NASHVILLE - A federal program that provides nutritional and other assistance to some 160,000 low-income mothers and their infant or young children in Tennessee will continue to be funded through October, state officials say.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture has given Tennessee and other states a green light to maintain the Women, Infants and Children Program, commonly known as WIC, a green light to continue operations during the federal government's partial shutdown.
"I can tell you the Tennessee WIC program has funding to continue operating as usual through the end of October," state Health Department spokeswoman Shelley Walker said in an email.
Gov. Bill Haslam's office said last Tuesday, the first day of the shutdown, that the program would be able to operate for seven to 10 days. Monday was the seventh day of the shutdown.
That was based on initial USDA guidance.
But the Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president and CEO of the National WIC Association, said today that after assessing various unspent funds by states across the country, the USDA on Wednesday and Thursday sent additional guidance informing states that collectively, the $125 million could extend the program through October. And the money is being reallocated to all the states, he said.
"So as of [last] Thursday, every state in the country was open for business until the end of the month using last year's money, whatever was available," said Greenaway, whose group advocates on behalf of some 9 million WIC mothers and children recipients as well as state, county and city service providers nationwide.
"But if at the end of the month, if Congress doesn't fix it, the tap will be turned off," Greenaway warned.
Abena Williams with the Hamilton County Health Department said that as of August, there was a total of 7353 local residents using WIC. The figure includes 1,989 women and 5,364 infants and children.