By Marcia Moore
The Daily Item
A statewide freeze in funding for Women, Infant and Children’s (WIC) programs may temporarily close the Sunbury and Selinsgrove offices beginning Friday.
“We’re out of money. It’s impossible for us to stay open,” Lisa Wehr, assistant director of Family Planning Plus of Sunbury, Union and Northumberland counties said Monday.
The two other WIC offices, located in Lewisburg and Shamokin, will remain open one day a week. More than 5,000 eligible women, children and infants are served each month by the nutritional program that has been offered in the Valley for nearly 30 years.
A change in the auditing of the program has slowed payments to WIC offices across the state from the Pennsylvania Department of Health to the point that the local WIC programs have not received a payment since June, and Wehr said that was a partial payment owed from May.
“We’re owed about $370,000 and we’ve almost totally exhausted our reserves,” Wehr said, explaining the decision for furloughing about 15 employees temporarily until reimbursements are received to cover payroll and other expenses.
SUN WIC Coordinator Brett Campbell said the temporary closures will have an impact on mothers and young children who can’t access the program.
“They may go without healthy or enough food,” he said of the short-term consequences. “In the long term, healthy childhood growth and development may be hampered.”
Coordinators of the Erie WIC program announced it was closing all of its offices in mid-August due to invoicing errors that prevented the local agency from receiving payments from the state, but representatives from the Department of Health stepped in to make sure services wasn’t interrupted.
Cindy Stewart, president and CEO of Family Health Council, said the state was notified Friday about the upcoming closure of the Sunbury and Selinsgrove WIC offices pending payment.
“Our plan is to keep these offices open. No client will go without food,” she said.