The Southwest Utah Public Health Department issued a statement Tuesday on their official website swuhealth.org and their facebook account alerting all recipients that, since the shutdown defunded the Women Infants and Children (WIC) program it would be “…unavailable until further notice.”
Southwest Utah Public Health Department public information officer David Heaton said all of the vouchers issued for the month of October can still be used, but beyond October, there are no guarantees.
All appointments for the month of October have been canceled and Heaton said they will not be rescheduled until the government passes a budget. In the meantime, he said they have been forced to furlough six employees between both Washington and Iron counties.
“Basically, they are at home without pay,” Heaton said. “About 25 percent of our (annual) budget comes from the WIC program, (it is) our main federally funded program.”
He said that the shutdown does not affect any of the other services that are provided by the public health department, and they will still operate under their normal business hours.
According to their website, the Southwest Public Health Department has an office in Washington, Iron, Kane, Beaver, and Garfield counties.
Heaton said that any high-risk WIC clients may still be able to receive help by contacting a hotline. The number is available on their facebook page, and he said any updates about the closure will be posted there as soon as they come in.
According to “the U.S. government's official web portal” USA.gov, Social Security recipients will still receive their benefits, there will be no interruption in active duty military services, and the post office will operate as usual.
Utah Department of Workforce Services public information officer Nic Dunn said that for right now there is no need for their clients to be concerned about a cut or lapse in benefits.
“(We) will not see any immediate negative impacts to our programs or employees,” Dunn said. “I think this is largely thanks to an efficiently run department.”
Although Dunn said that DWS will closely monitor the situation in Washington D.C., he said there are still enough reserve funds to keep operating programs – at least for now.
Michael O Leavitt Center for Politics and Public Service executive director Eric Kirby said that this is not the first time government has come to a screeching halt as the result of congress refusing to pass a budget. He said the last time this happened was during the Clinton administration 17 years ago, and the shutdown lasted for 22 days.
Heaton said the government divides programs into those that are essential to run government and those that are non-essential and when a shutdown happens all non-essential programs are immediately defunded, and that includes recreational facilities like national parks.
Many public offices were unavailable for comment due to immediate closures, such as Cedar Breaks National Park and Zion Canyon National Park, so it is still unknown how many parks employees have been furloughed as of Tuesday.
“There is politics involved in all of this,” Kirby said. “The republicans are insisting that any new spending bill includes a clause that either defunds Obamacare, or otherwise halts, stops, or delays it; democrats are saying, we are not going to approve any budget that is going to defund Obamacare,
“(Then) the blame game kicks in, they need to come to the table and strike a deal on the spending bill so we can move forward,” he added.
KCSG will continue to update this article as new information comes in.