Despite government shutdown, local health department "business as usual"


Reporter - Elizabeth Fields
Photojournalist - Mason Watkins

PADUCAH, Ky. - While the results of a Federal Government shutdown are still getting shifted through, some programs are preparing to be impacted. The Women, Infants, and Children Nutritional Program is just one of them.

The federally funded program supports about nine million Americans by offering nutrition support to low-income women and their children in the form of grocery voucher.

While no federal money would be available to pay the administrative costs of WIC, it is administered by the state governments so in some states funds will still be available.

Director of The Purchase Area Health Department Kent Koster told Local 6 he has been in close communication with Kentucky health officials who told him not to shut down WIC benefits.

"Right now they're telling us business as usual," he said. "Continue issuing benefits at this point until we hear otherwise."

He added that if the program does suffer as a result of the shutdown, it would be new participants and those who are trying to extend expiring benefits that might be forced to wait until congress comes to an agreement. 

Brittany Gilman from Graves County is just one of hundreds of women in Western Kentucky receiving benefits. She said without it, he and her husband will have a hard time making ends meet. 

"My husband works 40-plus hours a week and still we have to try to have ends meet so losing WIC, is just going to put our bills way behind," she said.

She says her eight-month-old will always come first, but lack of funding would put other family members at risk.

"I would definitely have to consider cutting my animals because they're costly in food, but they're part of my family so that would be one of the hardest things to cut," she said.

Koster said anyone with questions about program benefits can call their local health department.