Services Branch Chief Linda Chock.
The program provides monthly vouchers for the purchase of milk, baby formula, healthy food and other necessities for low-income families with young children.
The $7 billion program issues money to each state’s department of health, which then distribute the funds.
“At this point in time we have looked at what we have left over from last year’s funding, and we are OK to proceed as usual,” Chock said Wednesday. “We’ll be keeping a close eye on all our bills, but we feel that we are going to be OK. … Clients may continue to report to their appointments, and cash checks at vendors.”
The branch chief said she couldn’t share the exact amount of funding leftover in the program’s coffers, because she did not want to worry families, or cause them to prematurely redeem their vouchers for food which might spoil before their next regularly scheduled vouchers are given to them.
“We don’t want to give out information that would cause people to panic,” she said. “We should be OK for the near future, and we’re trying to see if there would be any kind of state funding available if this thing goes on for months.
“Personally, I’m hoping that won’t happen.”
A contingency plan issued Tuesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture reported that if continuing appropriations are not made to keep WIC operating, individual states could run out of funding by the end of October.
“States may make the decision to continue operations for some period, but they will be doing so at their own risk with the understanding that federal funds may not be forthcoming,” the report states.
In August, Hilo’s WIC offices served 5,182 people, while the Kealakekua office served 1,529, according to Chock.
“We did have a few calls from participants who are worried,” she said. “But we put something on our website and we’re reassuring people that we are open for business. … It’s business as usual.”
She added that the only WIC clients in the state who have been impacted by the shutdown have been those on military bases on Oahu, where commissaries have been closed.
Email Colin M. Stewart at firstname.lastname@example.org.-