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Questions remain on WIC closure

Posted October 10, 2013
Updated October 11, 2013

— Questions are mounting about the Department of Health and Human Services' decision to stop issuing food vouchers to people in a federally funded program designed to ensure proper nutrition for pregnant women and their young children.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, also known as WIC, serves 264,000 low-income families in in North Carolina. The program operates in all 50 states, and the federal shutdown affected all of them. But North Carolina was the only state to stop issuing vouchers.

DHHS officials announced Tuesday the agency would stop issuing vouchers because the agency had only enough money to cover the vouchers that had issued in the first eight days of this month. 

"Unfortunately, with the federal shutdown, we are following as all the states following the instructions of the federal government," DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos said Tuesday.

Thousands of new applicants and existing clients left WIC clinics empty-handed Wednesday and Thursday. 

WIC sign, Women, Infants and Children program WIC vouchers to keep coming after DHHS secures funds

It's unclear why North Carolina's shutdown was necessary.  Late last week, the U.S. Department of Agriculture offered each state contingency WIC funding based on its average monthly expenditures.

However, DHHS spokesman Ricky Diaz said Friday the money offered to North Carolina was not sufficient to keep the program's doors open. He said the agency had to go back and ask for more funding before it could reopen WIC, and that extra money wasn't secured until Thursday evening.

More than 1,500 Triangle-area families, including 604 in Cumberland County and 462 in Wake County, were waitlisted during the two-day suspension. County WIC workers spent Friday calling those applicants back to let them know their vouchers were available.

Wos announced the reversal Thursday night, saying DHHS would use lapsing funds from last year, contingency funds from the USDA and product rebates from Nestle Foods, a WIC formula manufacturer, to keep the program running through the end of October.

"By securing sufficient funds, we are able to continue supporting the women and children who depend on WIC," Wos said in a statement. "Our state is one of the highest volume states for the WIC program, so we take the impact of the shutdown very seriously."

Diaz cautioned that, if the shutdown doesn't end soon, the program could be in trouble again by November.

101 Comments

This story is closed for comments. Comments on WRAL.com news stories are accepted and moderated between the hours of 8 a.m. and 8 p.m. Monday through Friday.

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  • Proud Black Constitutionalist Oct 17, 4:30 p.m.

    If you have to rely on WIC during pregnancy, then I'm sorry, you should have thought twice about getting pregnant. It's called personal responsibility. I'm tired of having to care for your family too!

  • randall0123a Oct 14, 2:52 p.m.

    "Then government can stop using taxpayer money for handouts and use the money for national defense" All of our issues would be solved if we thought LESS like this...

    That's funny.

  • wraluser Oct 14, 2:02 p.m.

    If anyone wants to know why we (NC) has no money for WIC, just check out how much has been spent on the "new computer systems" for the food stamp program... Much to uncover here, just need someone (HINT WRAL!!!) to look...

  • wraluser Oct 14, 1:55 p.m.

    Fortunately, the "poor" can still vote even though the GOP has tried illegally to stop that as well. Hear that NCGOP, the poor still can vote!!! Bye Bye NCGOP!!!!!!

  • snshine62d Oct 14, 12:55 p.m.

    Republicans seem determined to decimate North Carolina. Shame on McCrory, Tillis, Berger. Shame on Aldona Wos. Shame on Art Pope for this immoral attack on struggling families.
    ---------------------------------------------------------
    They don't care.

  • jackjones2nc Oct 14, 12:33 p.m.

    Republicans seem determined to decimate North Carolina. Shame on McCrory, Tillis, Berger. Shame on Aldona Wos. Shame on Art Pope for this immoral attack on struggling families.

  • krimson Oct 14, 11:01 a.m.

    "Then government can stop using taxpayer money for handouts and use the money for national defense"

    All of our issues would be solved if we thought LESS like this...

  • randall0123a Oct 14, 9:35 a.m.

    Government isn't helping provide for your family? Wow, what a shame. Maybe you should be supporting your own family and supporting your own choices? Then government can stop using taxpayer money for handouts and use the money for national defense and infrastructure. But, we all know that there are people that believe the rest of us are working our tails off to help provide for their shortcomings, and they feel they deserve it. And we wonder why this country is in trouble. There are too many people demanding what the rest of us need to give them, while they put NOTHING in the kitty. But yes, please have a couple more babies.

  • Paidforalittlewhile Oct 14, 8:22 a.m.

    Was this the program that NC was the only state not to accept something...tried to get whole story but couldn't - how about you Republicans out there enlighten me? Huh? What was that....

  • kdogwnc Oct 12, 2:58 p.m.

    Winston wrote: "Jack, I DO NOT THINK THE GOVT. SHOULD FEED THE POOR, ANYWHERE. I think YOU and ME should do it out of the kindness of our heart."

    Actually, many of those who depend on WIC or SNAP or Medicaid work full time. The crime is that employers do not pay sufficient wages. The Walton family heirs to the WalMart fortune have a net worth that is more that the total net worth of the bottom 40% of Americans. How did they get that wealthy? By paying minimum wages and causing taxpayers to foot the bill for supporting these low wage employees.

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