Monday, September 30, 2013

WIC benefits for low-income mothers, infants, and children expected to stop during government shutdown

USDA's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has posted a document explaining the contingency plan (.pdf) for nutrition assistance in the likely event that the federal government is shut down this week.

In the document, the major nutrition assistance program most in jeopardy appears to be WIC, the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children.  Except in cases where states have some state-level money in hand, WIC participants may stop getting benefits in October.  

It should be noted that WIC has long had bi-partisan support, including heartfelt support from leading Republicans.  The program provides a targeted package of selected nutritious supplemental foods, not a general food subsidy.  The program provides no support for adults without children -- for example, no support whatsoever for single men who could be out getting a job.

By contrast, the SNAP program appears to be funded in October even with a shutdown, because it is mandatory spending.  And school meals programs appear likely to continue in October because of the way the program expenses are reimbursed, as the contingency plan explains.

Niraj Chokshi has a brief report this week at the Washington Post.

I wish those in Congress who seek this government shutdown would relent.  Surely there are better ways to make a good point about small-government virtues or the best design of market-oriented health insurance programs.

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