National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

March 11, 2019

White House Unveils Fiscal Year 2020 Budget Requests
The president’s budget was released this morning, highlighting the White House’s priorities for the fiscal year (FY) 2020 funding debate. The president’s budget is traditionally released in the first week of February, but the White House had indicated earlier that the budget would be delayed into March as a result of the shutdown. Only the topline budget requests were released today, with additional analysis and detail expected next week. This year’s president’s budget includes over $2.7 trillion in cuts to federal programs, including a 5% cut to non-defense programs. Key White House priorities, including military spending and the border wall, remain funded.

The White House requests $5.8 billion in funding for WIC, which constitutes a 4.5% ($275 million) reduction in WIC funding from the FY 2019 appropriated level. In contrast, NWA is advocating for a small increase to $6.15 billion in total WIC funding. However, the president’s budget number does represent a $50 million increase from last year’s White House request, and the budget reiterates the longstanding federal commitment to secure adequate WIC funding to serve all projected participants. The president’s budget does not weigh in on any of WIC’s set-asides, particularly the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor funding, but a request may be included in the supporting documents that are expected next week.

The president’s budget also revives controversial debates about SNAP, most notably the Harvest Box proposal. While the details are unclear in this early document, the president’s budget calls for states to explore public-private partnerships to deliver certain SNAP foods directly to households. The Harvest Box proposal failed to gain any traction in Congress after it was first raised last year.

NWA will continue to update members on the FY 2020 funding debate, including when the White House releases additional budget documents next week.

House Subcommittee Looks at Child Nutrition Programs
Tomorrow, this Congress will hold its first public hearing on child nutrition programs in the House of Representatives. The hearing will be convened by the House Education and Labor Committee’s Subcommittee on Civil Rights and Human Services, which has jurisdiction over WIC and other child nutrition programs. With key leaders in Congress indicating that a Child Nutrition Reauthorization process could move forward this year, this hearing could provide insight into the subcommittee’s priorities.

Congressional Leaders Signal Movement on Budget Caps and Appropriations
With the president’s budget formally beginning the FY 2020 funding debate, it is important to note that Congress must first pass a budget resolution before beginning consideration of appropriations bills. Under the Budget Control Act of 2011, Congress must proactively lift the caps on federal spending to avoid automatic sequestration cuts to both military and domestic priorities. A budget deal, which develops both the total spending number for domestic programs and the total spending number for each appropriations subcommittee, is a necessary step in informing appropriators as they craft their bills.

The two chairmen of the Budget Committees – Sen. Mike Enzi (R-WY) and Rep. John Yarmuth (D-KY) – have indicated that they will move forward with budget resolutions in the next few weeks. Furthermore, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has signaled that he would like to move the appropriations bills through the House in June. It is possible that appropriators can begin developing their bills without knowing their total funding levels.

NASEM Unveils Landmark Child Poverty Study
Last week, the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM), formerly the Institute of Medicine (IOM), released a landmark two-year study on child poverty. The study estimates that more than 9.6 million children live in poverty, with an annual cost to our society valued at $800 billion to $1.1 trillion. The NASEM panel was tasked by Congress to develop strategies to combat the high rate of child poverty, and the report notes a number of policy proposals that legislators could enact to reduce the rate of child poverty in half. NWA applauds NASEM’s dedicated work to evaluate and address child poverty and will be joining children’s advocates and other partners in the coming weeks to elevate this report among policymakers. (See related item below.)

Dietary Guidelines Process Moves Forward
After a slow start, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGA) process is moving forward under the joint direction of the US Departments of Agriculture (USDA) and Health and Human Services (HHS). This DGA process is of critical importance to the WIC community, as this revision is the first time that the DGAs will include guidelines for pregnant women and children aged 0-2. The Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee announced their first meeting will be held at the end of this month. The two-day meeting, open to the public, will help set the direction for the committee as they review changes in nutrition science and research and make recommendations to USDA and HHS officials reviewing the DGAs.

FDA Commissioner Resigns
Scott Gottlieb, the commissioner for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), resigned last week in order to spend more time with his family. In addition to regulating medicines and prescription drugs, FDA is responsible for regulating certain food products, including infant formula. NWA will continue to update members as the White House considers a replacement for Commissioner Gottlieb.