Senate Begins Consideration of Budget Caps Deal
Congress was on its annual Presidents’ Day recess last week after passing the remaining fiscal year (FY) 2019 appropriations bills on February 15. This week, members of Congress return and will begin the next step of the budget process - raising the budgetary caps put in place by the Budget Control Act of 2011. When Congress raises the budget caps, the deal also sets the funding levels for each appropriations committee. Therefore, a budget deal must be negotiated before consideration of FY 2020 appropriations.
The Senate Budget Committee will hold a hearing on Wednesday, the first step in a lengthy process to raise the caps. Under the 2011 law, Congress must specifically lift the cap on budget spending; otherwise, mandated sequestration would result in significant cuts to both the military and programs that benefit the health and well-being of American families. When negotiating the deal, Congress must decide whether to preserve budget parity between military spending and funding for non-defense discretionary programs, which includes WIC.
The House is not yet holding public hearings on the budget caps and will instead consider a privileged resolution to overturn President Trump's emergency declaration. The declaration, which accompanied passage of the FY 2019 appropriations bills, has been used to justify shifting funds from various defense infrastructure programs to the construction of the border wall. The resolution opposing the declaration is expected to easily pass the House, and it already has bipartisan support in the Senate.
Fiscal Year 2019 Appropriations Complete
On February 15, Congress passed the remaining FY 2019 appropriations bills, including funding for USDA. WIC was funded at a slightly lower level, which should still be adequate to meet current caseload needs. Read more about WIC's FY 2019 appropriations here.
USDA Signals Another Proposed Rule on SNAP
Last week, US Department of Agriculture (USDA) Secretary Sonny Perdue indicated that USDA is finalizing a proposed rule on SNAP's categorical eligibility provisions. Similar to WIC's adjunctive eligibility, SNAP's categorical eligibility helps reduce administrative barriers for participants and ensure access across programs. It is unclear what changes USDA is contemplating, and NWA will continue to update members if and when a proposed rule is issued.
This would be the second SNAP rulemaking since the farm bill passed last year. There is currently an open comment period on a proposed rule that would restricts state waivers of the time limit on SNAP participation by able-bodied adults without dependents (ABAWDs). Without a state waiver, these adults are limited to only three months of SNAP benefits in a 36-month period unless they satisfy a burdensome work requirement. The majority of states currently have a waiver for either the entire state or certain localities without sufficient employment opportunities, and even more states had waivers at the height of the Great Recession. State waivers of the ABAWD time limits are an essential tool to help states address food insecurity and ensure that families, including prospective parents, receive adequate nutrition. Comments can be submitted directly through the Federal Register until April 2, 2019.
USDA and HHS Announce 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee Members
The US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS) announced February 21 the appointment of 20 nationally recognized health and nutrition experts to serve on the 2020 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:
The independent and influential committee will review the scientific evidence on topics and questions identified by USDA and HHS and will provide a report to the secretaries of each department. The committee’s review, along with public and agency comments, will help inform the departments in the development the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans.
The Dietary Guidelines for Americans are updated every five years and serve as the cornerstone of federal nutrition programs and policies, providing food-based recommendations to help prevent diet-related chronic diseases and promote overall health. The 2020-2025 guidelines will be the first to provide recommendations for pregnancy and birth through 24 months of age, thereby making them especially relevant to WIC. Moreover, the guidelines influence both the content of the WIC food package as well as the nutrition education provided to WIC participants.
The committee’s work will kick off at a public meeting to be announced in the coming weeks. Throughout its deliberations, the public and other stakeholders will be encouraged to provide comments.