The WIC program is scrambling to figure out how to continue funding services across the Commonwealth. The program provides food benefits for mothers and children. State health leaders say the reason they are still able to offer WIC benefits and staff employees during this government shutdown is due to some $3 million in unused funding from last year. But that money won't last forever.
19-year-old mother Tiffany McGuire found herself extremely concerned when she learned of this week's government shutdown.
"I thought it was ridiculous," she said.
She's one of more than 6500 mothers in the Richmond health district who rely on WIC benefits for healthy food for their children.
"It has helped so much. Formula is so expensive. He needs more stuff since he's one. If we could afford it, we wouldn't be on WIC," McGuire said holding her son.
Since WIC is funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture - a federal program - the government shutdown means no extra funds are flowing right now. Virginia has found a way to get through - temporarily.
"At this time were monitoring it very closely," said Michael Welch with the state health department.
He says thanks to more than $3 million in unused funding from last year - WIC services in Virginia are still being offered. NBC 12 asked how long it would be before those funds are exhausted.
"Two, or three, four, or five weeks," Welch replied.
The situation is so dire - one WIC employee in Richmond said workers were told to brace for the possibility of furloughs by the middle of the month. Welch is not confirming that, only saying the state is working closely with the U.S.D.A. to find a fix.
"They've been very supportive to continue to fund WIC participants even though many of their employees have been furloughed," Welch said.
It's a scenario that has parents like McGuire worried but praying that Congress will get past the politics and re-open government.
"They're not thinking about the single moms that's not getting child support and needs WIC to help," she said.
In Richmond it takes a million dollars to run WIC for one year. With many more cities and towns that need services, the $3 million the state is currently working with to fund salaries and benefits could eat up quickly. So the state says it's also keeping its eyes on what the feds will do.
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