The government shutdown is jeopardizing a lot of programs that New Yorkers and the rest of the country rely on every day. One of those programs being threatened could cost mothers the help they rely on to feed their children.
Almost 9 million mothers and children depend on the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants, and children — or WIC. But if Washington can’t find some way to reach an agreement, mothers will soon have to find a way to cut their grocery bills.
More than half of all babies born in the country get some support from the WIC program in one way or another.
“Right now I’m not breast feeding, so he really needs the formula,” said Norma Ortiz, who depends on the program to help feed her newborn son.
Monique Collado says the program doesn’t pay the entire grocery bill for her three children, but it helps cut her cost drastically.
“So I don’t have to pay for milk, I don’t have to pay for the eggs, they provide some vegetables and fruit, so it cuts the cost of my grocery shopping a bit,” said Collado.
But these women, like millions of others throughout the country are in danger of losing those benefits if the government shutdown continues.
Right now the WIC program is not being funded federally, so states are relying on whatever money they have left in their programs to get by.
Ortiz and Collado say if that money runs out, their lives would be very difficult.
“Right now I’m not working so it’s like I’m really counting on the WIC. That’s the only way I get now to get the milk.”
“We wouldn’t be able to have cereal, or at least dry cereal with some water would probably be it.”
To help put off the full shutdown, the USDA is providing the program with $125 million from a 2013 budget surplus.
But the President and CEO of the National WIC Association says he doesn’t think any state will be able to support the 7-billion dollar national program for more than a month if the shutdown continues.
And Collado doesn’t understand why Washington can’t reach an agreement when they’ve been able to settle larger disputes like the conflict in Iran.
“Finding some kind of general consensus overseas, but we on our own land we can’t come to a compromise seems ridiculous.”
Even if your state is forced to cut your benefits, experts say you should not withdraw yourself from the program. And if you’re worried about your benefits expiring, you should head to your local WIC office, while there’s still money available.