Sept. 28, 2023
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Gov. Spencer Cox pledges to keep WIC, national parks open
if federal government shuts down
Parks plan contingent on Interior Department approval
SALT LAKE CITY (Sept. 28, 2023) – Utah has a contingency plan in place to continue the WIC federal nutrition program for women, infants and children as well as keep national parks in the state open if the federal government shuts down next week.
Gov. Spencer Cox expressed frustration with the standoff in Washington, but reassured Utahns that the state would do everything it could to ensure the health and well-being of families and protect the state’s 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,” said Gov. Spencer Cox. “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 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.”
WIC benefits to continue
WIC benefits will be available through the month of October using funds from the USDA. WIC currently serves more than 44,000 Utah moms and children. Between 2020-2021, about 18% of all moms in Utah were enrolled in WIC during their pregnancy. And about 37% of Utah families with an infant were eligible for WIC, with 55% of these families receiving WIC benefits. During this same time period, 29% of Utah children aged 1-5 years were eligible for WIC benefits, and 30% of those received WIC benefits.
Utahns can contact the state WIC office at 1-877-WIC-KIDS or their local WIC office if they have questions.
National parks to remain open — if the Department of Interior cooperates
Utah is home to five national parks: Zion, Arches, Bryce Canyon, Capitol Reef and Canyonlands as well as numerous federal recreation areas. The state has identified short-term funding options to keep these national parks and federal recreation areas open with limited operations, similar to how the state kept open the national parks during the 2013 and 2018-19 federal shutdowns. As with past shutdowns, this plan still requires permission from the Secretary of Interior, and the secretary has not yet said she will allow the parks to remain open.
If the Department of Interior agrees to let Utah help keep the national parks open it is difficult to project total costs as it will depend on whether or not, or to what extent, the national parks keep employees working, the length of the shutdown, and other factors that affect visitation. But Utah’s local economies would take a hit of $7.1 million per day for every day the federal government stays closed.
Unless Congress acts, the federal government shutdown will begin on Sunday, Oct. 1, 2023.