According to Forbes on Thursday, real-world effects of the government shutdown could soon be felt by low-income mothers and their infants, an already marginalized group with unstable food supplies.
Over 8.9 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 USDA estimates that most states will be able to continue WIC operations as usual for “a week or so” before running out of money. The department’s Food and Nutrition Service has a contingency fund of only $125 million available for this $7 billion annual appropriation.
“Due to the lapse in federal government funding, this website is not available,” read a message on the WIC page of USDA.gov.
Late on Tuesday, the Arkansas WIC program, which serves nearly 68,000 participants, announced that emergency funds from a USDA contingency account helped it avoid closure for a week.
Stacey Ninness at Oklahoma City’s WIC office concurred. She sees about 5,000 moms each month, many of whom have no other access to medical instruments for help with breastfeeding. “We’re going to see a huge impact with hunger,” she said. “These women can’t afford formula.”
Some people have been confused about whether grocery stores will still accept their WIC vouchers. But, WIC vouchers that have already been issued for October are good.
Some WIC programs are run by the state, so some mothers will continue getting their WIC assistance, at least for a while. In Texas, WIC is administered by the Department of State Health Services. A spokesperson said there have been no program changes and that they have enough in reserves to keep them afloat.
Douglas Greenaway, head of an advocacy nonprofit called National WIC Association, said many mothers will be caught off guard when funds dry up in their states.
Emily Sutherlin is also the Pregnancy Examiner.
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