National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

September 17, 2018

Reps. Rosa DeLauro and Linda Sanchez Unveil WIC Act
Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT) and Linda Sanchez (D-CA) announced Friday that they will reintroduce the Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act. The WIC Act includes three provisions that expand access to services and reduce the paperwork burden on families: extending child eligibility until age six; extending infant certification until age two; and extending postpartum mother eligibility until the child is age two. Each element of the WIC Act would enhance WIC's ability to retain participants, particularly children, and more effectively address the nutrition needs of younger Americans. Rep. DeLauro summarized the bill's purpose clearly: "It's about hunger . . . No child in the United States of America should go hungry in this land of abundance."

NWA applauds Reps. DeLauro and Sanchez for their continued support and advocacy for WIC. NWA invited the congresswomen to jointly announce the bill's reintroduction at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, DC. They then toured a WIC clinic co-located in the hospital, led by the clinic's director, Jayasri Janakiram. NWA thanks Children's National Health Services and the WIC staff for opening their doors to members of Congress for this exciting event.

Federal Response Remains Active in Hurricane Florence Aftermath
Hurricane Florence has been downgraded to a tropical depression, but flooding and high winds are expected to continue on the Eastern seaboard through this week. The White House has approved federal emergency declarations for Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina, permitting increased aid and giving federal agencies increased flexibilities. NWA continues to monitor the situation and serve as a resource for affected states. Our thoughts are with all WIC staff and participants affected by this storm and other natural disasters.

DC Mayor Convenes Maternal and Infant Health Summit
Muriel Bowser, mayor of Washington, DC, convened an Inaugural Maternal and Infant Health Summit last Wednesday to address the persistently high rates of maternal and infant mortality and morbidity. The summit brought together public health experts and local leaders from across the country, including the mayors of Baltimore, MD; Flint, MI; Rochester, NY; and Gary, IN. NWA and DC WIC staff attended the event. Throughout the discussions at the response, various strategies were presented as different cities showcased their comprehensive responses to these high rates.

In June, the US Conference of Mayors had adopted a resolution authored by Bowser that urges cities to address the high rates of maternal mortality. Maternal mortality has also been a priority of the African American Mayors Association, reflecting the high racial disparities in maternal deaths. NWA is grateful for Bowser's leadership in convening the summit and encouraging her colleagues across the country to invest in addressing this issue. As local jurisdictions continue studying the research and crafting new strategies, there is an opportunity to explore how WIC can play a role in the broader public health response.

416 Children Remain Separated from their Parents, 53 Days after Court-Ordered Reunification
The Trump Administration continues to separately detain 416 migrant children, including 14 children under the age of 5, in violation of several court orders. On July 26, a federal court ordered the separation policy to cease and called for the reunification of over 2,500 children with their families. It has been 53 days since that decision. It has been even longer since the July 10 court order that all “tender-age” children – those under the age of 5 – be reunited with their families.

The chaotic process resulted in many parents separated from their children for arbitrary reasons, including minor offenses, and without an opportunity to litigate their asylum claims. The Administration continues to claim that it has had difficulty locating families, but lawyers assert that the process is being stalled even when parents who have been already deported are located. There remain widespread concerns about the safety of these facilities and the long-term effects to children in detention. NWA calls upon the Administration to correct this self-made crisis as swiftly as possible, with due attention paid to the safety and health of the children who remain separated from their parents.

Congress Moves Forward with Appropriations; Fate of WIC Spending Unclear
Congress continues to make progress on FY 2019 appropriations, passing the first of three minibus packages through both the House and Senate last week. This first minibus contains spending bills for Military Construction-VA, Energy and Water, and the Legislative Branch. The bill was passed through Congress last Wednesday and now awaits President Trump’s signature. Appropriators also reached agreement last week on a conference package for a third minibus package, containing spending bills for Labor-Health and Human Services-Education, and Defense, and Continuing Resolutions for the remaining spending bills through December 7. Votes are expected on the third package this week.

WIC spending however, is part of a second minibus package, containing appropriations bills for Agriculture-FDA, Transportation-Housing and Urban Development, Financial Services-General Government, and Interior-Environment. It is unclear whether there will be sufficient time for both chambers to pass this second spending package by the September 30 fiscal deadline. If this does not occur, a Continuing Resolution would be required to fund these parts of the government.

The other wild card is President Trump, who has repeatedly threatened to veto spending bills without funding for a southern border wall. Republican leadership has reportedly come to an agreement with the president to delay the border wall debate until after the midterms. NWA will continue to monitor the appropriations process and keep members updated on the status of WIC funding.

Farm Bill Unlikely to Pass Before September 30 Deadline
Conference discussions continue between House and Senate Agriculture committee leadership: Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS); Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI); Chairman Mike Conaway (R-TX); and Ranking Member Collin Peterson (D-MN). So far, the four principals have not been able to come to agreement over the nutrition title, which authorizes the SNAP program. President Trump laid blame for the stall with Sen. Stabenow, despite the fact that the Senate farm bill passed in a bipartisan 86-11 vote, as compared to the House bill, which narrowly passed along partisan lines. If an agreement is not reached by September 30, an extender package will be required to keep several programs authorized by the farm bill running. NWA will continue to update members on the progress of the farm bill and to advocate on behalf of a strong SNAP program that supports all families in need.