National WIC Association

COVID Relief Uncertain as Congress Passes WIC Waivers Extension

October 1, 2020
Categories: COVID-19 Congressional Update WIC Funding and Operation WIC Waivers Washington Update

Congress Passes Continuing Resolution, Extending Government Funding through December 11


With only six hours to spare, the Senate approved a continuing resolution last evening by a vote of 84-10. The President signed the continuing resolution later in the evening, averting a last-minute government shutdown by extending federal funding through December 11.


The House approved the bipartisan agreement last week shortly after it was reached by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin. After months of pressing for additional investments in child nutrition, Speaker Pelosi secured an additional $8 billion in child nutrition programs in the legislation. Crucially, the continuing resolution includes an extension of USDA waiver authority for WIC and other child nutrition programs through September 30, 2021.


House Democrats Delay Vote as Bipartisan Negotiations Continue on COVID Relief


In parallel to the continuing resolution, Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin remain in ongoing negotiations to reach a bipartisan agreement on COVID-19 public health and economic relief. House Democrats delayed a vote on their latest proposal to allow for an opportunity to reach an agreement. Despite various proposals, Congress has not reached agreement on significant COVID-19 relief since the CARES Act passed in late March. If these talks fall through, it is unlikely that Congress will consider COVID-19 relief before the election.


Last week, the House rolled out a draft compromise proposal that would provide $2.2 trillion in aid – a significant decrease from the $3.4 trillion in aid provided in the House-passed HEROES Act advanced in May. Even this pared-down relief bill has failed to draw support from the Administration and Senate Republicans, with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) cautioning that his members are unlikely to support significant relief. The Senate Republican proposal, unveiled in July, provided only $1 trillion in aid.


Although the latest House proposal scales back the scope of relief, it preserves several critical nutrition provisions. The bill includes a 15% increase to the benefits for SNAP households and provides an additional $400 million in funding for WIC. Additionally, the proposal includes two bipartisan provisions: a measure advanced by Reps. Kim Schrier (D-WA) and Ron Wright (R-TX) that would permit states to increase the Cash Value Benefit to up to $35/month per participant, therefore enhancing WIC fruit and vegetable purchases; and a measure advanced by Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI) and Elise Stefanik (R-NY) that would require USDA to convene a task force on online purchasing in WIC and publish recommendations by no later than September 30, 2021.


Rev. Douglas Greenaway, President & CEO of the National WIC Association, issued the following statement in response to the ongoing developments on Capitol Hill:


“Through the continuing resolution, Congress has taken necessary steps to ensure children can continue to be fed through the federal nutrition programs – but it is not enough. With child hunger rates still soaring, families and providers are urgently wondering if Congress is going to do anything to help. This is not about an election or credit – this is about doing what is right and delivering for the American people. For months, Speaker Pelosi has done an exemplary job of illustrating measures the federal government can take to address the nutrition needs of concerned parents across the country. Both of the WIC provisions included in the latest proposal are common-sense measures with bipartisan support. It is well past time that Secretary Mnuchin and Leader McConnell take up the Speaker’s offer and pass robust COVID relief.”