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Shutdown would invalidate government checks for food to moms

Post by Jordan Schrader / The News Tribune on June 26, 2013 at 2:27 pm |
June 26, 2013 2:27 pm

State government has notified grocery stores that in the event of a shutdown July 1, the stores won’t be reimbursed for infant formula and other food sold to mothers and pregnant women using government vouchers.

“We won’t be able to reimburse the stores, so stores won’t be accepting them,” said Department of Health spokesman Tim Church. “This is really important to moms and toddlers to keep them healthy.”

It’s still an open question whether some stores might honor the Women, Infants and Children checks anyway. And with a deal possibly at hand in the Legislature, all of this may soon be moot.

But the department has notified stores of an option to suspend their contracts before they would be terminated on July 1. And the agency was determining whether to start notifying clients.

Some 195,000 Washingtonians receive benefits each month from the program, according to Church.

This is separate from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program that provides food stamps. That program appears likely to continue in a shutdown. But there is no federal mandate that states participate in the WIC program, Church said.

Here’s the text of the letter sent Monday:

RE: Offer of In Lieu Suspension for Notice of Termination of WIC Retailer Contract Contingent upon Legislative Appropriation

Dear Retail Owner:

This letter is part of the Department of Health contingency plan if the State Legislature does not pass a budget and appropriate operational funds by July 1, 2013.  Without a budget the state government shuts down, requiring the termination or suspension of all contracts. We are offering the option of an amendment to suspend in case of government shut down.

Background:

Article VIII, § 4 of the Washington State Constitution and RCW 43.88.130 prohibit state agencies from expending funds without appropriation. Without appropriation, the Department will be unable to reimburse WIC Checks you accept after July 1, 2013.  Paragraph II.1.A.g and Paragraph II.7.C of your WIC Retailer Contract jointly allow for termination in this circumstance.

Therefore, contingent upon Legislative appropriation, Washington State Department of Health Women, Infants, and Children Nutrition Program (Department) hereby gives notice of termination of your WIC Retailer Contract (Contract), effective June 30, 2013. However, if the Legislature approves appropriations to take effect July 1, 2013, this notice to terminate is cancelled. 

The Department would prefer to suspend rather than terminate your Contract if termination becomes necessary due to a government shutdown. This option is not currently available in your contract.  A suspension would eliminate the need to closeout your existing contract and reapply.  Therefore, the Department offers to you the attached amendment to the Contract to allow for suspension in case of a state government shutdown.

Action Required:

If this amendment is acceptable to you, please sign the attached Short Form Contract Amendment and return a copy to us by fax (360-236-2345), or email at WICRetailerManagement@doh.wa.gov or mail to P.O. Box 47886, Olympia, WA 98504-7886, or overnight to 310 Israel Road SE, Tumwater, WA 98501 by June 30, 2013.

If you have questions, please contact us by email at WICRetailerManagement@doh.wa.gov, or call 1-800-841-1410.  Thank you.

Sincerely,

Janet Jackson Charles, Director

Office of Nutrition Services

Prevention and Community Health

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