WIC still available, for now
Families who receive assistance from the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children will be able to redeem and pick up their vouchers again.
Aldona Wos, secretary of the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services, announced Friday the department has secured additional funds to continue the WIC program. The department has determined that it can ensure the stability of the program through the end of October by using lapsing funds from the previous fiscal year, additional contingency funds from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and product rebates from WIC formula manufacturer Nestle Foods.
The department announced earlier this month that it would discontinue issuing WIC vouchers due to the government shutdown.
“The WIC program never stopped. We had a period of time where we stopped issuing new vouchers,” said Julie Henry, spokesperson for DHHS. “We were able to get an agreement with Nestle that they would advance us the rebate that was coming due later that month. We combined the promise of that funding with an additional $1 million that we got from the USDA, and with those two additional commitments of funding, we were able to get permission from the state budget office to, essentially, advance our self money to assure that we could pay for additional vouchers to be issued. That gave us the confidence to issue new vouchers.”
Henry said officials wanted to be sure all vouchers issued could be redeemed.
“Right now, the WIC program is up and operational. It is funded until the end of October and hopefully, from the reports that are trickling down, a decision will be reached and we won’t have to face what will come in November,” Henry said. “Right now, we are focused on what we can redeem in the month of October.”
The program provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk.
Around 80 percent of eligible clients already have been issued food benefits for the month of October. These clients previously were asked to keep their appointments, even though they could not receive any vouchers. Their names were put on a waiting list until the shutdown was lifted.
“We were told by our state office to begin issuing WIC vouchers,” said Guilford County WIC Director Rebecca Gilliland. “We are glad to be assisting our participants with getting food into their homes.”
Gilliland said participants are relieved about the progress.
“They are very relieved to be able to receive their food vouchers once again,” Gilliland said. “Before, our participants were disappointed, but it seemed that with the media coverage of the federal shutdown, many of them knew that they would not be receiving food benefits last Wednesday and Thursday.”
Meanwhile, the High Point YWCA’s Baby Basics program has seen an increase in the demand for milk and formula since the shutdown began affecting WIC operations, said Executive Director Heidi Majors. The program is based on referrals from other social service organizations.
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