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WIC takes hit from federal shutdown

 

SARAH LOWERY

Staff Writer

While the shutdown of the federal government continues, effects are starting to be felt locally.

As of today, the county’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) nutritional program —which is funded entirely at the federal level — will see an impact as the service will begin operating on a limited basis.

The Lincoln County Health Department sent out a notice Tuesday that all of North Carolina’s WIC offices will discontinue issuing new food vouchers and infant formula to existing and new clients. A waiting list will be maintained until funding is restored.

Late last week, officials said the state office was assessing the funding situation daily and trying to sustain essential program operations for as long as possible.

“Clients will be referred to available community resources, including food banks and food pantries,” noted the release. “If the family is not receiving Food and Nutrition Services (SNAP or food stamp) benefits, WIC will refer the family to the local Department of Social Services for eligibility determination.”

The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services said Tuesday that roughly 80 percent of eligible clients already have been issued food benefits for the month of October. Likewise, DHHS officials have determined that federal WIC funds available to the state will be sufficient to cover WIC vouchers already issued for the month of October, but not sufficient to issue additional vouchers.

Local WIC clinics will continue providing some services, such as eligibility determinations, nutrition education and breastfeeding education and support (including issuance of breast pumps and breastfeeding supplies and peer-counseling services during normal business hours).

Plans are subject to change, with officials emphasizing that they are working on a day-to-day basis that depends on the availability of funds.

The WIC program has an annual budget of $205 million, according to a DHHS release.

During September, the program provided supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for almost 264,000 women, infants and young children in North Carolina,” state officials noted. “WIC also impacts local grocery stores and other food businesses. Every month, North Carolinians using WIC make nearly $16.6 million in food purchases at more than 2,000 food vendors around the state.”

 

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