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Government shutdown: Two weeks of funding left for WIC nutrition program

by Jaclyn Cosgrove Published: October 1, 2013

I don’t usually watch C-SPAN late at night, but last night was an exception. Like many, I sat waiting to see what Tuesday would hold.

Congressional lawmakers failed to reach an agreement over the pending government shutdown, and a partial government shutdown has since commenced.

In Oklahoma, the government shutdown has an immediate impact on federal agencies, but some state agencies are concerned about potential funding issues the shutdown could cause.

I asked Leslea Bennett-Webb, the Oklahoma State Department of Health spokeswoman, if the shutdown would have any impact at the state’s public health agency. She wrote Tuesday morning:

“Our primary concern was WIC, but the Oklahoma WIC Program has found sufficient funds to carry the program through at least two weeks so that clients with WIC food vouchers can still utilize them. If after two weeks the federal Appropriations Act of 2014 has still not been signed, then Oklahoma’s WIC Program will reassess its options.”

WIC — or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — provides federal money to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

In Oklahoma, almost 90,000 women and children receive WIC service — 22,325 women, 22,142 infants and 43,904 children.

As this story points out, it’s unclear how long the shutdown will last:

With the Republican-controlled House and Democratic-controlled Senate stalemated, it was unclear how long the shutdown — and the loss of some government programs and services — could last. The Senate was poised Tuesday morning to reject the House’s call to form a negotiating committee to consider delaying the health care law in exchange for restarting the government.

Obama communications director Jennifer Palmieri said the White House was open to changes in the health care law in future negotiations, but not as part of passing a budget bill.

“What we’re not going to do is entertain those kinds of solutions when there is a gun pointed to your head,” Palmieri told MSNBC.

Bennett-Webb said state health officials are watching the federal impasse closely, for many of the agency’s services and programs are primarily federally funded:

However, the majority of our grants were awarded under federal fiscal year 2013 appropriations and continue without impact today, except for not being able to contact federal staff at the CDC, Health Resources Services Administration, or other federal agencies.

WIC was our initial primary concern, and we have that resolved for the time being.  The other grants are considerably smaller than WIC and have characteristics that will probably be helpful in sustaining them during the shutdown.

For example, one requires state match in amounts such that we might be able to use state money until the federal budget is resolved.   Another example is that we have one grant that is a two-year grant award and will continue into federal fiscal year 2014.  Overall, we feel fortunate that many of our grant programs are awarded on the calendar year, state fiscal year or other period.

by Jaclyn Cosgrove
Medical and Health Reporter
Jaclyn Cosgrove writes about health, public policy and medicine in Oklahoma, among other topics. She is an Oklahoma State University graduate. Jaclyn grew up in the southeast region of the state and enjoys writing about rural Oklahoma. She is...
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