Shutdown halts issuance of WIC benefits
by Anna Oakes
The Appalachian District Health Department and N.C. Department of Health and Human Services announced Tuesday that the issuance of WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) benefits will be discontinued due to the ongoing federal government shutdown.
N.C. DHHS said that statewide, 80 percent of eligible clients have already received their WIC benefits for the month of October, however.
"DHHS has determined that federal WIC funds available to the state will be sufficient to cover WIC vouchers already issued for the month of October, but not sufficient to issue additional vouchers," the state department said in a release Tuesday.
The WIC program is 100 percent federally funded and provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for almost women, infants and young children. The Appalachian District Health Department administers WIC benefits to 1,800 clients in Watauga, Ashe and Alleghany counties.
Jennifer Greene, Appalachian District Health Department director of allied health services, said current and new clients will be placed on a waiting list for WIC support beginning Wednesday.
"WIC is a program that has been proven effective in maintaining and improving health status of women and children who need it most," Greene said in a statement. "Participants and those who may be eligible are strongly encouraged to continue coming to our office. The WIC office will remain in operation to continue screening for eligibility, following up on nutrition needs and providing healthcare referrals as usual."
The health department said WIC benefits that have already been issued will be processed as usual.
Greene said clients are issued benefits up to three months in advance and that any WIC benefits that have been issued before October 9 will still be honored, even if they were issued to be used in October.
"No one will be cut off abruptly if they have already received these benefits," she said.
The Appalachian District Health Department WIC program in Watauga County provided over $488,409 in revenue for Watauga County establishments accepting WIC and served over 770 families from July 2012 to June 2013, it said.
"Currently, our staff will be planning to continue serving clients in being a healthcare resource and will be signing clients up so that we can be prepared for issuing benefits if and when we receive authorization to do so," said Greene.
For more information, contact the Appalachian District Health Department Nutrition and WIC Office at (828) 264-6641 or log on to http://www.apphealth.com.