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WIC Program May Drop 110,000 in California

The federal government is preparing to cut $1.5 trillion over 10 years from its budget. Under some proposals or in the event automatic reductions are triggered if no compromise solution is reached, cuts could affect health care services for low-income individuals.

Reductions in the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Women, Infants and Children program would mean fewer services for California kids, according to Laurie True, executive director of the California WIC Association.

“We would have to take people off the program,” True said. “We haven’t had to take people off this program for many, many years and we think it’s unacceptable.”

If proposed cuts are enacted, True estimates about 110,000 Californians will have to be taken off the program, which provides supplemental foods, health care referrals and nutrition education for about 1.4 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers and infants and children younger than age five in California. Another estimate by the California Budget Project puts the number at about 135,000.

There’s an economic reason for the continued level of funding, True said. “It’s because both [main political] parties recognize this program saves money,” she said, “by reaching this vulnerable population at a critical stage. We make sure these families get off to a good start, and that saves on trips to neonatal intensive care, to the emergency room, and so many other ways.”

WIC organizations across the country staged protests yesterday. In California, people gathered at the WIC center on Washington Blvd. in Los Angeles.

“This is the opening salvo in an ongoing battle,” True said. “In my view, it would be going back to the bad old days of abject poverty and malnutrition, we’ll see worse and worse birth outcomes, more pre-term births, higher death rates among infants and children. And that’s plain unacceptable.”

The congressional debt panel — six Republicans and six Democrats known as the “super committee” — has to make its budget recommendations by Nov. 23. If Congress fails to pass a plan, across-the-board cuts would be made automatically.

“In that case, they’d go into effect by Dec. 23,” True said. “That’d be a great Christmas present for WIC families.”

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