DHEC feeling government shutdown impact

Billy Cannada Staff Writer

October 8, 2013

PICKENS COUNTY — Monday began another week of the current federal government shutdown and a local state agency has been feeling an impact.

During the shutdown, a main area of concern for some local residents in Pickens County could be assistance programs that are running short of funds.

South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) officials say they have been scrambling to find a way to continue to fund the state’s WIC program that provides assistance to families in need of food items.

Initially, DHEC officials say they were informed that the Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program is considered “non-essential” under the shutdown and will not receive federal funding.

DHEC officials have said since, however, that a contingency plan that dips into the agency’s savings will continue the program through the end of the month.

DHEC said in a release that it may have to furlough some employees to keep the program afloat.

“This staff has worked with me for the past 18 months to cut down on expenses and become more efficient,” Catherine Templeton, DHEC’s director, said in a news release. “The savings we have realized are being reinvested in the citizens of South Carolina by keeping important protections in place while the federal government sorts things out.”

Officials say no furloughs will be necessary if the federal government reimburses state funds, according to the release.

WIC provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.

Officials at Congressman Jeff Duncan’s office (R-SC) say President Barack Obama’s unwillingness to negotiate a deal on a continuing resolution that would completely fund the government is the reason for the shutdown. ‘

Senate law makers say house republicans are causing the shutdown with their refusal to pass a “clean” resolution

Duncan’s office said the House of Representatives has passed legislation funding programs such as WIC fully “without strings attached,” but Senate democrats say it is an attempt to avoid funding the Affordable Care Act and has refused to pass the similar legislation.