Updated 06/06/2012 06:32 PM
Five WIC employees laid off
Onondaga County lays off five employees in its Woman, Infants and Children program, the result of a change in state grant money. Our Kat De Maria explains how the jobs could have been saved and why workers say the county needs to pay more attention to these essential programs.
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SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- WIC provides nutrition and support for expectant and new moms, babies and young children. And in Onondaga County, the program is about to be doing so with five fewer employees, including Mary Robinson.
"When I found out they were downsizing WIC by the five of us, the first thing that came through my mind is, how are they going to continue to keep up with all of those services?" Robinson said.
Before Robinson worked for WIC, she herself used the program as a single mom. If possible, Robinson says she has even more of an appreciation for the services now and the work she and her fellow information aides.
"Take applications, we reschedule appointments, we're calling the referrals we get from St. Joe's and family planning to get them in for their prenatal visits," Robinson said.
Onondaga County Health Commissioner Dr. Cynthia Morrow says WIC is funded by grants, the flexibility of which changed. Robinson, the other aides and nutritionists and CSEA Local 834 President Phil Graham pleaded with county legislators Tuesday to find the money to keep them.
"We thought they could at least fund these programs through the end of the WIC calendar year or through the end of the year and then take a better look at is, see if they can get more funding from a state or federal grant," Graham said.
Graham says that would have cost the county less than $90,000. Legislators voted 13 to four to eliminate the positions.
"They're finding money for programs they want, whether it's new scoreboards or other program. But we think the essential programs need to be looked at a lot closer," Graham said.
"It's always a really difficult decision. It's an important program and we certainly will do whatever we can to continue to serve the public to the best of our ability," Morrow said in a statement.
Robinson says she doesn't care about her job as much as helping the women and children of Onondaga County.
"It's amazing how many people really do need the WIC program," she said.
Because of the layoffs, Thursday will be the final WIC Clinic at Assumption Church on North Salina Street in Syracuse.