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Gov’t Shutdown Halts WIC Funds For Moms & Babies

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(Source: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

(Source: Tim Boyle/Getty Images)

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Healthwatch

MIAMI (CBSMiami) — The partial shutdown of the federal government may soon affect low-income mothers and their infants.

Federal funds have been halted for WIC, the Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.

WIC is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and it says on its website that “no additional funds would be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs.”

“It’s something that helps us out a lot with the milk, the things that you need everyday; the basic stuff,” said father Luis Laza.

In South Florida, WIC offices are currently open but that may change.

The USDA says States may have some funds to continue operations “for a week or so” before running out of money.

“I’m trying to figure out where do I go, who do I see, who do I speak to? Where do I go online basically trying to get ready for it,” Laza said.

The WIC program, based on need, provides monthly checks for families to supplement their food budgets and offers nutrition education to pregnant women and families with children to encourage healthy eating choices.

There is a contingency fund of about $125 million available to help States, but the USDA says even this funding won’t be enough to cover a shortfall for the entire month of October.

That means if the shutdown lasts the entire month, many people may not get their monthly food checks. If it’s shorter in duration participants could get a check as soon as federal spending is again authorized.

“This mother needs help from the government, from WIC, from food stamps or something,” said Bianca Montealegre whose sister uses WIC. “They are being selfish, taking that away from the mothers.”

Nearly 9 million moms and kids under five living near or below the poverty line rely on the program’s supplemental vouchers for healthy food, breastfeeding support, infant formula and other necessities dispensed at clinics nationwide.  The program serves 53 percent of all infants born in the U.S.

“Hopefully they get into an agreement and think about everybody, not just themselves,” Laza said, “Everybody in the country that is probably going through the same situation I am or everybody else.”

Other federal food assistance programs won’t be impacted by the shutdown.

For instance, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) — commonly known as the food stamp program — is still operating with funding that was appropriated through the 2009 American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (often referred to as the stimulus). SNAP also has about $2 billion in contingency funding that Congress approved this year but that doesn’t expire until the end of the 2014 fiscal year.

The Child Nutrition (CN) Programs — including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk — are also still operating.

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