So Jacqueline Marlette-Boras, director of Maryland’s Women, Infants and Children (WIC) Program, will be looking carefully at her e-mail in-box when she arrives at her Baltimore office at 7:30 a.m. Exactly when will she need to start cutting 5.1 percent from her budget?
“It could be a crazy day, or it could be a wait-and-see day,” Marlette-Boras said.
The White House has warned that WIC, the federal program that ensures proper nutrition for poor mothers and their children, will have to kick up to 600,000 recipients from the program under the $85 billion cut known in budget parlance as the sequester.
But the 145,000 women and children who receive assistance under Maryland’s $112 million program could be lucky: Marlette-Boras says her office has spent conservatively on administrative costs in the last year “because we saw the handwriting on the wall” — and will not have to throw anyone off the program.
“We’re not planning on doing anything that cuts back on participation,” she said.
The head of the National WIC Association, which lobbies for states in the program, was less sanguine.
“It’s a little challenging for states to say at this point whether they will or will not be able to manage,” President Douglas Greenaway said. He also predicted that many women on WIC “have heard about sequestration” and have decided to leave the program “because they think their money’s not going to be there.”
State WIC directors are not just uncertain about sequestration, but about the next fiscal deadline in Washington: The March 27 expiration of the stopgap budget funding government spending. Congress could decide to pass another temporary budget or pass a proper appropriations bill. Either could increase or decrease funding for WIC.
Marlette-Boras says one of her biggest concerns is just that — she doesn’t know her exact budget for the current fiscal year. On top of that, there’s the more immediate question of whether a meeting between President Obama and congressional leaders scheduled for Friday will result in a cancellation of the cuts, or prolong them.
“I wish I would get answers tomorrow,” she said Thursday. “But I don’t think I will know much.”