Monday, September 22, 2014

Change gives state ‘a way out’ on WIC in case of shutdown

By The Herald Staff | 11/4/2013

The government shutdown might be over, but its effects still are being felt, a county official said Monday.

Because a federal budget has yet to be passed, such government-funded programs as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) of Kansas, which rely solely on federal money, could be facing the elimination of all funding, Midge Ransom, Franklin County Health Department director, said.

The government shutdown might be over, but its effects still are being felt, a county official said Monday.

Because a federal budget has yet to be passed, such government-funded programs as Women, Infants and Children (WIC) of Kansas, which rely solely on federal money, could be facing the elimination of all funding, Midge Ransom, Franklin County Health Department director, said.

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for WIC provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breast feeding, and non-breast feeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age 5 who are found to be at nutritional risk, according to the food and nutrition service’s website.

“The federal government shutdown in October 2013 and lack of funding authorization for WIC resulted in potential for suspension of the program,” according to county documents.

Funds leftover at the state level from previous years funded the WIC program through the end of October and the government shutdown, Ransom said.

Because of the recent shutdown and the future threat of lacking funds for the program, the Kansas Department of Health & Environment made an amendment to the agreement it has with local WIC programs, she said.

“Subsequent to the shutdown and current lack of long-term resolution of the federal budget, the state program has issued a contract amendment allowing the state to discontinue the program during the fiscal year should federal funding not be forthcoming,” county documents said.

Though the WIC program in Franklin County hasn’t experienced any problems since the shutdown, the amendment to the contract was necessary, Ransom said.

“There wasn’t a clause in the contract to terminate a contract should funding not be there or for any other reason,” she said. “[The clause] was just added to amend it should something happen in the future if the government doesn’t fund the program or if we needed a way out.”

Hopeful circumstances would not cause WIC to lose its federal funding, David Thomason, KDHE Nutrition and WIC Services Section director, said in a letter to local WIC programs that the agency must be ready.

“Although we hope that it never becomes necessary to implement the provisions of this amendment, our recent experience has shown that the possibility is more real than we ever thought,” Thomason said in the letter.

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