National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

November 5, 2018

Election Day is Tomorrow!
Tomorrow is your last opportunity to vote in the 2018 midterm elections. You have the power to determine who makes decisions about WIC! Voting has real consequences for all of us personally and for WIC. Vote because your job, your WIC family, and the WIC families you serve are depending on you!

There are important races throughout the US, including elections for the US Congress, gubernatorial races in 36 states, and state legislative and local races in many more. You have the chance to choose who will make decisions about how WIC is funded and structured in each state. Voting has an enormous impact on the WIC community, affecting our program and the families that we serve.

Clinic staff may be interested in sharing this coloring page (also in Spanish) with children. We hope that these pages, developed by our partners at MomsRising, both raise awareness about the importance of civic participation and provide some fun in the clinic waiting area.

Early voting is open in some states, so you may have a chance to vote today if possible! This website provides information about early and absentee voting, voter-identification requirements, and other information specific to your state. Make sure to form a plan for voting and that you afford adequate time to submit your ballot.

You may wish to verify on your state elections website that you are currently registered to vote. Voter registration periods remain open in some states, and some states have same-day voter registration. Check today that you are registered to ensure that you have a say on Election Day!

WIC Votes
If you have successfully voted in the election, we want to hear about it! Snap a selfie of yourself with your “I voted” sticker, and post it to Facebook and/or Twitter using the hashtag #WICVotes. This will connect you with all of the others in the WIC community who have also exercised their democratic right to help elect WIC advocates to federal, state, and local positions. If you have any questions, please email Brian at bdittmeier@nwica.org. Please keep in mind that some states prohibit cell phone use (including taking photos with them) within polling places.

Comment Period for Public Charge: Over 40,000 Comments!
The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has requested the public’s comments on its proposed rule expanding the public charge test. The proposed rule would penalize immigrants if they access Medicaid, SNAP, or housing-assistance programs. The heightened risk to an individual’s immigration status would continue to disincentivize eligible families from accessing any public benefit program, including WIC.

The comment period is open until December 10, 2018, and your comments can be directly submitted to DHS here. Already over 40,000 individuals have commented on this proposed change!

Although WIC is not explicitly mentioned in the proposed rule, DHS has asked for the public’s input on whether any additional use of benefits by immigrants should be considered in public charge review. There remains a risk that WIC participation could be included in the final rule, and we urge the WIC community to speak out now! You are the best voice to elevate WIC’s public health success, demonstrating the immense value that WIC contributes to mothers, children, families, and communities. DHS must learn through your public comments why WIC participation should not be considered in immigration determinations or the public charge test. Remember: Regulatory commenting is not lobbying. The federal government is actively soliciting your input to inform its decision-making.

To assist you in forming a comment, NWA has created template comments. In addition, NWA has drafted guidelines for concerned participants (available in other languages - see below) who may wish to comment in an individual capacity. The participant templates are available in Spanish, Chinese, Korean, Vietnamese, Arabic, Russian, French, and Amharic. Please note that DHS will accept comments only in English or with an accompanying English translation. These templates, along with other public charge resources such as talking points and the FAQ document, are also posted on NWA’s Immigration Resources webpage. Please direct any questions about the comment process to Brian Dittmeier at bdittmeier@nwica.org.

USDA Inspector General Opens Investigation into ERS Relocation
The USDA Office of the Inspector General has opened an investigation into the August 2018 proposal to relocate USDA's independent research agencies outside the National Capital Region. The proposed move affected the Economic Research Service (ERS), which routinely conducts WIC studies and nutrition research, and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA). The relocation would instigate significant staff turnover, draining both agencies of long-time research staff with specialized expertise, particularly in nutrition programs like WIC. Both agencies were also to be reorganized under the Office of the Chief Economist, a political office, which raised questions about their continued independence.

The investigation was opened in response to inquiries from Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD). NWA led efforts to raise the alarm about this proposed change, expressing concerns with Del. Holmes Norton and leading a letter to Secretary Perdue in August. NWA is grateful for those who spoke out against this reorganization and looks forward to continued review of this concerning proposal.

NWA Opposes Repeal of Clean Power Plan
NWA joined a number of other public health organizations to submit comments opposing the Environmental Protection Agency's proposed repeal of emissions guidelines that limit air pollution from coal power plants, guidelines that protect the healthy development of infants and young children. EPA plans to replace the current standards developed under the Obama Administration with weaker emissions guidelines. Over 300,000 individuals and organizations commented on this controversial proposal.

The joint comment letter highlighted the various negative health effects of air pollution and climate change, particularly noting how high levels of particle pollution can lead to increased health challenges, including heightened mortality rates, for infants and young children. NWA was joined by eleven partner organizations in these comments, including the American Lung Association, American Public Health Association, and National Association of County and City Health Officials.

NWA also joined a joint letter calling on the EPA to abandon a second proposal to weaken the Mercury and Air Toxics Standards. In addition to particle pollution, increased mercury emission can have a profound effect on early brain development. NWA will continue to monitor and weigh in on changes to air pollution standards that can affect infant and child health.

Congress in Recess Until Election; WIC Funding to be Addressed After Election
Both houses of Congress have been in recess for several weeks. No major legislative debate is expected before the election, and the earlier passage of a continuing resolution until December 7 means that spending bills, including WIC funding through the agriculture appropriations bill, will not be addressed until later in November. Members are expected to be in their districts through the election.

This is one of the best times to engage with your member of Congress! Contact the offices of your representative or senator to learn about district visits and events in your area. It is important for members of Congress to understand all that WIC does to improve the quality of life for their constituents because that knowledge will inform their willingness to support, fund, and promote the program in the future.

Note: Attending a constituent event and sharing the broad, positive impacts of WIC in a local community is not lobbying. Lobbying requires that you ask a legislator to take a specific position on a piece of legislation. Remember the simple rule: Bragging beats begging.