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WIC funding to continue through October

BY MEGAN SKUSTER | OCTOBER 07, 2013 5:00 AM

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In the wake of a now seven-day government shutdown, Iowa families that rely on Woman, Infants, and Children vouchers now have a little more breathing room.

On Oct. 3 the U.S. Department of Agriculture announced it would continue funding the program through the end of the month. An Oct. 1 advisory indicated that no further checks would be issued because of the federal government shutdown and subsequent suspension of program funding.

The program provides supplemental nutritious foods, referrals to health-care facilities, and nutrition education to nearly 9 million low-income, nutritionally at-risk mothers, infants, and young children across the country.

To date, the program serves 53 percent of all infants born in the United States, according to the program’s website.

In Johnson County alone, there are approximately 2,200 clients, said Doug Beardsley, the director of the Johnson County Department of Public Health.

“With the original announcement, we weren’t able to issue the food checks, and our contract to operate the program was going to be suspended Thursday,” he said. “With this change, we’re able to provide one month’s worth of food checks to the clients, and it extends the contract through the end of October. Hopefully, the issue in Washington will be resolved by then.”

Rep. Mary Mascher, D-Iowa City, agrees.

“It’s unfortunate that they are putting so many people at risk,” she said. “[The shutdown] is something that needs to be resolved, the sooner the better.”

Sen. Tim Kapucian, R-Keystone, said he would like to see both parties come together to work out a compromise.

“I think that’s essential,” he said. “People that need those services, we can’t just cut them off.”

Beardsley said there will be no checks issued for the month of November if the government shutdown is not resolved by the end of the month.

“We’re going to have to look at what we can do with our local funds,” he said. “Maybe we can continue to operate.”

However, without funding from the federal government, program clinics across the country would be unable to operate.

Nancy Lynch, the vice president of the Johnson County League of Women Voters, said the organization believes the government is failing. The League’s Statement of Position on Meeting Basic Human Needs states that “persons who are unable to work, whose earnings are inadequate or for whom jobs are not available, have the right to an income and/or services sufficient to meet their basic needs for food, shelter, and access to health care.”

“A failure to fund WIC during the shutdown would clearly not meet that standard,” Lynch said.  
But in light of recent events, there has been one small silver lining.

“We’ve been having a lot of people call asking what they can do to help the families who aren’t going to be getting their food checks,” Beardsley said.

He urges those who want to help to contact their local food bank, many of which are beginning to stockpile goods to be used if funds are depleted.


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