WIC benefits return to state, 645 Ashe families affected

Wil Petty Staff Writer

October 17, 2013

North Carolina’s Women, Infants and Children program offices, including its Jefferson location, reopened Monday following the state’s decision to close last week due to the government shutdown.

“We are pleased that (North Carolina) authorized our continuation of services so that we can continue serving this important need in our counties,” said Jennifer Greene, director of Allied Health Services at the Appalachian District Health Department.

The WIC program was originally suspended by the state on Oct. 8, because the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services lacked the funds to continue supplying vouchers to the federally-funded program. North Carolina, so far, has been the only state to halt the program.

“We prepared and implemented a wait list for the two days that were affected,” Greene said. “Then we continued to operate the period and continued to serve clients.”

Greene said that even though they were putting clients on the wait list, the faster they got recipients through the process, they would have earlier access to the benefits once restored.

WIC is a program under the Food and Nutrition Service of the Department of Agriculture. The program provides assistance for the health and nutrition of low-income pregnant women and children under the age of five.

From June 2012 through July 2013, 645 families in Ashe County were using the service. In turn, businesses in the county which accept WIC benefits had a revenue of $442,821.

“I think what’s important is for people to know that WIC is open and families who are interested in our services should contact our office and come in,” Greene said. “Stores which accept WIC benefits should continue to do so because none of the (federal) shutdown has impacted our local businesses at this point.”

Greene said that the DHHS has implemented a strategy to continue the WIC program through the month of October.

“WIC is 100 percent federally funded, so I think it is important that we remember that,” she said. “Obviously, the government shutdown is critical for this service since it is federally funded.”

The WIC office covering Ashe County is a sub-recipient to the state managed program. Greene said their offices are paying close attention to the shutdown as it determines the program’s future funding.

“What we are paying attention to is where do we go from here,” she said. “Right now it is business as usual. We are hopeful there will be a resolution soon at the federal level so the state can continue to provide the services.