National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

December 10, 2018

Today is Your Last Chance to Speak Out on Public Charge!
The comment period on public charge is coming to a close today at 11:59 pm ET. Over 189,000 individuals have already commented, and this is your final opportunity to weigh in on the controversial proposal that could impact the WIC families that we serve.

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. Furthermore, there remains a risk that WIC participation could be included in the final rule . It is up to the WIC community to speak out now and protect the families that we serve!

NWA has prepared a number of resources to assist you, including template comments , guidelines for participants who may wish to comment, and FAQs about public charge. Please direct any questions about the comment process to Brian Dittmeier at bdittmeier@nwica.org.

Premature Birth & Infant Mortality Bill May Become Law this Week
The PREEMIE Reauthorization Act, which includes several provisions to research and prevent preterm births and infant mortality, will receive a House vote this Tuesday. The bill has already passed the Senate, which means that the final step will be signature by the president. The bill renews the Centers for Disease Control’s research on preterm births and the Health Resources and Services Administration’s (HRSA’s) activities to prevent preterm births, extends the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality, and establishes an entity at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to coordinate federal activities around preterm births and infant mortality. NWA formed a task force to address the issue of infant mortality and the role of WIC. NWA staff also recently attended a meeting of the Secretary’s Advisory Committee on Infant Mortality. NWA supports the PREEMIE Reauthorization Act and applauds House leadership on moving forward with this important step.

House to Vote on Maternal Mortality Bill
The House is also scheduled to vote this week – as early as Tuesday – on the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act (H.R. 1318), which would provide funding for state maternal mortality review committees (MMRCs). NWA supports this legislation – as well as the Senate companion bill – and advocates for WIC to be included in MMRCs. NWA also established a task force on maternal mortality this year and held a one-day conference on the issue as part of the Nutrition Education & Breastfeeding Promotion Conference in late September. The Senate companion bill, the Maternal Health Accountability Act (S. 1112), has not yet received a vote, but advocates still hope that the legislation may be signed into law before the new year.

Midwest Legislatures Reverse Family-Friendly Policies in Lame Duck Sessions
Last week, state legislatures in Wisconsin and Michigan used lame-duck sessions to pass a series of bills before their term-limited Republican governors hand power over to Democrats elected in the 2018 midterm elections. The bills controversially target public benefit programs and other policies that protect working families.

In Wisconsin, the state legislature approved a series of bills that would limit the power of Governor-Elect Tony Evers (D). The bills would require full implementation of the state’s Medicaid waiver, which includes work requirements for healthcare coverage. The bills would also require mandatory drug testing for certain SNAP recipients. If the bills are signed into law by outgoing Governor Scott Walker (R), Governor-Elect Evers would have to seek legislative approval for any changes to nutrition assistance programs, even in times of natural disaster. Governor-Elect Evers has personally appealed to Gov. Walker to veto these measures, and former Gov. Scott McCallum (R) has criticized the legislature’s actions as a “power grab.”

In Michigan, citizens petitioned the legislature for a state requirement on businesses to provide paid sick leave. The legislature approved the measure in September to avoid a ballot initiative but has now moved to functionally nullify the new benefits by providing a business exemption. The exemption covers about 162,000 businesses that collectively employ 1 million people . Outgoing Governor Rick Snyder (R) worked closely with the legislature on this bill but has not yet indicated if he would sign the measure into law before he hands power over to Governor-Elect Gretchen Whitmer (D). Currently, ten states require private employers to provide paid sick leave.

Farm Bill May Pass this Week
The Farm Bill Conference Committee is expected to file its conference report by this Tuesday, which may mean that a final vote on the bill could occur by the end of this week. Leadership of the House and Senate Agriculture Committees announced they had come to agreement on a farm bill deal approximately two weeks ago, but final language was delayed in part due to the funeral of President George H. W. Bush last week. Anti-hunger advocates continue to wait to review final language of the bill before taking positions on the legislation. NWA will continue to monitor the progress of the farm bill, which authorizes SNAP, a key anti-hunger program that confers adjunctive eligibility for WIC.

Spending Negotiations Continue
Lawmakers have passed a stopgap spending measure through December 21, which was in part the result of the funeral for President George H. W. Bush last week. There continues to be debate between Republican and Democratic appropriators and the president regarding spending on the US southern border wall. Without agreement, there will likely be another continuing resolution. However, the president has also indicated that he may not sign a funding bill, including a CR, without his requested $5 billion in wall funding. This means that the possibility of a partial government shutdown, including the Department of Agriculture, which implements WIC, through the holidays remains alive. NWA will continue to closely monitor this situation and provide updates.