SALT LAKE CITY — Roughly 65,000 Utahns who use the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, more commonly known as WIC, will lose that assistance. Many say they did not see it coming.
Mathea Olney is a Utah mother struggling to make ends meet and counts on WIC to help feed her family — which includes two sets of twins, ages 2 years and 6 months.
"Money is very tight," Olney said. "We're struggling just to afford diapers right now."
Her youngest have medical problems and use a special baby formula that costs about $750 a month. She typically picks this formula up for free at the WIC office.
"We were supposed to go tomorrow for our appointment and pick some up, and they called today and said they were shutting down due to the government," Olney said.
WIC offices across the state won't be re-opening until the government shutdown is resolved.
It's a move that took even the Utah Department of Health officials off guard. Until Monday, they thought a government shutdown would only have a minimal impact on the WIC program.
"We're trying to adjust on the fly as quick as we can," said Tom Hudachko, spokesman for the Utah Department of Health. "We're trying to negotiate with the federal government to see if there is any emergency funding that they can free up."
Hudachko said the health department has just enough money to cover October food vouchers that have already been issued.
"But if you are a new client, if you don't have your vouchers for October yet, we're not going to be able to issue any new vouchers until the shutdown is resolved," he said.
As for Olney, she only has about a week's worth of formula left, so she's praying that WIC opens its doors soon.
"If they don't open up, how am I going to feed my kids?" she said.
Some people have been confused about whether grocery stores will still accept their WIC vouchers. But as, Hudachko said, WIC vouchers that have already been issued for October are good.