Low-income mothers on WIC can continue to use federally-funded vouchers for food and formula but state health officials warn the program could be scaled back as the federal government shutdown continues.
In North Carolina, the $205 million women, infants and children (WIC) nutritional program is funded entirely through federal money, and serves an estimate 264,000 pregnant or breast-feeding women and their children with breast-feeding support, formula and vouchers for healthy food.
The program is also a big deal for grocery merchants, with more than $16.6 million in WIC vouchers spent each month in grocery stores around the state.
Nationally, the WIC program serves 8.9 million women and children, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture estimates most states can keep the program running for a week before depleting funds, according to Forbes. Utah has already stopped its program.
The N.C. Department of Health and Human Services released a statement Thursday saying it would continue to take on new clients through next Tuesday, and longer if there was enough funding. DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos, in a written statement, encouraged mothers to continue using their vouchers and going to scheduled appointments.
“Our biggest concern is protecting the health and well-being of our citizens and minimizing disruptions to vital services caused by the federal shutdown to the extent possible,” Wos said. “DHHS will maintain the WIC program as long as existing federal funds will allow.”