COLUMBUS- Today, Rep. Dan Ramos (D-Lorain), Rep. John Rogers (D-Mentor-on-the Lake) and Rep. Nickie J. Antonio (D-Lakewood) introduced legislation that would authorize the state to temporarily fund the Women, Infant and Children program (WIC) if the federal government shutdown continues to jeopardize the stability of the safety net program. Over 260,000 Ohio women and children are served by the WIC program each year through supplemental foods, healthcare referrals and nutrition education.
“We cannot simply stand by and let our state’s most vulnerable citizens suffer while we allow radicals in the Tea Party to hold our nation hostage. Poor children should not be made to pay with empty bellies for the reprehensible lack of action by an extreme faction of one party in the U.S. House,” said Rep. Ramos. “We have a moral obligation to step in if extremists in Congress can’t put politics aside to do the right thing.
The Democratic proposal would authorize the Governor to disburse Budget Surplus Funds to the Ohio Department of Health (ODH) to prop up the WIC program if the shutdown drags on. The legislation would only become effective if the shutdown results in a programmatic funding loss for ODH. Up to $25 million in state funding could be directed to WIC under the bill, which includes an emergency clause to forego the 90-day waiting before it becomes law.
“We are calling on Governor Kasich and our colleagues in the General Assembly to authorize state funding for the WIC program if need be, so that no one goes hungry,” said Rep. Rogers. “People’s lives depend on it. I hope that my colleagues and the Governor show compassion for those in need during these hard economic times by passing this bill.”
“Women and children are once again collateral damage as political war wages with the federal government shutdown,” added. Rep. Antonio. “This resolution calls for a responsible action to provide needed nutritional safety net provisions-this appropriation would transcend partisan politics.”
Ohio ranks 48th in the nation for infant mortality rates, and WIC is helping to improve these alarming statistics by reducing the incidence of low birth weight, and providing infants and children with a healthy start in life by improving poor or inadequate diets. WIC provides specific nutritional supplements such as milk, cereal, cheese, fruits and vegetables to babies, pregnant women, women breastfeeding, and children under 5 who fall under 185% of the Federal Poverty Level.