Poor women and children in North Carolina will get aid, after all

October 11, 2013

WIC vouchers are accepted at a farmers market in Washington, D.C. (Tracy A. Woodward/The Washington Post.)

On Tuesday, North Carolina announced that it would suspend food aid to low-income women and children, making it the first state to do so because of the federal shutdown, according to a local report. By Thursday, the state had reversed course.

Raleigh’s News & Observer reports that after the paper inquired about the suspension, the state’s Department of Health and Human Services said the program had the funds to resume:

 On Thursday evening, DHHS issued a statement saying local health departments are being notified to resume issuing WIC vouchers. The statement said the department has “secured additional funds” to continue the program as of Friday.

North Carolina would have been the only state to stop providing the aid, even though the U.S. Department of Agriculture had made clear that temporary options were available to keep such programs running. It was not clear what made the state DHHS change its decision on providing aid.

Officially known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or “WIC,” the program provides states with grants for food aid, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income women and children.

Some advocates were initially concerned that the program would suffer an immediate hit when the federal government shut down, but the USDA quickly clarified the options available, including carrying over funds from the fiscal year that ended on Monday or tapping a federal contingency fund.

In recent years, North Carolina has ranked among the top 10 states with the largest number of WIC participants, according to archived federal reports currently inaccessible due to the shutdown.

Niraj Chokshi reports for GovBeat, The Post's state and local policy blog.
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