One of the offices closed during the federal government shutdown is the U.S. Department of Agriculture. And now health officials in Arizona are concerned about a lack of funding for a food voucher program for women and children. Arizona Public Radio's Howard Fischer reports.
The failure of Congress to approve a continuing resolution shut down the U.S. Department of Agriculture. More to the point, it meant no new funds for the Women, Infants and Children program - or WIC - that provides vouchers to eligible families to purchase food. State health officials figured they had enough cast to get them through the end of the week. But, it turns out the USDA found $125 million in a contingency account.
Health department spokeswoman Laura Oxley said she does not know how much of that will end up in Arizona. But, she said it should be enough to cover costs through the end of the month. "The Arizona Woman, Infants and Children program continues to serve participants during the federal government shutdown," Oxley said. "More than 160,000 children and women depend on the healthy foods on a monthly basis."
The program is available to pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women and their children, younger than 5, if the family income is below 185% of the federal poverty level. That translates to about $3,000 a month for a family of three, with the average check being $61.00 a month.
It remains to be seen whether the contingency funds outlast the congressional stalemate. The last federal shutdown lasted 21 days.