CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- With the U.S. government shutdown in its third full day and no clear end in sight, state officials are closely monitoring safety-net programs that are run by state agencies but rely on federal funding.
None of the programs it administers is in immediate jeopardy, but the West Virginia Department of Health and Human Resources is re-evaluating its budget on an "hour-by-hour" basis as the shutdown disrupts payments for some of its programs, a spokeswoman said.
The largest safety net programs -- Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and food stamps -- are not funded through regular annual budget bills and are not likely to be significantly affected by the shutdown.
Of most immediate concern to the DHHR was the program known as WIC (The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), which provides money for healthy foods and baby formula for low-income pregnant women and children less than 5 years old.
Unlike most other safety net programs, regular funding for WIC, which serves about 50,000 West Virginians per month, has been cut off by the government shutdown. On Wednesday, the state received more than $400,000 in special contingency funds from the U.S Department of Agriculture to help keep funding WIC during the shutdown.
That, combined with $1.6 million in unspent funds from 2013, will allow WIC to operate through the rest of the month, said DHHR spokeswoman Allison Adler.
WIC serves nearly half of all infants in West Virginia and about 25 percent of all children between ages one and four.
Depending on family size and income, WIC benefits for eligible families range from about $1 to about $4 per day.
While WIC posed the most immediate threat, Adler said that the state's financial analysts were continuing to evaluate budget options as the shutdown continues.
"The situation in Washington is so fluid, so it's ever changing and we're getting different notices throughout the day," she said. "We're good with everything through the end of the week and then we're just going to take it day-by-day, and actually more like hour-by-hour, as information comes in."
The longer the government shutdown drags on, the more state programs could find themselves on uncertain footing.
An internal USDA memo sent Oct. 1 in preparation for a shutdown said, "Should a lapse extend through late October, federal WIC funding may not be sufficient to cover benefits."