OAK LAWN, Ill. -- The budget impasse in Springfield threatens to halt a program that provides nutritional services for needy women, infants and children in Illinois. The community action agency that operates the state's largest WIC program is already feeling the impact.
CEDA (the Community and Economic Development Association of Cook County, Inc.) WIC was able to cover its expenses for the first month of the state budget crisis, but now the program is facing a crisis itself. The agency has cut staff hours, and that means serving mothers and children has become much harder.
At this rate the agency expects to shut down in two weeks.
As of August 1, 50,000 women and children have faced barriers to accessing food vouchers and special formula for sick infants from the CEDA WIC program, which is funded by the USDA to provide supplemental nutrition focused on healthy eating.
CEDA operates 19 WIC clinics in the Chicago area that offer personalized nutritional counseling, group education and breast feeding counseling.
While the program has received a contract from the Department of Human Services that guarantees funding for the new fiscal year, these funds are being held up in Springfield until a budget can be passed or legislation to allow federal funds to be processed is approved.
In the meantime, WIC maintains that it will be forced to close 19 clinics in Cook County.
WIC generates food vouchers worth $23 million annually, all spent at local groceries.
The program provides financially insecure families with sick infants special formula at a deep discount. Those formulas cost hundreds of dollars monthly elsewhere. Regular infant formula is not available at food pantries. These programs are the source of formula for many mothers.
WGN obtained a letter that was sent to James Dimas, Secretary of the Illinois Department of Human Services. It was written by Tim English, the Regional Administrator of the Midwest Region of the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Food and Nutrition Service.
The letter reads: "I want to remind you that Federal administrative funds are intended to support State administration of the Supplemental Food Programs, such as administrative oversight, compliance, technical assistance, local operations and participant benefits. DHS, as the State Agency, must fully comply with federal law as well as the Federal-State agreements which govern the operation of each FNS program within the state of Illinois."