The WIC program and the federal sequestration

Posted at: 02/26/2013 5:42 PM
By: Amanda Ciavarri

It's a program that provides milk and food to low income families, but it could soon face funding cuts, meaning hundreds of thousands of families across the country would be have to be turned away.

This is all because of the possible federal budget cuts called sequestration. It's a package of $85 billion in automatic spending cuts that go into effect Friday. This all started back in August 2011 when Congress failed to come up with a deficit reduction plan. In exchange for increasing the nation's debt ceiling, a group of lawmakers from both parties had to decide where $1.2 trillion in cuts would be made. They had until this year to decide. If that didn't happen, the last resort would be sequestration, an automatic 10% in cuts across the board. So lawmakers have until this Friday to come up with their own cuts or the automatic ones go into effect.

News10NBC wanted to know what the cuts would do to families who depend on programs, like WIC. Every three months, WIC gives the families in the program money to spend on basic food. For a family of two, this works about to be about 4 gallons of milk or if you have a baby 10 cans of formula, 4 or 5 boxes of cereal, 18 eggs and maybe some beans or peanut butter. That has to last the family three months. But if these cuts go through, some families will see all that go away.

Yolanda Bennett, financial aide, Child Care Council, “I would say 80-90 percent of our young mothers are on the WIC program.”

Yolanda Bennett works at the Child Care Council, which is a group that provides child care resources to parents. She knows how important programs like WIC are, but she also knows from personal experience, she was on the program a few years ago when her son was born.

Bennett said, “They are very beneficial, because a lot of families don't have the means to purchase milk, formula for babies, milk cereal, eggs. The Department of Social Services provides some outlet for families but sometimes it is just not enough.”

The WIC program could lose funding if Congress doesn't reach a deal to avoid major  federal budget cuts by Friday. With the cuts in the program nationwide, WIC will have to turn away 600,000 families.

News10NBC's Amanda Ciavarri said, “What would it mean to the families if this program was taken away?”
Bennett said, “They are going to be losing out on a whole lot. Because a lot of these families they really do need WIC. These babies need formula. You can get WIC up until, I think, you are five years old and those are the  key years for your kids to start growing and eating healthy and WIC is a program that helps these families keep their kids health.”

News10NBC got off the phone with the WIC program in Ontario County and they say they are very concerned. A spokeswoman was able to give some numbers about how this will impact people in their program in New York State. State wide they will lose $20 million in funding and 135,000 individuals will have to be removed from the program.