Salt Lake County keeps WIC clinics open

Posted at 9:36 PM, Oct 01, 2013
and last updated 2013-10-01 23:36:32-04

SALT LAKE CITY -- Salt Lake County is digging into its savings to keep a food and nutrition federal service open for low- income women.

Clinics for Women Infants and Children, a federally funded agency, are shutting down across the state due to the government shutdown early Tuesday morning.

The government shut down Tuesday morning after Washington politicians could not come to an agreement on the budget. The center of the controversy is President Barack Obama’s Affordable Healthcare Act.

While clinics across the state started shutting down Tuesday, Salt Lake County has provided money to keep clinics operational for a week.

"This program would have ceased to be funded today at 5 p.m. with the impending federal shutdown -- the county stepped forward and said we cannot allow that to happen," said Jim Bradley, Salt Lake County Councilman.

Salt Lake County officials say 25,000 people rely on WIC, which provides baby formula diapers and food for women in need. The council is taking $137,000 out of its savings and spending it to keep six WIC clinics in the county open for one week -- but the 46 other clinics in Utah will be closed come Tuesday, which means hundreds of employees that keep the clinics running are temporarily out of work.

While Salt Lake County has come to the rescue, services will be sparse.

"The program won't run as normal, we won't be able to certify clients for the WIC programs," said Gary Edwards, Executive Director of the Salt Lake County Health Department.

There's no telling how long the government shutdown will last but local pantries say the state will find a way to keep their shelves stocked.

"We're not worried about running out of food,” said Linda Hilton, Community Outreach Coordinator for Crossroads Urban Center in downtown Salt Lake. “We've got a plan to keep formula on the shelves -- however we didn't not expect WIC to close this early.”

Even though the clinics in Salt Lake County will be operational, women won't be able to get any new food vouchers. The vouchers for existing clients will only last about another month, according to county officials.

Counties suggest going to the Utah Food Bank or local pantries for formula or anything else needed that would have been provided through WIC.