USDA To Cruz: Not Passing Bill 430-31 Could Be Catastrophic for Low-Income Mothers & Infants
(April 9th, 2012 – Hagåtña) Thousands of infants born to low-income mothers may be dropped from the Women, Infants, and Children program (WIC) without the passage of a measure allowing cooperative purchasing agreements, introduced by Vice Speaker Benjamin J.F. Cruz. That is what Rich Proux Regional Director of the US Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Program wrote to Cruz in a letter received this morning.
At the request of the Department of Public Health and Social Services, Cruz introduced Bill No. 431-31(COR) to allow departments and agencies to enter into joinder and mutual use contracts. Put simply, mutual use contracts allow government agencies on Guam and throughout the country to procure necessary goods in cooperation with one another—lowering the price for all tax payers involved.
While the Guam Department of Public Health’s WIC program has participated in a mutual use contract with the Western States Contract Alliance since 1992, the legality of its participation has been called into question by a recent Attorney General reading of Guam procurement law. In his letter Proux expressed his urgent support for the passage of Bill No. 430-31,
“The alternative could be catastrophic for hundreds of low-income mothers and their infants currently served by the WIC Program, beginning October 1 of this year when the current rebate contract expires. The reason for this is simple. Of the $7,584,785 available for Guam WIC Program participants to purchase WIC foods at local Guam retail vendors during the previous fiscal year, $1,108,006 came from infant formula rebates under the WSCA contract.“
Proux also noted that recent participation data shows 1,793 total infants participating in the Guam WIC Program each month. “The standard 12.4 ounce can of powdered infant formula issued by the WIC Program normally costs $13.19 per unit, but with the $12.01 rebate under the current contract costs the WIC Program only $1.17 per unit”, he wrote.
“To lose the additional source of WIC food funds subsidized by the formula rebates, as illustrated above, would instantly drive up the cost of formula for WIC infants, likely resulting in over a thousand children being dropped from the WIC rolls in Fiscal Year 2013, with a waiting list instituted,” Proux wrote
In response to the letter, Vice Speaker Cruz said, “When an infant can’t get milk because of the law, then that law is broken and it is our responsibility to fix it. I have spent my professional life protecting children and if we can’t get this done then we have completely lost our way as a community.
For more information, contact the office of Vice Speaker Cruz at 477-2520/1 To view, a copy of Bill No. 431-31(COR) please visit www.guamlegislature.com