Local families in need could lose benefits if government shutdown drags out

LA CROSSE, Wis. - Local families in need could lose benefits through the Women, Infants and Children or WIC nutrition program if the government shutdown drags out.

As the sole provider for her husband and two kids, the WIC program has helped Rosana Hernandez with essentials that she would normally otherwise not be able to afford.

"You get the milk, cereal, peanut butter, eggs and all that," said Hernandez.
But what helps her the most is paying for the special formula needed for her 6-month-old son, Colten.

"(The) last time I'd seen the total of formula, it came to a total of over $100, and that's really something that I don't have," said Hernandez.

Now with the WIC program potentially having to close because of the government shutdown, Hernandez isn't sure what she'll do.


"It makes me worried about how I'm going to feed him because I don't get a whole lot of food stamps," said Hernandez.

More than 2,000 families in La Crosse County receive help from WIC.

The county's program director, Jennifer Loging said it has enough funding to last through the month. That means people can still apply for benefits, pick up their checks for food assistance and businesses can still cash those checks to be reimbursed.

Loging said they'll need to figure out what to do long-term in the next couple of weeks.

"This is concerning," said Loging. "This is serious stuff. If WIC had to shut down, women, children and families -- they lose benefits; they lose the nutrition education, the breastfeeding support and education. They would lose food that they rely on -- from basic staple food that they need and rely on to feed their families and including infant formula too."

Loging also said shutting the program down could also mean the monthly checks families use for food assistance would disappear.

"The food dollars come down through the national government, so we need to be sure that stores can be reimbursed for food for the checks that people are spending," said Loging.

So while the county works to prepare for the worst, Hernandez is also thinking about taking measures of her own.

"It just comes down to the fact that I'm going to have no other choice but to get another job, and then I wouldn't be able to see my kids," said Hernandez. "(It's) another reason why I would be stressed out."

Loging said there is some money from the department as well as rebates that can be used to help fund the program if the government shutdown lasts more than a month, but stresses both are last resorts.

During the last government shutdown in 1995, the WIC program was not affected because it was considered an essential program.

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