Women and Children Get Hit First as Shutdown Begins
As the federal government shutdown begins, poor mothers and children may pay the price.
One of the programs affected by the federal shutdown is the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children, known as WIC. This program
provides nutritious food and health care referrals to low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under age five.
Since there is no continuing resolution to fund the federal government or the WIC program beginning October 1, states are operating off of whatever money they may have available to them currently. The situation varies from state to state.
“Some states may be able to remain open for the month of October,” says Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association. “Some may be able to remain open for a week to two weeks.”
There is a $125 million contingency fund that could help some states that may be out of money now. The USDA will be evaluating the states in need in order to help them with that contingency fund. But will anybody be working at the USDA to referee?
“There are a few strategies that will work to keep doors opens for a few weeks. After that, it’s anybody’s guess,” says Greenaway.
Sue Stein is the executive director of Nutrition and Health Associates, a nonprofit contractor with state of Wisconsin for the WIC program of Rock County.
Rock County is located in south-central part of the state and represented by Paul Ryan. Since 2000, Rock County has lost 54 percent of its manufacturing jobs. Its unemployment rate of 7.4 percent is higher than the state average.
The WIC program brings in $2.5 million into the local Rock County economy and serves 4,000 people. (Calls and e-mails for comment from Rep. Paul Ryan’s office were not returned.)
So far, things are OK in Rock County, but Stein says it was a chaotic morning.
“There are so many rumors that are going around,” she says. “Many calls from clients wondering if we were even open.”
Stein is concerned that the confusion will damage the trust people have in the agency. “We don’t want families to drop off WIC,” she says.
Another fear Stein has is that vendors—the stores that cash the WIC checks—may stop doing so because they are afraid they won’t be paid. That will have a huge impact.
“They can’t get formula without these vouchers,” Stein says about her clients. “Mothers wonder, Where am I going to get my baby’s food? They are panicked.”
Stein says that small stores in Rock County will also be affected, stores that count on the money WIC provides.
“The people being impacted the most are those with the smallest voices,” says Stein.
“At the end of the day, there is a human cost here,” says Greenaway of the National WIC Association. “Congress’s failure to act is placing already vulnerable mother and young children at nutrition risk.”
If you liked this story by Elizabeth DiNovella, the Culture Editor of The Progressive magazine, check out her story "Can’t Stop, Won’t Stop: Gov. Walker’s Fundraising Prowess."
Follow Elizabeth DiNovella @lizdinovella on Twitter
- Give a Gift
- About Us
- Civil Liberties
CURRENT ISSUE: December 2013 / January 2014
Rick Bass | Why I’m left with no choice but to put my body on the line.
When Government Was Neighborly
Wendell Berry | Saluting a New Deal program that helped Kentucky farmers.
The Bravest Woman I Know
Kathy Kelly | How an eighty-two-year-old librarian braved Baghdad.
How to Build a New World
Naomi Klein | Why I was wrong in The Shock Doctrine—and what we must do now.