: Government shutdown will end food benefits for nearly 7 million mothers and infants, Biden official says

Some 7 million mothers and children would lose government benefits to buy food if the federal government shuts down, Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack said Monday.

A partial government shutdown would stop benefits for participants in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, Vilsack said at a press briefing Monday.

“If we have a shutdown,” he said, “WIC shuts down.”

‘If we have a shutdown, WIC shuts down.’

— Tom Vilsack

Vilsack, in a Monday interview with MSNBC, raised a point that Democrats are increasingly seeking to emphasize: that the springtime Biden compromise with Republican House Speaker Kevin McCarthy was in part aimed at avoidance of an autumn showdown over government funding.

“Everyone is talking about making a deal,” said Vilsack. “The deal has already been made. They made it last May, with the debt ceiling. Back where I come from, when you shake a hand and you basically make a deal, you’ve got to follow through with the deal. … I don’t know why we need a new deal.”

From the archives (May 2023): How Joe Biden and Kevin McCarthy got to yes on their debt-ceiling compromise

More than half of newborns in the U.S. receive food assistance from WIC for fresh fruit, vegetables, bread, and even infant formula, according to the USDA.

“That program expires, if you will, or stops immediately when the shutdown occurs,” Vilsack told reporters.

If Congress doesn’t reach an agreement to renew funding for its new fiscal year by midnight Saturday, Sept. 30, the government will partially shut down Sunday, Oct. 1, which could affect everything from federally-backed mortgages to passport applications to stock market investors.

The Biden administration has already instructed agencies to review and update their shutdown plans.

A contingency fund at the Department of Agriculture could extend the WIC program for a day or two after a shutdown, and it may last for up to a week in some states, Vilsack said. But the “vast majority” of moms and infants who participate in the program would see an “immediate reduction and elimination” of their benefits, he said.

Related: Low-income families may finally be able to purchase food online with their WIC benefits

WIC is already facing a funding crisis. The National WIC Association, or NWA, issued a statement last week to urge Congress to reach a deal, and backed the Biden administration’s call in late August for $1.4 billion in additional funding to deal with rising inflation and increased demand.

“Without the urgent investment of additional funds, state WIC offices could soon be forced to consider waiting lists for prospective participants — a drastic step not seen in nearly 30 years. We simply cannot cross that line,” Kate Franken, board chair of the NWA, said in a statement.

The general government food assistance for low-income families, the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, would continue for at least the month of October under a shutdown, Vilsack said. But if the shutdown is longer than that,  “there will be some serious consequences to SNAP,” he added.

Meals on Wheels America President and CEO Ellie Hollander, and Bob Blancato, executive director of the National Association of Nutrition and Aging Services Programs, also urged Congress to avoid a shutdown.

“We are calling for a clean continuing resolution, before the start of the new federal fiscal year on Oct. 1, to prevent a devastating government shutdown,” they said in a joint statement last week. “A shutdown of any length could severely impact our nation’s most vulnerable older adults facing hunger and isolation.”

Read More


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Search this website