Congressional negotiators announced this morning a federal government spending package that would fund nine agencies, including the US Department of Agriculture, which administers the WIC program. The Senate will vote first, with the House voting later this evening. President Trump indicated that he will sign the legislation, although he has attacked the compromise and signaled that he will find additional funding sources for the border wall.
The spending package has been delayed largely as a result of bipartisan opposition to President Trump's demand for border-wall funding. The final bill includes $1.375 billion that would fund 55 miles of additional fencing along the US-Mexico border. This largely echoes compromise language that existed in the Department of Homeland Security appropriations bill before the shutdown in December 2018.
As for WIC, the final language represents a compromise between the House and Senate appropriations bills that were drafted last summer. The bill appropriates $6.075 billion for WIC, a $100 million decrease from fiscal year 2018 levels, yet still adequate to meet current caseload needs. Despite an amendment effort by Sen. Bob Casey (D-PA), there is no increase in breastfeeding peer counselor funding - still limited to $60 million, despite an authorized funding level of $90 million. The bill did adopt a new competitive grant, with $5 million set aside for telehealth projects that support nutrition education or breastfeeding support.
The explanatory report also includes strong language questioning USDA's plans to relocate and reorganize the Economic Research Service (ERS), USDA's independent agency charged with nutrition research and WIC program evaluation. NWA has played a key role in highlighting the impacts that USDA's actions would have on research that supports key WIC priorities.
Should the spending package fail to gain approval from Congress or the president, legislators will have to act swiftly to pass another short-term continuing resolution. Otherwise, we will enter a second partial government shutdown. NWA will continue to update members as the package moves through the legislative process.