Enumclaw WIC program saved

A program that brings much-needed services to Enumclaw women and their young children has apparently been saved.

A decreasing flow of dollars to the Women, Infants and Children program had prompted talk of closures throughout King County, but an effort to build political coalitions and secure nontraditional funding looks to have paid off.

The city of Enumclaw is part of the mix, agreeing to contribute $10,000 during the next two years. Nothing is final until all the political entities involved pass their municipal budgets in December, but all appearances are that WIC is on solid footing at least through 2016.

A bit of history

Budget troubles prompted Public Health – Seattle and King County to announce the planned closure of several offices, including the Auburn Health Clinic. Enumclaw’s WIC clinic is a satellite operation of the Auburn office and would have disappeared with the Auburn closure. That’s also true of a clinic maintained on the Muckleshoot Indian Reservation.

The proposed closures would have been effective with the end of 2014.

Opponents immediately began howling, bemoaning the prospect of life without WIC in their communities. The Auburn staff provides maternity services, nutrition programs and family planning services to 11,000 clients annually in Auburn, Enumclaw and on the reservation, 97 percent of whom live below the federal poverty line.

The numbers aren’t inconsequential, it was noted, as nearly half the children born in Enumclaw receive WIC services.

A plan is hatched

The weeks of coalition building, pleading and prodding paid off.

It was Nov. 5 when King County Executive Dow Constantine traveled to Auburn for a press conference and announced plans had come together to keep the Auburn WIC office open during 2015 and 2016. That meant somewhere in excess of $500,000 had been scraped together by a handful of willing partners.

At the time of the Nov. 5 announcement, the funding plan looked like this:

• The City of Auburn: $220,000

• The Muckleshoot Indian Tribe: $150,000

• Group Health: $100,000

• Orion Industries (an Auburn-area metal manufacturer for aerospace, defense and automotive industries): $40,000

• The City of Algona: $10,000

• The City of Pacific: $10,000

• The Valley Regional Fire Authority: $10,000

Enumclaw enters the picture

Just a day after the Auburn announcement, the movement to save the area clinics took another positive turn as Enumclaw announced it would contribute $5,000 in 2015 and another $5,000 in 2016.

“The financial collaboration amongst so many communities speaks volumes as to the value the WIC program offers and I’m happy that Enumclaw is part of it,” Mayor Liz Reynolds said. “This goes to show that when we work together we can move mountains.”

Contributing to the WIC effort isn’t without some local sacrifice. City Administration and members of the Enumclaw City Council are plowing through a difficult budget season of their own, one in which property taxes and utility rates will be raised to help make financial ends meet.

The council historically funds a handful of charitable organizations and this year kept a watchful eye on how much was to be handed out. The $5,000 contribution for the WIC office meant there was less to spread among some traditionally-funded service groups.

 

Robert Whale of the Auburn Reporter contributed to this story.