News sources on Tuesday are reporting that one state's Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC, is already feeling the effects of the government shutdown.
On Tuesday morning, Utah's Department of Health announced its WIC program would be closing its doors to new clients. While the state's 60,000 existing clients will continue to receive benefits during the shutdown, department spokesman, Tom Hudachko said that the money the state does have allotted for the program should be spent on getting as much food to people as possible rather than continuing to add new clients.
The Department of Agriculture announced on Saturday that a shutdown would hobble the $7 billion WIC program. Each state administers the program and will also handle the shutdown and its impact on the WIC program differently. As for Utah, they are planning to close their clinics at 5 p.m. today. All of the WIC staff will be furloughed at that time. This will enable the state to honor the vouchers that already exist.
There are many more states that are going to be barely hanging on, especially if the shutdown continues for several weeks or more. The USDA is trying to help those states by using a $125 million contingency fund, but this is only a stop-gap measure at best. Arkansas is another state in dire distress. They had also planned to close their WIC clinics today, but the USDA has agreed to prop up the program for Arkansas on a week -to-week basis.
The District of Columbia has enough funds to last another 48 days, but after that, who knows? Program enrollees in other jurisdictions may start seeing their food vouchers rejected. As states run out of money, vendors will be told they cannot accept those checks. Some people are saying the situation amounts to a "double whammy" for recipients of the program. The loss of access to foods and other kinds of nutritional assistance for themselves and their babies will cause women to completely lose faith in the program's ability to help them.