Those who receive a supplemental food program in South Carolina will get a few more weeks of help during the government shutdown. The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control (DHEC) told its more than 122,000 clients that it would continue to back the federally funded Women, Infant and Children (WIC) program through the end of October from its own reserves.
WIC helps pregnant women and mothers buy healthy food.
DHEC director Catherine Templeton said the U.S. Department of Agriculture will be able to pay for the food itself, but her agency will have to come up with $500,000 per week to pay for the program’s staffing and administrative costs. She said the agency has the funds to keep the program operating through October 31, but will have to redirect money from other programs in order to do so.
DHEC expects to eventually be reimbursed, but Templeton says a fallback plan could require her to start furloughing the agency’s 3,500 employees if that does not happen. “Hopefully we won’t have to do that,” she told South Carolina Radio Network. “I really am very optimistic that we won’t have to do it. But we do have to have that conversation.”
The director said she only anticipates furloughs if the federal government does not reimburse South Carolina.
Due to the federal shutdown, Templeton says DHEC has lost funding for 784 employees. “It costs the agency $2.6 million a week to keep these programs running,” she said in a statement. “This includes WIC, hospital certification, and nuclear oversight. We are hopeful that the federal government will reimburse the state for its work during this time, but if not, the employees at DHEC are pulling together to make sure the citizens of South Carolina are protected and supported.”