Shutdown at Day 17: No End in Sight
As the partial government shutdown enters its third week, President Trump and Congress remain no closer to a deal that would fund the nine affected federal departments, including the US Department of Agriculture. In one of its first actions, the House under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) passed two appropriations bills on Thursday, including an Agriculture appropriations bill that passed the Senate unanimously in the last Congress. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has refused to move forward on these bills without White House approval.
Vice President Mike Pence oversaw negotiations between key staffers over the weekend, resulting in a letter from the White House with specific proposals about the border wall. The White House is now requesting a steel barrier, as opposed to a concrete wall. The White House request also includes an additional $800 million to address humanitarian needs along the border. NWA had previously raised concern about the treatment of migrant children, including their access to adequate nutrition and health services, in detention facilities.
NWA will continue to monitor the effects of the shutdown on WIC agencies and is actively elevating the message that WIC remains open, including on its Facebook and Twitter pages. Agencies are welcome to save these social media graphics (simple | graphic with signupwic.com) and post either on their own social media sites. New in the last few days is a social media graphic in Spanish that agencies are also free to save and use.
In addition, NWA has been working to get the message that WIC is open out to the media. We have given a few interviews to national news outlets, and NWA’s press statement has generated a few articles that mention WIC in these major outlets, including:
If you speak to the media, you may find NWA’s talking points and FAQs on the shutdown helpful.
If your agency is experiencing any difficulties as a result of the shutdown or you have concerns about running out of funds before the end of January, please contact Brian Dittmeier at email@example.com.
NWA Announces Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Education Day on Capitol Hill
With a new Congress, the National WIC Association has launched an effort to increase awareness on Capitol Hill about WIC’s Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program among both new and returning members of Congress. Next Tuesday, January 15, NWA staff will accompany peer counselors from three states to meet with their members of Congress and highlight the incredible work of WIC peer counselors. The event will be promoted via social media and will include an action alert so that you, too, can share your peer counselor story with a member of Congress online from where you are.
House Passes WIC Appropriations Bill
Last Thursday, the new House, under Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), passed two appropriations bills to reopen the government – one to temporarily extend funding for the Department of Homeland Security amid negotiations on the border wall, and a second to authorize funding for eight of the nine departments whose funding has expired. In the latter package, the House appropriated FY 2019 funds for USDA, including WIC.
The House bill includes $6.15 billion for WIC, which represents a $25 million cut from FY 2018 levels. The House bill also includes a program rescission of $501 million, which is higher than any of the appropriations proposals considered last year. However, the House bill includes an additional $7.5 million in funds for the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program, bringing the total of $67.5 million. If passed, this would be the first funding increase for peer counselors in nearly a decade. NWA is grateful to our members, partners, and congressional champions for their support of increased peer counselor funding, even as we continue to push for full funding of the program at $90 million.
The House bill largely echoes an appropriations bill that passed the Senate in September 2018. Since it is a new Congress, the Senate must pass another version of the appropriations bill in order for the process to move forward. Although there are few differences when it comes to WIC funding, it is likely that the Agriculture appropriations bill’s fate will be determined by the shutdown negotiations.
Senate Agriculture Committee Chairman to Retire
NWA Leadership Awardee and senator Pat Roberts (R-KS), chairman of the Senate Agriculture Committee since 2015, announced on Friday that he will not seek reelection in 2020 for the seat he has held since 1997. Chairman Roberts has been a tremendous leader for nutrition programs, and WIC specifically, during his tenure in the Senate. During the 2015 Child Nutrition Reauthorization negotiations, Senator Roberts, joined by then-Ranking Member Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), spearheaded efforts to successfully include legislative language in the Senate Agriculture Committee’s bill that unanimously extended WIC to age six. NWA thanks the chairman for his service and stewardship of the committee and looks forward to continuing to work with him to make progress for the nation’s children and families during the remainder of his term.
Streamlining Efforts to Healthy People 2030 Objectives Threaten Key WIC Priorities Open for Comment
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has published proposed objectives for Healthy People 2030, a federal framework that guides state and local public health initiatives and investment. NWA is concerned by the reduction of national objectives in the Maternal, Infant, and Child Health topic area, compared to the previous iteration in Healthy People 2020. Critically, HHS has either reduced or eliminated objectives related to key WIC priorities, potentially threatening outcomes, including breastfeeding, reducing low birthweight, preventing birth defects, folic acid intake, and smoking cessation.
The public comment period is open until next Thursday, January 17. NWA encourages WIC agencies to weigh in on these counterproductive changes. NWA will be providing model language later this week to assist agencies or individuals who may wish to comment on the proposed objectives.