Shutdown forces DHHS to halt WIC benefits
Posted October 8, 2013
Raleigh, N.C. — State officials said Tuesday that no new benefits under a federally funded program designed to ensure proper nutrition for pregnant women and their young children will be issued because of the ongoing government shutdown.
The state Department of Health and Human Services said it doesn't have enough money to issue food vouchers to participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, which is also known as WIC.
The WIC program provides food vouchers, nutrition education and health care referrals for 264,000 women and children monthly in North Carolina, including 19,000 in Wake County. The federal government pays $205 million to run the program.
About 80 percent of participants statewide have been issued food benefits for October, according to DHHS, and officials said federal funding available to the state is sufficient to cover those vouchers.
"Some of our most vulnerable citizens – pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants and young children – will be affected by the interruption of WIC services due to the federal shutdown," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said in a statement.
Officials encouraged WIC participants to apply for food stamps, and some county offices are referring them to local food pantries for help.
WIC participants should keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming October vouchers, and WIC vendors should continue accepting existing vouchers, officials said.
DHHS also started sending "Dear Provider" letters to various contractors, ordering them to stop work on projects because the federal grants that pay for their work are caught in the middle of the budget impasse in Congress. More letters will go out in the coming days, as DHHS addresses the issue division by division.