Some Taos County residents may feel the pinch — or a growl of the stomach — if lawmakers in Washington cannot agree soon on funding federal food and nutrition programs.
The partial closure of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Oct. 1 has the potential to impact several initiatives that feed local residents.
One food distribution program administered by the Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council could be forced to close after the end of the month if funding for the Department of Agriculture is not restored.
“I met with Gil Vigil, ENIPC’s executive director, and accounting staff. They have informed me that there are enough funds to support the program for 30 days and if the shut down goes beyond we will have no choice but to shut down our operations,” food distribution program director Perry Martinez stated in an email to The Taos News Oct. 4.
The council’s food distribution program receives 75 percent of its roughly $800,000 budget from the federal government, according to Martinez.
The initiative serves between 32 to 40 households in Taos, 80 to 92 in Peñasco and about 50 in Taos County each month, he said. About 1,250 households are served by the program across Northern New Mexico.
The Eight Northern Indian Pueblo Council’s WIC program could also be impacted if the Department of Agriculture does not resume normal operations before the end of the month.
The nutrition program serves pregnant women and their newborn children. About 20 households in Taos County and 300 across Northern New Mexico are enrolled in the council’s WIC program.
“We can probably operate until Oct. 31 and then we would have to assess our situation,” Leonard Mirabal, WIC program director at the Eight Northern Indian Pueblos Council, said Tuesday (Oct. 8).
“We are in better shape than some WIC programs,” he said.
The state’s WIC initiative will also run out of funding at the end of the month, according to officials at the New Mexico Department of Health. An additional $1,310,550 from the previous year is available to continue operations into November, spokesperson Kenny Vigil told The Taos News.
It was unclear how long the nutrition program could operate on those extra funds, Kenny Vigil added. The Department of Agriculture allocated $43,815,000 to the New Mexico WIC program for fiscal 2013.
The state is reaching out to clients and vendors to keep them abreast of any changes in services, Kenny Vigil said. New Mexico WIC administrators are also in close contact with all of the state’s tribally administered WIC programs, the spokesperson added.
Asked if the state’s WIC program could serve as an alternative for New Mexicans enrolled in tribally administered programs that may be forced to curtail services if funding for federal agencies remains suspended, officials at the Department of Health said only certain beneficiaries could be absorbed.
“We would be able to serve their high risk clients only at this time,” Kenny Vigil stated in an email to The Taos News.