Lauren Williams Staff Writer
October 5, 2013
As they watch the impact being felt by the federal government shutdown, many in the nation are filled with questions and concerns, particularly about federal services that they utilize and often depend on. It is no different in Sampson County where one of those often relied on services is the Health Department’s Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
“We’ve been getting a lot of phone calls about it,” shared Wanda Robinson, director of the Sampson County Health Department, noting that the local WIC program serves over 2,000 clients.
“We want to assure the public and make sure that everyone understands that we are operating as usual,” informed Robinson, referring to a press release her agency received Thursday from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).
According to that release, the WIC program “will continue to enroll new participants through at least Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013. DHHS is stressing that existing federal funding will allow enrolled WIC clients to keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming their vouchers for the time being, and that WIC vendors should continue normal operations. The department continues to assess the actual availability of federal funds daily, and any changes in the program will be announced at such time as it becomes necessary.”
“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,” said DHHS Secretary Aldona Wos in the release. “DHHS will maintain the WIC program as long as existing federal funds will allow. I urge clients to keep their nutrition appointments and continue redeeming their vouchers for the time being. DHHS continues to work to minimize any negative effects of the federal government shutdown on our employees, programs and vital services.”
“We will operate as usual; right now there are no changes,” Robinson stressed but acknowledged that the quickly approaching Oct. 8 date is “unsettling” given how many depend on the WIC program which provides supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for almost 264,000 women, infants and young children each month. In addition to the assistance it provides needy families, the program also impacts local grocery stores and other food businesses.”
“They’re working at the state level trying to make sure that there’s sufficient funds to cover past that date (Oct. 8). That’s what we’ve been told,” added Robinson.
“If there are any changes, we will let people know immediately,” she assured.
Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.