Here’s a statement from the California WIC Association on how the program that serves several thousand women and children in San Joaquin County is threatened by the prolonged government shutdown:
Unless Congress acts quickly, 1.5 million vulnerable mothers and young children will lose critical nutrition and health care services. The federal government shutdown ceased funding for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) as of October 1. For now, the California WIC Program remains open through the end of October, thanks to effective management of food costs in fiscal year 2013, which provided some cushion to continue operations despite the federal shutdown. But once the funds are depleted, the children and mothers that depend on the program will most likely suffer. “If Congress fails to pass a continuing resolution to reopen the government before month’s end, WIC providers face an unprecedented situation,” said Laurie True, executive director of California WIC Association. “Clinics will be forced to close their doors, turn participants away, and end benefits. Pregnant women and newborn infants would go without critical nutrition – a nightmare scenario.” The tremendous uncertainty is creating widespread concern among more than 1 million WIC participants, 4,000 WIC-authorized grocery stores and thousands of employees working in the 84 agencies who operate the programs locally. Maribel Ruiz, WIC participant from Stockton, commented, “Unfortunately there are just some times when you need additional assistance and support. The WIC food program teaches me how to eat nutritiously and is helping me make sure that my children get the foods they need to stay healthy. If this government shutdown continues and the WIC program stops providing healthy foods, it will be harder to put healthy food on the table. We won’t be on this program forever, but right now it is crucial and it hurts to know that our leaders in Washington, D.C. are playing games with my child’s health.” The California Department of Public Health, which administers the WIC program statewide, is monitoring its remaining funds and posting regular status updates for concerned stakeholders. “People on the program continue to worry about what will happen in California if the federal government doesn’t start back up. We are trying to tell them that the program is still providing healthy foods and to keep coming in. But we are as uncertain as they are,” True said. In response to the crisis, California WIC Association is launching a grassroots campaign to urge the California Congressional Delegation to put mothers and children at nutritional risk before partisan bickering and to pass a continuing resolution that will keep open this and other vital programs targeted to low-income Americans struggling out of a deep recession. The WE NEED WIC campaign features video stories from WIC participants and providers, supporting endorsements from hundreds of California businesses and community organizations, and messages on paper plates collected from WIC recipients themselves. For more information, go to www.calwic.org. “Sometimes it seems as if our leaders in D.C. forget that while they play partisan games, there are real people impacted. What we want them to be forced to remember is the face of a hungry child that might not be getting the healthy food they need.This is why we’re making some noise,” True said.