The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

October 13, 2013

State worries over WIC program grow

(Continued)

Without new funding because of the shutdown, states have relied on dollars left over from last fiscal year and $125 million in contingency funds from the U.S. Food and Nutrition Service to continue benefits in the past two weeks.

That was a temporary fix, however, and now many states may be forced to end benefits with no federal funding on the horizon.

North Carolina, which has the eighth-largest WIC population in the country, is the most extreme example.

The state has sent notices to nearly 264,000 women, infants and children that benefits will suspend because of a lack of funds. About 80 percent of those enrolled in WIC have already received benefits this month and will have them through October. The remaining 20 percent will not get benefits this month at all. November benefits for everyone are in doubt.

For now, no other state has taken such a step, Greenaway of the National WIC Association said.

Other states have considered not accepting new applications, citing the uncertainty, even as benefits continue for those already enrolled, paid through the leftover funds and federal contingency dollars. Some states announced office closings and other measures in the days after the shutdown began, only to reverse those moves after emergency supplemental funding became available from U.S. Department of Agriculture.

Even where officials haven’t sounded the alarm as loudly, concern is palpable — for state officials and beneficiaries. Officials in Kansas on Wednesday announced they’d withhold benefit checks for November and December, citing the uncertainty over future funding. In Utah, state officials closed offices and cancelled appointments for clients before the emergency funds became available. Louisiana temporarily stopped accepting new applications, but has since said newly eligible residents will be able to apply through October.

“For the most part, programs are saying we are open for business until further notice,” Greenaway said.

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