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King County Executive: Shutdown taking food out of babies’ mouths

Politicians are trading rhetoric and needy mothers are frightened by the prospect of a continuing shutdown of the federal government that threatens the funding for a crucial nutrition program.

“This federal shutdown lends itself to hyperbole, but this is no exaggeration, they are literally taking the food out of babies’ mouths,” says King County Executive Dow Constantine.

Constantine stood with a nursing mother of three children at a White Center health clinic to call on Congress to end the shutdown.

Crystal Reugger’s husband is on furlough and the family depends on the federally-funded nutrition program known as WIC. But WIC is in jeopardy. Funding runs out Oct. 31.

“Without my husband being able to work, we don’t have money coming in at all. So to hear this, to know that they’re playing with people’s lives, it’s devastating, and really stressful,” says Reugger.

Constantine says county employees who administer WIC have been notified of potential layoffs.

“The layoff notices are being sent to 82 employees. This has the potential to affect up to 38,000 people in King County, with a financial impact up to $30 million.”

The WIC program provides health screenings and vouchers for food and infant formula. I talked to Crystal Reugger as she held her 5-month-old son, Ryan, her toddler daughter, and 5-year-old in tow.

“She can’t have regular dairy. So without the WIC checks, we don’t have anything for her to drink, and without the WIC checks, I don’t have anything for my 5-year-old to eat because she pretty much only likes vegetables.”

Constantine says the county has been propping up social services for years, but it doesn’t have the money to step in here.

“It’s time for Congress to stop holding America’s future hostage and to get back to the jobs for which they were elected,” he says.

Reugger doesn’t know what will happen, but she does know that she is scared.

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