Federal shutdown threatens nutrition services for women, children

Advance layoff notices were sent Wednesday morning to 82 King County employees who provide essential nutrition services for Women, Infants and Children, as a consequence of the continuing federal shutdown, according to King County.

“This self-inflicted, manufactured crisis will interrupt essential nutrition services for 38,000 pregnant women, new mothers, and young children in King County,” said King County Executive Dow Constantine in a news release. “They are literally taking food from the mouths of babies.”

As a result of the shutdown, USDA funding in King County and Washington state for the Women, Infants and Children program, known as WIC, will expire on Oct. 31. The loss of funding will have a total economic impact of up to $30 million dollars a year, including $23 million that goes directly for food for families.

WIC is a federally funded nutrition program that helps 38,000 women and children in King County eat well, learn about nutrition and stay healthy. The program provides vouchers for nutritious foods and infant formula, health screenings, nutrition and health education, and breastfeeding support. WIC services are provided through Public Health – Seattle & King County clinics and nine community partners, including community health centers, Swedish Medical Center, Neighborhood House and Open Arms.

Eighty-two Public Health staff who provide WIC nutrition services in King County were sent advance layoff notices this morning, as required under terms of their collective bargaining agreement.

“This shutdown is hurting Americans,” said U.S. Rep. Jim McDermott of Seattle. “Back pay and IOU’s can’t pay mortgages and the services our government provides are needed right now. This shutdown is hurting Seattle, it is hurting Washington state, and it is hurting our country. We don’t have time to wait for the GOP to come to their senses. We must end this shutdown now.”

At a news conference Wednesday at the White Center Public Health Center at Greenbridge, Constantine was joined by King County Council member and Council Budget Chair Joe McDermott, and a WIC client, Crystal Ruegger.

"I differ with every one of my council colleagues on politics and policy on occasion. But we work through our differences and adopt responsible budgets annually,” said McDermott. “To threaten mothers and children over politics is inexcusable."


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