time of severe labor shortages and billions in state budget surplus, the commonwealth’s failure to ensure parents have access to child care is a tragic outcome.

For all Pennsylvanians, when businesses aren’t fully staffed, or staff are unreliable due to lack of child care, they cannot produce goods or provide services, creating shortages and increasing prices. So, whether one has young children or not, Pennsylvania’s child care crisis should matter to all of us.”

Infant and Toddler Early Intervention and Maternal Health Increases Included in Budget

“The budget bill also contains an increase of $15.4 million for Infant and Toddler (Part C) Early Intervention in the Department of Human Services budget. This is short of Governor Shapiro’s March budget proposal, which called for a $20.2 million increase. While the additional $15.4 million will serve more children and sustain a rate increase initially achieved through one-time federal stimulus funding, Thriving PA is disappointed more was not done to support the Early Intervention system holistically. This includes solutions to address workforce shortages needed to create a viable and sustained service delivery platform.

Additionally, Preschool (Part B) Early Intervention received a $10.4 million increase in the Department of Education budget, which was what Governor Shapiro included in his March request.

A $2.3 million increase in the Department of Health budget was included in HB 611 in order to implement recommendations included in the Maternal Mortality Review Commission report. Thriving PA appreciates support for these funds, which will help address maternal mortality and morbidity in Pennsylvania.”


House Bill 611, which is not yet the enacted 2023-24 Pennsylvania state budget, includes:

  • Level funding for the state’s Pre-K Counts program.
  • Level funding for the Head Start Supplemental Assistance Program.
  • Increase of $103,747,000 to maintain the status quo in the child care subsidy program (increases of $13,370,000 million for the state
  • Child Care Assistance line item and $90,377,000 million for the Child Care Services line item).
  • Level-funding for evidence-based home visiting in the Community-Based Family Center line item and $25,000 for the Nurse-Family
  • Partnership line item, which is a technical adjustment from previously enhanced federal matching funds.
  • $15.4 million for the Early Intervention Part C (infants and toddlers) program through DHS.
  • $10.4 million for the Early Intervention Part B (age-three-to-five) program through PDE.

Start Strong PA Message to Early Care and Education Professionals, Families, and Advocates

Early Care and Education Professionals, Families, and Advocates:

You raised your voices time and time again. Our data was strong and compelling, but policymakers have ignored calls from working parents, child care providers, chambers of commerce, military leaders, and others urging investment in child care wages to stabilize the workforce.

We feel your frustration and will soon give you an efficient way of communicating with your elected officials about how our child care crisis continues to impact you, your program, the families you serve, and our communities at large.

Learn More

To learn more, visit the websites for any of the ELPA campaigns:


Information for this post was taken directly from the Pre-K for PA press release. Some text may have been added, paraphrased, or adapted for readability and comprehension.

Related Content & Resources


February 22, 2023

ELPA Poll Shows Strong Support for Investments into Early Childhood

A new poll, commissioned by the Early Learning PA Coalition and conducted by Susquehanna Polling and Research from February 1 – 7, 2023, found that 98% of PA voters believe that early childhood education is important. The poll also showed strong voter support for increased investment for early care and education programs like pre-k, high-quality child care and home visiting services.

There has been significant growth in voter’s overall support from a June 2022 poll, where 90% of voters said they found early childhood education to be important.

Poll Details

Partners of the Early Learning PA Coalition released the new polling data on voter support for early childhood care and education programs during a press conference held on Tuesday, February, 21, 2023 at the Capitol Rotunda in Harrisburg, PA.

According to the poll:

  • 78% of PA voters support increasing state funding to serve more eligible children in pre-k programs, which is an increase from 65% in 2022;
  • 78% of PA voters also support increasing state funding to help more low-income working families afford high-quality child care, up from 67% in 2022;
  • 68% of PA voters support increasing state funding to provide voluntary home visiting services to eligible families , up from 60% in 2022; and
  • 81% of PA voters favor allocating state funding to increase wages of child care workers.

