Adding to the uncertainty is a recent move in the U.S. House to approve funding specifically for WIC, citing the shutdown’s effect on those who rely on it. Many Republicans backed it, but Democrats — typically defenders of safety net programs like WIC — have balked at any piecemeal approach to the budget showdown.
WIC funding was earlier dented the automatic federal budget cuts known as sequestration. Advocates estimated those reductions would end benefits for 600,000.
Unlike food stamps, a program that ballooned during the recession, WIC participation did not spike during those years. It had actually declined about 400,000 through the first half of fiscal year 2013, according to federal data. Enrollment in WIC has decreased as the U.S. birth rate has dropped, and standard assistance under the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps, became more available.
But food stamp benefits will be reduced on Nov. 1 as well, when additional money from the stimulus bill lapses. That could force more Americans to look for help from WIC, Greenaway said.
“It’s a train wreck waiting to happen,” he said.