MYRTLE BEACH — More than 125,000 S.C. women, infants and children may soon lose access to the federal program that provides money for supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education.
Due to the federal government shutdown, no additional federal funds will be available to support the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children’s clinical services, food benefits and administrative costs, according to a memo sent out by U.S. Department of Agriculture last week. As of Tuesday afternoon, the agency’s website was not available “due to the lapse in federal government funding.”
WIC gives grants to states for those supplemental food, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant women, new mothers and to infants and children up to age five who are nutritionally at risk.
The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control said reserve funding should be able to continue the WIC program through Oct. 15. After that, services would end until the USDA releases funding to states.
According to the most recent data, WIC served an average of 125,368 people each month during the 2013 fiscal year, which ended in June, said Jim Beasley, spokesman for the state DHEC. Beasley said he did not know the number of people currently served by WIC.
“DHEC was informed that the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program is considered ‘non-essential’ under the shutdown and will not receive federal funding,” according to the S.C. DHEC statement. “WIC clients should continue using their vouchers as usual and WIC-approved vendors should continue to honor those vouchers.”
The S.C. Department of Social Services, which provides food stamps to S.C. residents through the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, released a statement saying that the federal shutdown no immediate effects on DSS services in South Carolina. The statement said officials would update the public of any changes. SNAP benefits are expected to continue throughout the month of October.
The shutdown also caused all areas of the National Park and National Wildlife Refuge Systems – including the Waccamaw National Wildlife Refuge – to close, restricting public access.
According to a press release from the Waccamaw NWR, public access to service properties are prohibited and fish and wildlife management activities and public programs are canceled during the shutdown. That includes scheduled deer and feral hog hunting activities as well as the International Mountain Biking Association’s Take A Kid Mountain Biking Day.
Take a Kid Mountain Biking will now be held from 10 a.m. to noon at the A10 trail beside the Barc Park in The Market Common on Saturday.
The shutdown will not impact a team of teachers from Burgess Elementary School who will travel to Washington, D.C., Oct. 24 as one of 29 U.S. public schools chosen as a 2013 National Schools of Character winner.
The awards are given by the Character Education Partnership, a private group, so there are no worries that the trip will be disrupted by possible government fallout, said Principal Donna Hooks, and the group will be in meetings most of the time they are away.
The local and Washington, D.C., offices of U.S. Rep. Tom Rice and Sens. Tim Scott and Lindsey Graham operated with “skeleton staffs” on Tuesday, with some offices closing at noon with others expecting greater cuts on Wednesday.
In a statement, Graham said he will donate his salary during the government shutdown to the Wounded Warrior Project. U.S. senators make an annual salary of $174,000. According to the official calendar released last December, Congress was scheduled to be in session for 126 days, making Graham’s daily salary nearly $1,381. As of Tuesday, Congress had been in session for 119 days, according to the Library of Congress.
Contact MAYA T. PRABHU at 444-1722 or follow her at Twitter.com/TSN_MPrabhu.