Shutdown could have dire effect on local families

KENT, Wash. -- The ongoing government shutdown is threatening a federally-backed food program that feeds nearly 40,000 needy people in King County.

The Kent WIC office works to take care of pregnant women, new moms and their children. Needy families come in for food vouchers, money and health care, but that will all change if the federal government doesn't reopen.

Mother Crystal Reugger relies on WIC to help feed her children.

"It's not for them to worry about. They're little. They need to be little," Reugger said.

Serious health problems require formula for her five-month-old son, Ryan.

"Without the formula he doesn't have all the calories he needs," she said.

If the federal money stops, Reugger will struggle to put food on the table.

"It will literally, probably, crush us completely," she said.

King County Executive Dow Constantine delivered the distressing news Wednesday morning.

"This is no exaggeration," he said. "They are literally taking the food out of babies' mouths."

If the budget stalemate continues, the Women, Infants and Children Food Program will run out of money at the end of the month. That will mean no more food vouchers or health screenings for needy families.

"I'm sorry to report that the county employees who provide WIC nutrition services are receiving their 45-day layoff notices today," Constantine said.

It's a potential one-two punch for Reugger. She said her husband could get laid off any day. His company does security for government buildings, and he already lost $500 when his National Guard training was cancelled last weekend.

Reugger wonders if members of congress worry about how much the shutdown is hurting families across the country.

"I don't want to hear it. They have no right to keep doing this. They need to stop," she said.

The local WIC program gets $23 million per year from the federal government, and many local families are hoping congress keeps it flowing.