The nutrition of infants and pregnant women may soon be affected by the government shutdown

MADISON COUNTY, Ala. -- The government shutdown directly affects many federal employees, but it also affects families who rely on federally-funded programs. So far, the federal program that provides food assistance and other support for women, infants, and children -- known as "WIC" -- has not been affected by the ongoing government shutdown. At least not yet.

The WIC program is designed to ensure women and their children get the nutrition they need. Moms are given vouchers to pay for things like formula, vegetables, and milk, the necessities to keep mom and baby happy and healthy.

"Especially when they're babies. Babies are expensive," said mom and WIC user Catherine Guffey. "And the WIC program actually helps us not have to worry about it."

Catherine has three children under five years old and says the WIC program saves her family hundreds of dollars a week.

"Five cans of formula, depends on what kind you get, but five cans of formula range anywhere from $98 to $100, and that's supposed to last a child a month," Guffey said.

Even with this assistance, sometimes families have to ask for extra help from local clinics and charities. It's unknown what these families will do if their WIC assistance is impacted by the government shutdown.

"If you're going to get new WIC cards, and if the funds aren't there then you don't get your WIC vouchers," Guffey explained. "It's on hold till the government, or whoever is over this, decides what to do."

There's enough funding available to provide WIC benefits to mothers and children through at least mid-February. But if the shutdown drags on much longer, benefits for some families could be reduced or cut off entirely.

Depending on how long the impasse lasts, benefits could start to be cut in a number of ways. WIC programs could start issuing benefits for just one month, instead of the usual three. Or they might cut or end benefits for new mothers and older children, in order to prioritize the pregnant mothers and infants who rely on the program.