National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

May 14, 2018

House Moves Forward WIC Appropriations for FY 2019
Last Wednesday, the House Appropriations Agriculture Subcommittee approved its funding for FY 2019. The bill includes $6.00 billion in total budget authority for WIC, along with a $300 million rescission of unspent funds. This funding level represents a cut of $175 million from WIC’s 2018 budget authority, although it is $250 million higher than what was proposed by the President’s FY 2019 budget. NWA is pleased that deeper cuts were not made, but remains concerned about the continued trend of decreased WIC funds – a reflection of declining caseload resulting from low unemployment rates, fertility rates and birth rates, heightened fear of immigrants, and shaming by policy makers of individuals and families participating in safety net programs - putting pressure on clinics to do more with less.

NWA is further disappointed that the subcommittee’s bill maintained present levels of funding for the breastfeeding peer counselor program at $60 million. The continued flat funding of the breastfeeding peer counselor program is the direct result of opposition by Congresswoman Virginia Foxx (R-NC), who chairs the House Committee on Education and the Workforce, which authorizes WIC. NWA continues to advocate for the full authorized amount of $90 million and is working with local breastfeeding advocates and WIC staff to educate Congresswoman Foxx and her staff on the value of the breastfeeding peer counselor program and the specific benefits to her district.

The subcommittee bill also included $12.297 million to support the development of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, which will include, for the first time, recommendations for pregnancy and birth through 24 months. This is the first designated appropriation for the Dietary Guidelines process and will permit USDA and the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to designate the needed resources to ensure that the process is scientifically rigorous, inclusive, and transparent.

The subcommittee’s bill will now be reviewed by the full House Appropriations Committee. The Senate is developing its own funding proposals, with markup in the Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee expected next week. NWA will continue to advocate for WIC funding at $6.3 billion and full funding of set asides – including the breastfeeding peer counselor program – in both the House and the Senate as Congress continues the appropriations process before the September 30 deadline. Be on the lookout for action alerts tomorrow and over the next few weeks for you to weigh in on WIC appropriations with members of Congress.

Republican Support for House Farm Bill Unclear
H.R. 2, otherwise known as the farm bill, is scheduled to be brought to the floor this Thursday, but it is unclear whether it will have enough votes to pass. The farm bill is historically a bipartisan process that couples subsidies to the agriculture sector with support for nutrition programs, primarily SNAP. WIC is not authorized through the farm bill, but rather the Child Nutrition Reauthorization process. The current farm bill is contentious given the decision by House Agriculture Committee Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX) to include several detrimental reforms to SNAP, including burdensome work requirement and the elimination of categorical eligibility, which allows children to be enrolled in school meals programs.

Moderate Republicans have vocalized concerns about the SNAP reforms, which could lead millions to leave the program and lose access to nutrition support. House leaders have little room to maneuver, as some of the more conservative members of the Republican caucus oppose the farm bill’s subsidies and Democrats refuse to accept new barriers to SNAP participation. Although Republican leaders expressed optimism after making their case to this weekend, it is unclear whether they will garner a majority by Thursday. NWA will continue to update members on the future of changes to SNAP, which can affect WIC families’ financial security and access to healthy foods.

White House Proposes $15.3 Billion in Rescissions to FY 2018 Funding
Last week, the White House asked Congress to rescind $15.3 billion in already approved federal funding. The requested rescissions would revisit the bipartisan budget agreement reached in February 2018 to fund the remainder of fiscal year 2018. The budget agreement had extended the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) for ten years, but the White House now requests over $7 billion in cuts to CHIP – depriving the program of contingency funds and threatening coverage of children in times of unexpected circumstances, such as a recession or natural disaster. Many of the other requested rescissions likewise come from health, education, and domestic programs.

Although the right-wing Freedom Caucus is enthusiastic about moving the rescissions forward, it is unclear whether the White House’s requests will garner enough support to pass the House. The Senate has expressed even more doubt, as both parties are reluctant to reopen settled budget negotiations for the current fiscal year in the middle of the debate surrounding FY 2019 appropriations.