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WIC program ends many services due to federal shutdown

Lauren Williams Staff Writer

October 9, 2013

As the government’s shutdown carries on, more and more often relied on federal services are being discontinued. On Tuesday, the Sampson County Health Department learned that one of its programs — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) — is among those that are having to stop many of its services.


The WIC program “will discontinue issuing benefits at close of business Tuesday, Oct. 8, 2013,” stated a press release from the North Carolina Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS).


“We’re encouraging everybody to use their food stamps and vouchers if they already have them,’ said Erin Ellis, R.N., the interim WIC director for the Sampson County Health Department, referring to the press release which acknowledged that “approximately 80 percent of eligible clients already have been issued food benefits for the month of October” and that “DHHS has determined that federal WIC funds available to the state will be sufficient to cover WIC vouchers already issued…but not sufficient to issue additional vouchers.”


Ellis shared that last month Sampson’s WIC program served 2,045 clients, a slight increase from the 2,035 served the month before, in August. Of those clients, the ones who have not previously received vouchers for this month are being referred to the county’s Department of Social Services, she said, as well as to area food banks and pantries.


Although the WIC program cannot issue any more vouchers for the time being, Ellis stressed that clients still needed to keep their appointments, explaining that they will be placed on a waiting list, and when Health Department officials are given the green light to begin its services again, those with their name on the waiting list will be among the first to start receiving their benefits once again.


“It will just hurt them in the long run,” she said of those who don’t make it a priority to keep their appointments.


Ellis said no date has been given as to when services might be able to start again but pointed out that all services have not ended. The program’s nutrition and breast feeding education will still be provided as well as the issuing of breast pumps for women who meet the necessary criteria.


For more information about the local WIC program and its services, please contact the Sampson County Health Department at 910-592-1131.


Lauren Williams can be reached at 910-592-8137, ext. 117 or via email at lwilliams@civitasmedia.com.