DHEC dipping into savings to maintain WIC program | News
COLUMBIA, SC (WIS) - The S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control announced today that it would maintain the Women, Infant, and Children program through October 31.
Federal officials notified DHEC Monday that the program was considered "non-essential" and it was a victim of the shutdown of the federal government. DHEC officials were told the state would not receive federal funding under the government shutdown.
Earlier this week, officials said WIC benefits will be cut off October 15th. DHEC has developed a contingency plan to provide for one of the state's most vulnerable populations through the end of this month.
"To make sure that the 122,000 low-income families that we serve through WIC continue receiving essential nutritional services during the federal shutdown, DHEC is dipping into agency savings and asking our employees to make some sacrifices," said DHEC Director Catherine Templeton.
"This staff has worked with me for the past 18 months to cut down on expenses and become more efficient. The savings we have realized are being reinvested in the citizens of South Carolina by keeping important protections in place while the federal government sorts things out. Those savings will constitute the WIC operational budget through October 31," continued Templeton. "To continue to provide for low income women and children through October 31, we may be forced to furlough DHEC's 3500 employees in FY 2013-2014. This will help provide the funds necessary to continue the WIC program should the federal government decide not to reimburse states for money spent to continue the program during the shutdown."
Due to the federal shutdown, the agency has lost funding for 784 employees. "It costs the agency $2.6M a week to keep these programs running," explained Templeton. "This includes WIC, hospital certification, and nuclear oversight. We are hopeful that the federal government will reimburse the state for its work during this time, but if not, the employees at DHEC are pulling together to make sure the citizens of South Carolina are protected and supported."
There will be no furloughs unless the federal government does not reimburse South Carolina for the program costs. However, the plan has to be recognized and approved now so there is an identified funding stream to keep these programs going.
"It is important to maintain these services and protections, but it would be irresponsible to run a deficit and hope someone bails us out," said Templeton. "This is a solid plan that is a win-win for the citizens of South Carolina, and I thank the employees of DHEC for their dedication and their contribution."
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