By Kim Walter
According to the Virginia Department of Health, all offices for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) are open and providing services during the partial shutdown of the federal government.
Cynthia Romero, state health commissioner, said it remains "business as usual" for WIC operations in the state.
In a news release, the health department expressed confidence that it has identified funding options to keep the WIC program running through at least Nov. 1.
The funding includes 2013 WIC carryover dollars, rebates from Virginia's infant formula contract, reimbursement from Medicaid, money from a USDA emergency contingency fund and continued prudent program oversight by WIC staff throughout the state.
Additionally, there is no need for any furloughs of WIC staff through the end of the month, the release states.
"The importance of the WIC program to women and children in Virginia cannot be understated," Romero said. "Providing essential healthy food packages, high quality nutrition education, breastfeeding support and referrals to needed human services ensures that our participants continue to experience healthy pregnancies and growth."
She added that the department will continue watching budgets closely in hopes of extending WIC services as long as possible during "these uncertain times."
The Virginia WIC program provides services to approximately 155,777 recipients per month. In the fiscal year 2013-2014, its federal budget was $101,081,014.
The number of people in the Lord Fairfax Health District who participate in the program are 536 pregnant women, 606 post partum women, 1,097 infants, and 2,206 children for a total of 4,445.
The Lord Fairfax Health District's budget for fiscal year 2013-2014 was $667,606.87. However, this doesn't include food costs, which comes form the WIC Central Office budget.
The best estimate for the annual food costs for the district would be about $4.8 million, according to Maribeth Brewster, manager of risk communication and public health information.
Dr. Charles Devine, director of the local health district, said concerns about the WIC program flooded the office following the shutdown earlier this week.
"People were worried," he said. "I think we were all wondering, 'what's going on?'"
However, Devine wants to assure local residents that the local program will be stable through the end of the month. As to what would happen after Nov. 1, he couldn't comment.
If anyone has questions or would like to enroll in the program, they can contact or visit any of the local offices, or go to www.vdh.state.va.us/lhd/lordfairfax.
Contact staff writer Kim Walter at 540-465-5137 ext. 191, or firstname.lastname@example.org