The Ottumwa Courier

October 1, 2013

Shutdown hits home

Courier staff writer

---- — OTTUMWA — The local WIC (women, infants, children assistance) office in Ottumwa was open Tuesday, but it wasn't business as usual.

"We can't print any new WIC checks," said Cindy Meiners, the local WIC coordinator. "Current, [already printed] WIC checks are OK. As soon as the government starts back up again, we will mail them the check they missed, or they can come in."

One mom with a 6-month-old said she uses her WIC voucher to buy formula.

"People really need these WIC checks," said Meiner, who is a registered dietitian. "We are still able to give vouchers to the Lord's Cupboard. I bet they'll get pretty busy."

There wasn't a flood of need at the Ecumenical Lord's Cupboard of Ottumwa Tuesday. Director Jesse Milner said she was definitely aware of the federal shutdown, but their rules remain the same: People in need get a voucher from a community service organization, then use those vouchers "up to four times per year" to get groceries at the cupboard.

So is she expecting a huge increase in business due to the shutdown?

"It kind of depends on how long it lasts," she said, explaining that food stamps are supposed to continue through the month of October.

If the shutdown goes past that point, then there are going to be a lot of hungry people who need help, she predicted. Yet some moms with newer babies may never have been on food stamps; they needed help getting healthy food, so they felt it was enough to just get a WIC check.

"The [shutdown] will affect them more," Milner said.

One local federal position is at the town's largest employer. Without the USDA meat inspector at Cargill Meat Solutions, work would have had to cease immediately. Instead, said the boss, they're fully staffed.

"Inspection services are continuing," said plant manager Randy Zorn. "They're necessary for food production, and the food supply is considered essential."

At social security's local office, they'll have a few services, though national media reports social security checks will continue to be issued.

"During the government shutdown, local social security offices are open for a limited number of services," said a recorded voice when the Courier called the Ottumwa office.

Some social security services, the voice stated, are available online. On the first day of the shutdown, two attempts to speak with a human produced a different recorded message.

"Please try your call later. Goodbye."

— To see reporter Mark Newman's Twitter feed, go to @couriermark