Columbia, SC (WLTX) - The South Carolina Department of Health and Environmental Control says it can keep the program that provides food to low-income mothers and children running until the end of the month.
DHEC announced Friday their plans for the Women, Infant, and Children program.
Because of the partial government shutdown, WIC is losing federal funding. The government considers the service non-essential, meaning it isn't exempt from the spending freeze.
Approximately 122,000 low-income families in the state use WIC each month. More than 31,000 of them from the Midlands.
DHEC Director Catherine Templeton, however, says her agency will dip into agency savings and potentially will use furloughs to keep the program going.
"This staff has worked with me for the past 18 months to cut down on expenses and become more efficient," Templeton said in a statement. "The savings we have realized are being reinvested in the citizens of South Carolina by keeping important protections in place while the federal government sorts things out. Those savings will constitute the WIC operational budget through October 31. To continue to provide for low income women and children through October 31, we may be forced to furlough DHEC's 3,500 employees in FY 2013-2014. This will help provide the funds necessary to continue the WIC program should the federal government decide not to reimburse states for money spent to continue the program during the shutdown."
If the shutdown lasts through the end of the month, Templeton says that would amount to six days of furlough for employees to take by the end of the fiscal year that runs through the end of June 2014. She says each week amounts to about a day and a half for furlough.
Templeton says the furloughs will not be necessary if the government reimburses the state for program costs, but if they are she says she and her staff will join the agency in the furloughs.
"I'm optimistic, very optimistic, that the government, when it opens back up will pay us back for what we're doing this month, but if not we have a plan in place, which is the responsible thing to do," said Templeton.
President Obama and members of Congress said Friday they were considering giving back pay to federal workers once the shutdown ends.