President Trump announced today that he would sign a bipartisan spending deal that will fund the nine federal departments that had gone without long-term funding since September 2018. This includes the US Department of Agriculture, which administers WIC. With this action, WIC funding is now assured through September 30, 2019. The current spending deal essentially mirrors the deal set before the President allowed a partial government shutdown in December.
Unsatisfied with the bipartisan agreement to provide $1.375 billion for 55 miles of fencing along the US-Mexico border, President Trump took the unprecedented step of declaring a national emergency. This would permit the White House to shift about $8 billion in funding from certain defense and military programs to cover the cost of the border wall. This declaration was met with bipartisan disapproval and is likely to result in legal action.
As for WIC, the final language represents a compromise between the House and Senate appropriations bills that were drafted last summer. WIC has been appropriated a total of $6.075 billion for FY 2019, a $100 million decrease from FY 2018 levels, yet still adequate to meet current caseload needs. Congress also rescinded $500 million in unobligated WIC funds.
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. Congress adopted 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.
With FY 2019 appropriations now complete, Congress will now begin consideration of a budget resolution. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress must specifically lift the cap on budget spending for non-defense discretionary programs; otherwise, mandated sequestration would result in significant cuts to programs that benefit the health and well-being of American families. NWA will continue to update members as the budget cap debate moves forward ahead of the FY 2020 appropriations cycle.