Marianne Miner- WIC Vendor Management Liaison
Community Resource Center
Marianne arrives at CEO’s Community Resource Center in Troy and gets ready for her day. WIC Vendor Management Liaisons work closely with vendors across 39 counties in New York State helping to train, evaluate, and support vendors who accept WIC benefits. There are three Vendor Liaisons in the Troy office, and another two in a satellite office in Oneida. With over 450 vendors spread across the service area, the job requires a lot of travel. Liaisons have three dedicated travel days a week: Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday. Mondays and Fridays they spend in the office.
Since today is Monday, Marianne gets right to work processing paperwork from the training on Friday in Saratoga County. During that training Marianne assisted in educating the 20 attending vendors on rules and regulations related to providing WIC approved foods redeemable with WIC benefit checks or eWIC debit cards. Each county gets trained on a twelve month rotation with specific training materials provided by the New York State Department of Health.
CEO’s WIC Vendor Management (WIC VM) office manages vendors as south as the Poughkeepsie/Newburgh area in Dutchess County and all the way to the Canadian border in Clinton County. In the west, their coverage area extends to Schuyler County. Due to the large footprint of coverage, trainings/monitorings can sometimes require overnights.
Tomorrow Marianne is traveling to monitor three different vendors in Warren County, so she transitions to working on pre-monitoring tasks. She spends some time going through records in the NYS reporting systems to assess past performance. If challenges are identified, Marianne would arrive at the vendor ready to discuss resolutions that are aligned with regulations. Or if they are a high performer, she will discuss their successes.
WIC vendors vary in size from one register mom-and-pop stores to over 50 register corporate chains. Marianne notes she’s visited everything from gas stations and convenience stores, to smaller IGAs and large Hannaford, PriceChopper/Market 32, and Walmart stores. The goal when conducting vendor mointorings is to ensure program compliance, educate if needed, and to offer technical assistance. Most importantly, WIC VMA wants to ensure that vendors are providing quality WIC services to the community.
Marianne drops off the agency vehicle at a mechanic for an oil change. With the amount of travel the liaisons do on a given week, each has access to an agency vehicle. This week alone, the three liaisons in the Troy office will be covering training/monitoring in Oneida, Warren, Cayuga, Lewis & Jefferson counties.
Marianne and the other staff in the WIC VMA office eat lunch together. With so much travel happening in the office, it’s nice when everyone can sit down together. Marianne has been working for CEO for nine years. She started in an Early Head Start classroom as a Teacher Assistant before becoming WIC VM’s Administrative Assistant. She just recently transitioned to the liaison position and has been enjoying the change of pace so far.
After lunch Marianne calls a vendor to talk about the re-application process. Current WIC vendors have to reapply every three years for renewed authorization. Contract term dates are based on cohorts, there are currently six throughout New York State. This particular vendor hadn’t returned the contract documents yet, and Marianne talked him through next steps to avoid contract expiration.
Contracts can be terminated by either WIC VMA or the vendor. Vendors that fail more than two monitoring visits or do not attend trainings are put in jeopardy of contract termination. On the vendor side, contracts are most frequently terminated when a vendor sells the business. The application process is tied to a specific owner and includes a background check, so the contracts can’t be transferred with a sale.
Marianne works with a new vendor applying to the WIC VMA program. The vendor, located in Onondaga County, is in an identified high need area. This particular vendor appears to meet minimum enrollments standards, so Marianne will send him additional guidance and documents so he can move his application forward towards program enrollment. All newly applying vendors must meet a stringent enrollment process that takes on average, 4-6 months to complete.
After helping with the new application, Marianne fields a complaint from a WIC participant against a vendor. Typically the complaints that come in fall into four categories: a vendor not having appropriate stock, a vendor not allowing a customer to use her WIC benefits to obtain a particular item, a customer service complaint, or the need for participant education. There is a bit of a discrepancy between required stock and desired stock. Because of this, Liaisons thoroughly review all complaints to determine validity. WIC VMA keeps detailed logs on all complaints and shares the outcomes with both the Local Agency Directors as well as NYS VMA staff.
“Being a WIC Vendor isn’t a money making business” says Marianne, “a lot of times they want to provide this service for the community.” Keeping that in mind makes it easier for the WIC VMA team to help resolve disputes and educate both vendors and participants on processes and regulations.
Marianne takes care of any last minute preparations needed for tomorrow’s monitoring sessions in Warren County. Throughout the day she’ll be going to the vendor stores, ensuring compliance. Minimum stock requirements dictate contracted vendors must stock certain foods/formula in specific quantities and sizes at all times. She’ll also check for expired food, cleanliness, and take a look through checks to make sure everything is all set with the redemption process. She will also go through a series of questions to determine the vendor’s best practices.
Before heading out at 4:30, Marianne checks her email one last time and answers a few related to booking a training coming up. With each training session, WIC VM spends a good deal of time arranging the space, practicing the training, and confirming RSVPs for vendors in the corresponding county.
What is your favorite part of your job?
“The travel! After being an administrative assistant in this office, it’s really nice to get out and be active. I enjoy getting the chance to have the face-to-face interactions with our vendors, to help them with trainings, and support the communities they serve. It’s fun to see new places and better understand how the program works.”
What would you want the community to know about WIC Vendor Management?
“I think the work that goes on here isn’t understood by many. Even some of the local agencies don’t know what WIC VMA does. I’d want the community to know that there is much more that goes on behind the scenes when it comes to WIC and the vendors that provide food/formula benefits. We are liaisons between vendors, local agencies, and the NYS DOH. The goal of WIC VMAs is to ensure an adequate number of vendors (retail food stores and pharmacies) are authorized for convenient access to prescribed WIC foods and formula to those families participating in the program.”