ROCHESTER, N.Y. —News10NBC found out Monday that thousands of local women and children are at risk of having their WIC benefits slashed.
The federal government funds the program, and despite an increasing number of people enrolling, there’s no plan to provide a budget increase for it moving forward.
This isn’t a done deal, but it could impact more than 20,000 people here in our area alone.
Without the additional funding, the program either won’t be able to enroll any new families or it’ll have to scale back what it provides to all families who participate.
WIC is specifically for low-income pregnant, postpartum and breast-feeding women, and their children, up to age five. Those who get the benefits have to use them on nutritious foods or baby formula. It can’t be spent on anything else.
The folks at Foodlink, which has mobile WIC units that actually go out into the community to provide food to those who are enrolled in the program, say they have new moms who desperately need the benefits signing up everyday. Without an increase in the federal allocation, they won’t be able to meet their demands.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer was in town Monday and says he’s continuing to push for an increase in the budget before the January deadline.
“We know with soaring food prices, that more families are struggling to make ends meet, and really the projections of the amount of families who qualify are very much underestimated,” says CEO of Foodlink, Julia Tedesco. “So, without an increase to WIC, we would see a lot of families struggle. The idea of a child being on a waitlist for food is egregious.”
“I’m going to do everything I can as majority leader to see that this food, food for women, infants and children, continues to get funded,” says Schumer. “It’s so important. Because all the science, all the studies show us that when kids are hungry, they can’t learn well at school, they have health problems. Food is essential. And in 20th century America, we should not have kids go hungry.”
The WIC program serves about 22,000 families in the Finger Lakes Region.
During the pandemic, the fruit and vegetable benefit was increased. The proposed cut in the spending bill in question here, puts the benefit back to where it was pre-pandemic — which for most would be a difference of about $20 or so per month.
News10NBC will keep a close eye on this as things develop in Washington.
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