Food assistance for nearly half a million low-income women, infants and children across New York will continue through at least October no matter the outcome in Washington, officials said Thursday.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, known as WIC, can operate with federal funds in New York though Oct. 31 in the event of an extended government shutdown, the state Department of Health said.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the state Thursday that additional funding was also secured to pay for food, depending on need, through mid-November if necessary.
Before the decision was reached, WIC representatives in New York City urged participants to keep their appointments and use the program's services.
"We do have some participants who have asked if it's OK to cash their checks," said Kathleen Carpenter, a breast-feeding coordinator at the New York-Presbyterian Hospital WIC Program.
WIC costs the federal government roughly $7 billion a year, providing participants with food vouchers for baby formula, milk, bread, fruit and other staples. In New York, participants usually receive $70 in such vouchers a month.
Carpenter and other representatives highlighted the importance of the program.
"If the shutdown continues, if it gets to that, there will be many families that will be devastated," said Theresa Landau, chair-elect of the National WIC Association.
Several of the women Carpenter works with, she said, have children with special needs who are provided specialized baby formula. She doesn't know if they would be able to acquire the formula without the program.
"It's not right that you take food literally out of the mouths of kids to make a point about a law that you don't like," Carpenter said.
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