“As we start budget season here in Harrisburg, the partners of the Early Learning PA Coalition urge Governor Shapiro and all members of the General Assembly to respond to this level of voter support for growing the Commonwealth’s investments in early care and education,” said Kristen Rotz, President of the United Way of Pennsylvania and principal partner in the Early Learning PA Coalition. “Pennsylvania must make these programs more accessible to children and families that qualify and further stabilize and strengthen the system by addressing historic teacher shortages caused by low wages.” said Rotz.

Visit the Pre-K for PA Facebook page to watch the February 21, 2023 press conference in full.


January 19, 2023

Thriving PA Releases Report on WIC Participants and Access to Benefits

Thriving PA has released a report on the results of focus group sessions with Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) program participants.

Entitled, “WIC Participants Encourage Improvements to Remove Barriers to Access,” the report reveals value in key elements of the WIC program and a need to increase program accessibility.


Thriving PA partnered with eight community-based organizations, including Trying Together, to recruit and facilitate focus group sessions. The results in the report are part of a continuous feedback loop with these organizations and session participants.

Summary of Findings

WIC Program Strengths

  • Participants valued information on nutrition and health education provided at WIC clinics during appointments. Information on the breastfeeding program proved especially important.
  • Participants are hopeful the increased monthly produce benefits (resulting from a congressional response to the COVID-19 pandemic) will continue even when the public health emergency ends.
  • Participants considered the ability to use vouchers for fresh fruits and vegetables at farmer’s markets as a significant strength of the program.

Barriers to WIC Program Benefits

  • Participants expressed difficulty getting to WIC offices during clinic hours. They included distance, gas prices, and inability to obtain child care as barriers to attending appointments.
  • Because participants must visit WIC clinics to get their EBT benefits reloaded every three months, they describe in-person requirements are challenging.
  • Participants feel the length of certification is too short and annual recertification is too frequent.
  • Participants shared frustrations with the food options that are eligible for WIC, including sizing and diversity restrictions. Participants identified a need for an updated package that meets current nutritional standards.
  • Participants had trouble determining what items were WIC approved in stores and said item identification and checkout need to be addressed to ensure smoother transactions.
  • Participants expressed a desire for improvement in staff interactions at WIC clinics, as well as improved communication.
  • Participants said they felt deterred by the stigma and shame associated with participation in WIC, especially during the checkout process.

Thriving PA Recommendations

  • Make permanent the flexibilities given to the program during the COVID-19 pandemic, which have allowed WIC agencies to adapt to families’ needs, and modernize current technology to provide the best user experience.
  • Advance the transition to an online system as quickly as is feasible.
  • Create a state-specific mobile app that would allow specific benefit information to be open to participants.
  • Integrate WIC into COMPASS, which will allow eligibility and enrollment processes to be much more straightforward and easy for eligible individuals to access benefits.
  • Explore more modern methods for outreach to capture more eligible WIC participants and educate community-based organizations,
    health care professionals, home visitors, and other service providers about the WIC program.
  • Make significant vendor improvements, including care coordination, support for workforce development, federal food package updates, federal eligibility expansion, and federal relaxation of the physical presence requirement.

Learn More

Read the full report to learn more.



May 10, 2022

WIC Family Engagement Listening Session

Thriving PA, in collaboration with Pennsylvania Partnerships for Children, Allies for Children, United Way of Pennsylvania, Greater Philadelphia Coalition Against Hunger and Pennsylvania’s Prenatal-to-Age-Three Collaborative, is interested in engaging communities to hear from women, families, and present and former clients of the Pennsylvania Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).

Present and former clients of WIC are invited to a Family Engagement Listening Session on Monday, May 23, from 6 – 8 p.m.

At this event, participants will have the opportunity to talk about their experience with WIC in a small group setting and completely virtual. For decades WIC participation has been declining in Pennsylvania. Thriving PA wants to hear about the barriers and challenges you faced while accessing the program, as well as solutions that would make your experience more valuable.

The first 25 registrants will get a $25 gift card for their time. Register now.