A shut down of the federal government looms large if Congress doesn’t come to an agreement on funding today. How will a potential shutdown affect children’s health? According to an article in the Huffington Post, some very real negative impact may be on the way.
A report published by the U.S. Department of Agriculture on Saturday said that here would likely be no instantaneous effect if the shutdown lasted only a few days, but there could be in the longer run.
One of the areas that would eventually be affected is WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC)’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs. The $6 billion program helps pregnant women and new moms buy healthy food if they're poor and facing "nutrition risk," meaning that they have medical problems or trouble following nutrition guidelines. Although the program that mitigates nutrition risk for 9 million Americans is in jeopardy, the impact of a shutdown would depend on how individual states react and how long the shutdown lasts.
"States can probably shelter families receiving WIC from the effects of a shutdown for a short period, but it could be a real problem if it lasts more than a few days," policy analyst Elizabeth Lower-Basch of the Center for Law and Social Policy said in an email Saturday.
"States may have some funds available from infant formula rebates or other sources, 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," the USDA said in the shutdown contingency plan it announced Saturday. "Contingency funds will be available to help States -- but even this funding would not fully mitigate a shortfall for the entire month of October."
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will continue operations and eligible households will still receive monthly benefits for October. The authority to make October benefit payments comes from the Recovery Act, through which Congress provided “such sums as are necessary” to finance the SNAP benefit provided for in the Recovery Act.
In addition, about $2 billion in contingency funding will be available and could be used to support State Administrative activities essential to continue the program and issue and process benefits. These contingency funds were provided in the FY 2013 appropriation and do not expire until the end of FY 2014.
The Child Nutrition (CN) Programs, including School Lunch, School Breakfast, Child and Adult Care Feeding, Summer Food Service and Special Milk will continue operations into October. Meal providers are paid on a reimbursement basis 30 days after the end of the service month.
Limited carryover funding will be available during a lapse to support FY 2014 meal service. Once an appropriation is enacted, USDA expects additional resources will be available to reimburse October performance. In addition, most State agencies will continue to have fiscal year 2013 funds available for State Administrative Expenses (SAE). SAE funds are awarded to States for a two year grant period and they are permitted to carryover up to 20 percent of their allocation into the second year of the grant period.
Further effects will depend on the duration of the potential government shutdown.
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