The Norman Transcript

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October 4, 2013

Shutdown could lead to WIC cutbacks

NORMAN — If the partial shutdown of the federal government continues for weeks, it could lead to cutbacks in the federally funded program that helps low-income women, infants and children in Oklahoma, officials said Wednesday.

One possible result could be limiting the aid provided under the federal Women, Infants and Children program to only one or two of those groups, such as infants.

“That (WIC funding) is one of the main concerns because so many people in our state receive WIC benefits,” said Pamela Williams, spokeswoman for the Oklahoma State Department of Health. “Hopefully, this partial shutdown won’t go very long.”

Around 90,000 Oklahomans are on the WIC program, which offers nutritional assistance, such as formula, milk, cereal, fresh fruits and vegetables, and various services to expectant mothers, infants and children under 5 years old.

Around 22,700 recipients in Oklahoma are women, 22,500 are infants and 44,695 are children, according to the state health department. To receive benefits, participants must have a household income at or below 185 percent of the federal poverty level.

On Tuesday, the federal government partially shut down after Congress could not reach an agreement on a stopgap measure to fund the government.

The crisis arose after the U.S. House, led by Republicans, included in continuing funding resolution provisions to delay implementation of the Affordable Care Act. Senate Democrats stripped the delay provisions from the bill and sent it back to the House. Congressional gridlock ensued.

One group of services being cut as a result is state WIC programs.

The state receives around $63 million annually from the federal government for food services under the program, said Terry Bryce, director of the state’s WIC program.

Williams said the program has about two weeks worth of funding left. If the shutdown has not been resolved by then, the health department will reassess the situation.

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