The federally funded Women, Infants, and Children program, or WIC, is among the long list of services and benefits that are no longer available because of the government shut down. But what does that mean for Utahns?
Most people know WIC as the program that helps mothers buy nutritional foods like milk, cheese, and baby formula for themselves and their children. But the program also offers several other services through local clinics, like nutrition education and help with accessing available health care options. With the federal government shutdown the money to fund those programs is cut off. Utah Department of Health Spokesman Tom Hudachko says as a result of that, they only have enough money left to honor the food vouchers they’ve already given out.
“We felt that it was important to make sure that the obligations we’ve made and that the vouchers that are out there are honored, and that people can get the food that they need," he says. "Unfortunately, it means that we have to close the clinics, we have to furlough about 300 employees and it also means that we won’t be issuing any new vouchers until the shut down is over.”
While the program is federally funded, the state contracts with local health agencies to operate the WIC clinics. In Salt Lake, the county council approved emergency funding to keep some parts of the program open for the rest of the week. They will still not be taking on new clients or issuing new vouchers but they will be able to answer questions and direct women with emergency needs to a food pantry where food purchased by the county will be available. The Utah WIC program serves more than 50 thousand Utahns a month.