Shutdown could hit women and children the hardest

It's business as usual this week for some of the largest federally funded programs in America.

While the government shutdown remains in place, many agencies like WIC are dipping into their contingency funds to stay open. But if the shutdown lasts more than a few weeks, women and children will become some of the hardest hit.

"What we provide for women, infants and children, it does make a great difference in their day to day living," Mary Lovell said.

Lovell is a 25-year veteran with the Adams County Health Department and has spent every one of those years working in the WIC department. It's a Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children. Currently, about 9 million moms and kids living in poverty rely on the national program. But funds will disappear by the end of the month if the federal government doesn't reopen for business.

"The effects can be devastating. And that can be heartbreaking to all those moms who care so much about their children and infants," Lovell said.

Lovell and a handful of other nurses at this clinic see more than 1,600 clients a year looking for guidance on nutrition, breastfeeding support and referrals.

"People do come in to get food vouchers from us, our WIC coupons, they bring their children to get weighed and measured and assessed for growth and development," Lovell said.

If this program were to close, it would impact nutrition for young children. Food pantries already in need of food would see an even larger volume of clients.

"I've been at WIC a long time and it's heartbreaking for me to think this might happen. Hopefully it will not. Hopefully those men in government and women too, I'm sure, have family members that have been touched by WIC. So, hopefully they'll take that into consideration when thinking about things to keep open," Lovell said.

Lovell says almost half of the babies born in America are born into the WIC program.

The WIC program serves about 280 thousand women, infants and children in Illinois. Annual funds come from the USDA which remains closed through the shutdown.