Shutdown Likely as Trump Indicates He Won’t Sign Continuing Resolution
This afternoon, outgoing House Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) confirmed that President Trump will not sign a continuing resolution (CR) that would fund parts of the federal government through February 8, 2019. The CR had passed in the Senate yesterday evening. This differs from Trump’s previous position, having indicated as recently as yesterday that he was willing to approve a CR without $5 billion in border-wall funding. As a result, it is increasingly likely that parts of the federal government, including the US Department of Agriculture (USDA), which administers WIC, will shut down when funding expires at midnight tomorrow.
The CR is necessary to sustain government operations because Congress has yet to pass seven appropriations bills that fund critical federal functions. The largest outstanding issue is the Homeland Security appropriations bill, which did not include the president’s requested $5 billion in funding for a wall on the US-Mexico border.
House Republicans have indicated that they will seek to broker a compromise that includes funding for the border wall, but it is unlikely that an agreement will win enough Democratic votes to pass Congress. NWA will continue to update members on the evolving negotiations as we approach the funding deadline tomorrow evening.
Should there be a shutdown, NWA expects that most agencies have enough funding on hand to maintain normal operations for a short time. It is imperative that agencies reinforce the message that WIC remains open for participants. With heightened media attention, there may be conflicting messages, and participants may be discouraged from visiting a WIC clinic. In past shutdowns, NWA members have reported losing participants, even after the shutdown ended, due to uncertainty and misleading statements in the media. WIC agencies must be prepared to work with community stakeholders to reassure concerned participants that WIC remains open.
During a shutdown, some USDA staff who work on WIC will be furloughed, though some WIC staff at both the national and regional USDA offices are considered essential and will continue working. If the shutdown lasts for longer than a few days, NWA will work with state and local agencies to raise concerns, identify funding gaps, and minimize disruption to participants and clinic operations. NWA encourages agencies to review our guidance on preparing for a government shutdown. If your agency has any questions or is concerned that it may not have adequate funds to withstand a government shutdown, please reach out to Brian Dittmeier at firstname.lastname@example.org.
USDA Proposes New Rules to Tighten SNAP Work Requirements
This morning, USDA published a proposed rule for public comment that would strictly limit the ability of adult SNAP participants to obtain food assistance in difficult economic times. The proposed rule sets stricter standards for area waivers, which permit state agencies to waive the time limits for certain adult SNAP participants without dependents who are unable to find sufficient employment to meet the program’s existing work requirements. The area waivers are limited to regions where there is high unemployment or a lack of available jobs.
Notably, this proposed rule was published on the same day that President Trump is expected to sign the farm bill. During the legislative process, House Republicans pushed for stricter work requirements on SNAP participants. The provisions failed to gain broader support in Congress and were not included in the final bill. USDA now seeks to accomplish this goal through the regulatory process.
NWA denounces this effort to subvert Congress and advance a political goal through the regulatory process. Area waivers are a crucial tool to preserve agency flexibility and ensure participant access to food assistance during times of economic distress. With many WIC families also relying on SNAP to obtain a full grocery basket of foods, NWA is deeply concerned that this backdoor change will leave more families unsure of where to find their next meal.
NWA Thanks House Members for Introducing Agricultural Research Scientific Integrity Bill
NWA strongly supports the introduction of the Agricultural Research Integrity Act of 2018 (H.R. 7330) this week in the House of Representatives. The bill would halt the Department of Agriculture’s proposal to relocate the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) outside the Washington, DC, area and to realign ERS under the Office of the Chief Economist (OCE). NWA has opposed these proposed changes because of the negative implications for WIC. ERS’s analysis of food-security and nutrition-assistance programs serves as the foundation for a comprehensive body of research by public and nonprofit entities and helps to inform federal nutrition programs and policies. ERS works collaboratively with the Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) to evaluate the WIC program. Currently, ERS has eight active studies on WIC, several of which focus on cost containment, which saves taxpayer dollars and protects federal investments.
The bill was introduced by all Democrats on the Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee: Reps. Chellie Pingree (ME), Sanford Bishop (GA), Rosa DeLauro (CT) and Mark Pocan (WI). Other cosponsors are Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), incoming Chair of the Rules Committee, and Reps. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), Jimmy Panetta (D-CA) and Ann Kuster (D-NH) of the Agriculture Committee, as well as incoming Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) and Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC). The latter two represent the areas where the agencies are currently located.