Yesterday afternoon, the House of Representatives passed its second spending package for fiscal year 2020, including the Agriculture/FDA bill that funds WIC. The legislation advanced by a vote of 227-194, largely along party lines. The $383 billion spending bill also includes funding for Commerce-Justice-Science, Interior-Environment, Military Construction-Veterans Affairs, and Transportation-Housing & Urban Development.
In the bill, the House provides $6 billion in overall WIC funding for FY 2020. This is a slight decrease of $75 million from FY 2019 levels. This funding level should be sufficient to serve all eligible participants throughout the next fiscal year. Reflecting caseload decline and consistent with recent appropriations bills, the House bill rescinds $800 million in unspent food funds.
The House bill includes a record $90 million in funding for WIC’s Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program, the first time that appropriators have fully funded the program since the passage of the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. For nearly a decade, funding has been stagnant at $60 million. As a result, over 30% of local agencies remain without a peer counselor program, and existing peer counselor programs have either contracted their services or remain overextended. NWA has consistently advocated for full funding of the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program and worked closely with legislative staff to achieve this critical investment, a necessary step in expanding the program’s impact on improving breastfeeding rates.
The House bill also officially blocks USDA from relocating the Economic Research Service (ERS), the agency that oversees nutrition research and WIC program evaluation. After a ten-month process, Secretary Sonny Perdue announced that ERS researchers would relocate to the Kansas City region. NWA has led nutrition groups in raising awareness about the harmful impacts that the relocation would have on the continuity and integrity of ERS research.
The House has now passed nine of the twelve appropriations bills. The Senate has not yet moved forward with any bills, as Senate leadership awaits the result of bipartisan budget negotiations with the White House to determine overall spending levels. The talks have been deadlocked for months as the parties negotiate how much to raise domestic spending.
WIC funding – including the additional investment in Breastfeeding Peer Counselors – is not finalized until Senate passage and White House approval. NWA will continue to advocate for robust funding of the WIC program and increased support for peer counselors. NWA will continue to update members as the budget and appropriations debate continues to unfold.