NWA Secures $14 Million for WIC Disaster Relief in Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands
President Trump has signed into law a bill appropriating $90 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. This legislation includes NWA’s requested $14 million in infrastructure funding for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands. These grants will assist our WIC state agencies with much-needed repairs to building and other WIC related infrastructure as well as technology systems that were damaged as a result of Hurricanes Irma and Maria. Our thoughts remain with the communities damaged by natural disasters and NWA hopes that these funds will deliver quick relief to WIC clinics, staff, and participants in the affected regions.
Congress Passes Fifth Continuing Resolution and Two-Year Budget Caps Deal
On Friday morning, after a brief overnight shutdown of the federal government, President Trump signed into law a fifth continuing resolution to fund the government through March 23. Congressional leadership is optimistic that the next few weeks will yield a long-term omnibus spending agreement that will provide funding for the remainder of FY 2018. Currently, appropriators are waiting on 302(b) allocations which will determine the funding available for each appropriations bill. It is unclear how the additional funding made available by the budget caps raise will be distributed across the different appropriations bills, or how it will impact appropriations bills that have already passed out of committee, such as the Agriculture, FDA, and Related Agencies bill that carries WIC funding.
The measure passed on Friday also includes several priorities agreed upon by Congressional leadership, including a two-year raise of the budget caps for both defense and domestic spending. In addition, the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) was extended for a total of ten years, community health centers were extended for two years, and the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program (MIECHV) was extended for five years. The CR was attached to a larger two-year budget deal which also included the aforementioned $90 billion in disaster relief for Puerto Rico and the US Virgin Islands.
President’s FY 2019 Budget Expected to be Released Today
President Trump is expected to send Congress his proposed FY 2019 budget request later today. The President’s budget is a blueprint for federal spending, and does not set actual spending levels for government agencies. Decisions on spending levels are ultimately up to the Appropriations Committees in the House and Senate. The President’s budget is therefore more of a symbolic document, indicating the Administration’s funding priorities for the next fiscal year.
In a preview of the President’s budget released yesterday by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), Administration officials focused on the budget’s call for $200 billion for infrastructure improvements, $23 billion for border security (including $18 billion for a wall along the US-Mexico border), $17 billion for combatting opioid addiction, and $85.5 billion for veterans' health care. Additional federal investments, such as the $200 billion for infrastructure, would be offset by cuts to domestic programs.
The Administration was forced to revise its budget over the weekend, after Congress passed a two-year budget deal last Friday that lifted spending caps on defense and domestic spending, thereby providing almost $300 billion in additional funding for the next two years. Despite this additional funding authority, the President’s budget is expected to call for drastic cuts to non-defense domestic spending, including cuts to Medicaid and SNAP. The budget is also expected to include calls for welfare reform, such as imposing work requirements for Medicaid recipients and enacting new restrictions for SNAP participants.
While the President’s budget will seek deep cuts to domestic programs, the defense department would receive a huge boost. The plan is expected to recommend $716 billion for defense, over $100 billion more than last year’s budget. In light of the calls for increased defense and border security spending along with a large infrastructure investment, the President’s budget is not expected to balance the budget in 10 years, a fact which is bound to disappoint conservative budget hawks on Capitol Hill.
The White House is expected to debut the budget, entitled “Efficient, Effective, Accountable: An American Budget”, midday Monday. NWA will provide a more detailed update about the budget, including what it stipulates for WIC, as soon as it is made public.
Leaked Documents Suggest Homeland Security Will Target Immigrants on WIC, CHIP, Other Programs
Last Thursday, media reported that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has drafted a new regulation that would significantly expand the definition of public charge—a rule that permits the government to deny legal status to immigrants who use certain public resources. Historically, the public charge definition has been limited to cash assistance and certain programs, like long-term institutionalization under Medicaid. Since January 2017, the Administration has signaled that it intends to expand the public charge definition to incorporate safety net programs, even those that immigrants are legally entitled to use. The draft published last week includes WIC in a new definition of public charge.
The leaked draft is not as of yet a new regulation, and DHS has signaled that it does not expect to initiate the rulemaking process until July 2018. If and when the Administration proceeds with rulemaking, NWA will submit comments and object to WIC’s inclusion in any public charge regulation. The leaked draft also suggests that there will be no retroactive consequences for past use of WIC or other programs. Therefore, this new information does not have immediate consequences for immigrant participants. Please consult this handout for additional information. If you have questions about public charge, please contact Brian Dittmeier at email@example.com.
Senate to Consider Various Immigration Proposals This Week
The Senate plans to begin floor debate today at 3 pm on various immigration proposals, including legislation that addresses the legal status of Dreamers, nearly 2 million immigrants who were brought to the US as children. This open debate was promised by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) as a condition of ending the first government shutdown in January 2018. Senate Minority Whip Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator Lindsey Graham (R-SC) plan to introduce a bipartisan agreement that would include a path to citizenship for Dreamers and is expected to garner significant support. Other Republican senators aim to advance proposals that limit legal immigration for families and recipients of the diversity lottery, in line with the White House's priorities. Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) has not promised that any bill passed in the Senate would be granted a hearing in the House of Representatives, and the outcome of this debate remains uncertain. NWA will continue to update members as the Senate opens debate and begins consideration of legislative solutions.