Utah governor has contingency plan for WIC, national parks in case of federal government shutdown

Bryce Canyon National Park. Photo: National Park Service

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah, Sept. 28, 2023 (Gephardt Daily) — Gov. Spencer Cox announced a contingency plan Thursday to continue nutrition benefits for Utah women and children and keep national parks in the state open in the event of a federal government shutdown next week.

Cox expressed frustration over the potential government shutdown but reassured Utahns of the state’s intentions to ensure the health and well-being of families, and protect the local economy and access to public lands.

“It’s extremely disappointing that Congress is unwilling to fulfill its most basic obligation of funding the government, but Utah is prepared to step up and do what it takes to reduce the impact of a shutdown on Utah families,” he said.

“In Utah, our number one priority is our families, and we will not let down the families who depend on the WIC program. Our tourism economy is also of vital importance and we’ve communicated to Interior Secretary [Deb] Haaland our plan to keep Utah’s national parks open if she is willing to work with us, and our expectation that any state dollars spent will be restored to the people of Utah.”

In the event of a federal government shutdown, benefits though the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, or WIC, will be available in October using funds from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, according to the governor’s office.

WIC currently serves more than 44,000 Utah mothers and children, state officials said.

Between 2020 and 2021, about 18% of all Utah mothers were enrolled in WIC during their pregnancy. Roughly 37% of Utah families with an infant were eligible for WIC during that time, with 55% of those families receiving WIC benefits. Also during that time period, 29% of Utah children ages 1-5 were eligible for WIC benefits and 30% of those received them.

Utahns with questions about benefits can call the state WIC office at 877-WIC-KIDS or contact a local WIC office.

State officials have identified short-term funding options to keep Utah’s five national parks — Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands — open with limited operations during a shutdown. The state used a similar strategy to keep open national parks and federal recreation areas during government shutdowns in 2013 and 2018-19.

The plan to keep national parks and federal recreation areas open requires permission from the secretary of Interior, who has not yet said she will allow the parks to remain open, according to the governor’s office.

State officials say Utah’s economy would suffer a loss of $7.1 million for each day the federal government is closed.

Unless Congress takes action, a federal government shutdown begins Sunday, Oct. 1.


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