Government shutdown could disrupt Utahns using WIC benefits

Sep 26, 2023, 3:14 PM | Updated: 4:45 pm

FILE: Stacie Hale plays with her son Theodor at home in Smithfield. Stacie hoped to get aid from WI...

FILE: Stacie Hale plays with her son Theodor at home in Smithfield. Stacie hoped to get aid from WIC but couldn't apply due to a previous government shutdown. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)

(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY  — A government shutdown means benefits that Utah families receive through the WIC program could be in jeopardy.

WIC, known in Utah as the Women, Infants and Children program is the commonly known name for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program, or, a federally funded government nutrition program.

It “helps families with healthy eating through nutrition education, providing nutritious foods, breastfeeding support, and help accessing health care,” according to the state’s website.  

Through a statement to KSL NewsRadio, Utah’s Department of Health and Human Services, which administers the program, said they are working to make sure the benefits don’t run out.

“The state of Utah is doing everything we can to help families who receive WIC benefits should a federal government shutdown happen.

We are working with stakeholders to identify options for benefits after the October 1st shutdown,” a spokesman for the department said.

“There is no impact to September WIC benefits,” the statement continues. “WIC clients can use their cards at any authorized WIC grocery store through Saturday, September 30, 2023. “

In Utah, what happens to WIC after October 1?

It’s not clear what will happen after October 1 — whether there’s any leeway or whether funds could dry up completely.

The department said that details would be forthcoming. 

“We are working to identify options for WIC benefits,” the spokesperson reiterated.

The department also urged concerned families to “contact their local WIC office for more information or watch for updates on the WIC Shopper app.”

Statewide, Utah’s program helps feed 41,000 mothers and children. Officials award benefits to pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to age 5.

Last week, Gov. Spencer Cox together with both House Speaker Brad Wilson and Senate President Stuart Adams, all said they have a plan to fund Utah’s national parks so they can stay open during the shutdown.

“Yes, we do have a contingency plan in place,” said Cox at his monthly PBS News conference. “We believe we can do that with existing funds without having to call a special session,” he said while noting that if the shutdown lasts several months they may have to reevaluate. 

Cox was then asked whether that plan would include funding any other of Utah’s critical federally funded programs. 

“It does not,” he said. “It’s just the national parks.”

Congress needs to sign a spending package before September 30th at midnight for the government to stay open.

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Government shutdown could disrupt Utahns using WIC benefits