Mothers, youngsters feeling pinch of government shutdown
Many new mothers in Vance County who receive federal benefits are feeling the impact of the federal government’s shutdown that began Oct. 1.
At the close of business on Tuesday, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children stopped issuing benefits, according to a release from the N.C. Department of Health and Human Services.
About 80 percent of eligible clients have already been issued their food benefits for October. But just eight days into the month, DHHS announced the federal WIC funds available to the state cannot cover additional WIC vouchers that have not been issued to the remaining 10 percent of eligible clients.
A spokesperson for the Granville-Vance District Health Department, which serves WIC clients locally, was not available for comment Thursday.
The WIC program provides pregnant women, breast-feeding women and postpartum women, infants and children up to age 5 with healthy food options, health care referrals and breastfeeding support.
State residents who receive Medicaid, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, or N.C. Food and Nutrition Services, automatically meet the income eligibility requirements for the WIC program.
The WIC program, which has an annual budget of $205 million, is 100 percent federally funded and provides benefits for almost 264,000 women, infants and young children each month.
The state’s TANF program, called Work First, offers parents short-term training and other services to help them become employed and self-sufficient, but most families have two years to move off Work First Family Assistance.
The Vance County commissioners have voted to authorize the Human Resource Committee to fill vacant county positions, except one case worker position responsible for assisting Work First clients with supportive services, job leads and referrals to other community resources.
Jerry Ayscue, the county manager, wrote in an email that the commissioners accepted his recommendation to not fill the position unless the federal funds are
“If federal funds become available, we are authorized to proceed to fill the position as necessary,” Ayscue wrote.
“Of course, this is directly related to the federal government shutdown. The SWII position is funded significantly through federal revenue sources such as SSBG (Social Services Block Grant) and Work First. These are two programs for which federal funds will not be available until the shutdown is over or if there is any other resolution at the federal level that allows the monies to flow forward.”
Ayscue wrote that it is unclear what other benefits will be delayed as a result of the federal shutdown.
Ayscue wrote, “As you know, the federal government shutdown creates a significant amount of uncertainty — there are a lot of unknowns at this point. Local governments are taking matters one day at a time and are trying to cope accordingly.”
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Impact, by percentage, for Vance County residents affected by the government shutdown:
• 70.7 percent — Pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid who received prenatal WIC program benefits in 2011.
• 3.8 percent — Increase, from 2003 to 2011, of pregnant women enrolled in Medicaid who received prenatal WIC program benefits.
• 75 percent — Children younger than 12 months enrolled in Medicaid who received WIC program benefits in 2011.
• 2.6 percent — Increase, from 2003 to 2011, of children younger than 12 months enrolled in Medicaid who received WIC program benefits.
• 58.8 percent — Children ages 1-5 enrolled in Medicaid who received WIC program benefits in 2011.
• 2.5 percent — Decrease, from 2003 to 2011, of children ages 1-5 enrolled in Medicaid who received WIC program benefits.