JOPLIN, Mo. — A federally funded program that serves low-income women who are pregnant or breast-feeding, and infants and children at nutritional risk has been excluded from the government shutdown for the time being.
“We’ve been taking a lot of phone calls,” said Janice Goedke, director of the Crawford County Health Department in Pittsburg, Kan. “People have been worried.”
Her department distributes checks under the Women, Infants and Children health and nutrition program for Crawford, Bourbon and Allen counties to a client base of about 2,500 per month.
“I think what we’ve been seeing in the community is a lot of uncertainty,” Goedke said. “But we’ve been told that Kansas has sufficient funds to continue state and local operations and to honor redeemed food checks for two weeks.”
Kansas state WIC Director David Thomason confirmed that on Wednesday morning by phone in Topeka.
“Our program is functioning as normal, although we are definitely monitoring it on a daily basis,” he said. “We certainly have sufficient funds, and the federal folks have assured us of being able to use whatever funds we have available to provide benefits.”
Thomason said that if the shutdown is prolonged, however, “We will have to make some decisions about how to curtail the program, if that’s necessary.
“I don’t foresee it, but of course we can’t really tell when the shutdown will stop.”
In Kansas, the WIC program provides funding to about 70,000 participants each month. About half the babies born in Kansas are served by WIC programs.
“It’s a pretty significant benefit,” Thomason said. “Our purpose is to ensure healthy moms, healthy pregnancies, healthy babies.”
Goedke said that not only would needy families be affected should the shutdown continue past two weeks, so would the state’s grocers and other food businesses.
“Every week, WIC participants purchase $1.2 million in food across the state at over 300 grocery stores,” she said. “If the program shuts down, about $175,000 will not be going into the local economy.”
Goedke was advising that all WIC clients should continue to keep their appointments and redeem their checks, and that all WIC vendors will continue to receive reimbursements.