17 June 2015 – The House Agriculture, Rural Development, Food & Drug Administration and Related Agencies Appropriations Subcommittee, Rep. Robert Aderholt (R-AL), Chair, Rep. Sam Farr (D-CA), Ranking, will markup their version of the FY2016 Agriculture Appropriations bill, including funding for the WIC Program tomorrow 18 June.
The full House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Harold Rogers (R-KY), Chair, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-NY), Ranking, released today the Subcommittee’s draft which funds WIC at $6.484 billion including $60 million for breastfeeding peer counselors, $55 million for management information systems, including WIC EBT systems and activities, and $14 million for WIC infrastructure. The Subcommittee did not provide monies for the contingency fund.
The Subcommittee’s funding level is $139 million below the FY2015 WIC funding level in recognition of WIC’s declining caseload, from a high of roughly 9 million mothers and young children in FY2012 to just under 8 million as recently as March in FY2015. It is $200 million below the National WIC Association’s request which in addition to providing monies for a somewhat higher projected caseload, also included $30 million more for breastfeeding peer counselors, $25 million more for MIS/EBT, $5 million for rigorous health outcomes research, and an additional $6 million for cash value voucher (CVV) for fully breastfeeding women, bumping their CVV from $10 to $12.
While NWA is disappointed that the Subcommittee did not fully fund breastfeeding peer counselors at the full authorized level of $90 million, MIS/EBT at our recommended level of $80 million, or meet our requests for health outcomes research and additional resources for CVV’s for fully breastfeeding women, we recognize the dilemma that the Subcommittee faces with WIC’s downward trending caseload.
At the same time, it is important to realize that WIC’s downward trending caseload – a symptom of WIC client uncertainty – is not unrelated to funding uncertainty caused by the federal government shutdown, sequestration, and shrinking domestic discretionary budget caps. It is absolutely the case that WIC nutrition services and administration (NSA) funding is stretched thin. And each of the imposed funding challenges have had real consequences including the redirection of NSA dollars to cover mandated MIS/EBT development, clinic closings and consolidations, formal or informal hiring freezes, and reduced staff and service hours. These consequences have commensurate negative impacts on the delivery of essential WIC services – nutrition and breastfeeding counseling and education, health and social service referrals – impacting the extent of WIC’s long term effectiveness.
The Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies is tentatively expected to markup its Appropriations bill on Tuesday, July 7. The bill is then expected to face a markup by the Full Senate Appropriations Committee on Thursday, July 9.