Government shutdown: WIC still running, at least through October

by Jay Sjerven
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WASHINGTON — While no additional federal funds were available to support the operation of the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) because of the partial shutdown of the federal government, the U.S. Department of Agriculture was able to reallocate existing resources to help states sustain WIC benefits and services at least through October.

The contingency plan prepared by the U.S.D.A.’s Food and Nutrition Service in the event of an interruption of federal funding stated, “No additional federal funds would be available to support the WIC’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other resources, including spend-forward authority, to continue operations for a week or so, but states would likely be unable to sustain operations for a longer period. Contingency funds will be available to help states, but even this funding would not fully mitigate the shortfall for the entire month of October.”

Still, state WIC agencies indicated such reallocated federal contingency funds were made available, and this may help keep WIC alive until a budget agreement is reached or until the end of October.

Heather Kahn of the Michigan Department of Community Health said, “WIC clinics statewide will continue to operate as usual, and WIC-approved stores will continue to accept and redeem WIC EBT card benefits. WIC is a federally funded U.S.D.A. program and operates differently from state to state.

“In Michigan, the Department of Community Health projects it can maintain all WIC services until early November.”

Aldona Wos, secretary of the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services, in a statement released Oct. 3 said her department would continue to enroll new WIC participants through at least Oct. 8, and she stressed existing federal funding will allow already rerolled WIC clients to keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming their vouchers for the time being. She said WIC vendors should continue normal operations.

“Our biggest concern is protecting the health and well-being of our citizens and minimizing disruptions to vital services caused by the federal shutdown to the extent possible,” Ms. Wos said. “D.H.H.S. will maintain the WIC program for as long as existing federal funds allow. I urge clients to keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming their vouchers for the time being. D.H.H.S. continues to work to minimize any negative effects of the federal government shutdown on our employees, programs and vital services.”

Ms. Wos noted the WIC program in North Carolina had an annual budget of $205 million, with funding provided entirely by the federal government. Every month, North Carolinians using WIC make nearly $16.6 million in food purchases at more than 2,000 food vendors around the state.

The Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals indicated it was notified by the U.S.D.A. on Oct. 2 that it reallocated funds to allow WIC to continue at least through October.

“As a result, D.H.H. will provide WIC participants with a full month of benefits for October, not a partial month, as participants previously had been advised,” the D.H.H. said. “Participants who received partial WIC benefits on Oct. 1 and Oct. 2 will have to return to their local WIC office to receive the rest of their October benefits. Additionally, the program will be able to accept new applicants during October.

“Grocery stores and other businesses that accept WIC are being advised that they should honor the WIC vouchers until the end of October. The federally funded program serves an average of 140,000 total individuals, including mothers infants and children up to the age five, per month in Louisiana.”
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