Multnomah County to moms: WIC vouchers, appointments good despite federal shutdown

Tuesday, 10/1/13 - 4:34 pm

Multnomah County officials on Tuesday worked to assure young mothers and their families that the critical nutrition support they receive would not be affected by the federal shutdown.

More than 70 worried parents called the Multnomah County’s three Women, Infants & Children (WIC) locations concerned they may not be able to receive food assistance due to the federal closures that took effect Oct. 1. The United States Department of Agriculture, the main funder of the program, was shuttered Tuesday and the website was down.

In a message to all the concerned WIC parents who called on Oct. 1, Multnomah County program manager David Brown said, “I want to assure everyone that our local WIC Program and your WIC benefits are not affected by the recent government shut down.  Please continue to attend your scheduled WIC appointments and use your WIC benefits at the local grocery stores, pharmacies and farm stands as usual."

Brown and other county health department officials were closely monitoring the effect of the government closure on county services. There appears to be no immediate impact to Multnomah County Health Department health centers, home visiting programs or specialty clinics as a result of the federal shutdown.

County Health Department managers whose programs rely on federal grants have been told they can still draw down funds but that federal project officers who advise and assist may not be reachable.  One federal project officer, for example, responded to a question with the following email:

"Due to the absence of either an FY 2014 appropriation or Continuing Resolution for the Department of Health and Human Services, I am not able to read or respond to your Part A-related message. If you require immediate attention, please call the following…’’

In addition, Corrections Health managers were anticipating some impact on the jail as the transport of federal prisoners is expected to be delayed by the furloughing of federal marshals.

Concern about WIC arose nationwide. In Multnomah County alone, more than 30,730 women, infants and children under the age of 5 who are considered nutritionally at risk receive food vouchers, health care referrals and education through the county’s WIC programs. About 37 percent of all pregnant women in Multnomah County participate in WIC and about 46 percent statewide.

For more information on WIC 503-988-3503.