ST. PETERSBURG — Local officials say a federal program that provides nutrition to children and pregnant mothers won't be immediately affected by the federal government shutdown.
The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC) provides healthy food, nutrition counseling and other services to children under 5 years old, to breastfeeding mothers and to pregnant women. The program's fiscal year began Monday without an approved budget.
"Locally, and with I think all the WIC programs in the state, it's kind of business as usual," said Maggie Hall, spokeswoman for the Florida Department of Health in Pinellas County. "They're still giving people checks."
But Hall had few answers Wednesday about where continued funding might be found.
Though a federal program, WIC is administered locally through the state Department of Health. The department's Tallahassee headquarters released only a brief statement stating they would continue to monitor the situation in Washington, D.C.
According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, state agencies will have the authority to use other available funding resources in order to continue to provide benefits to WIC.
In August, the last month for which reliable numbers were available, the program served about 17,000 people in Pinellas County at an estimated cost of $1,166,424, county WIC and Nutrition Management Director Barbara Sarver said.
On Wednesday, officials at the St. Petersburg office said they fielded calls from concerned parents and saw an influx of people who mistakenly believed that if they didn't pick up voucher checks immediately, they wouldn't be able to do so later in the month.
Sarver said some grocery stores have even called to ask if they should still accept the program's vouchers. She said she assures them checks already cut come from state reserves and won't be affected by changes at the federal level.
Claire Wiseman can be reached at (727)-893-8804 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter: @clairelwiseman