FY 2020 WIC Funding Considered in Congress
Tomorrow, the House Appropriations Committee is expected to mark up the FY 2020 Agriculture Appropriations bill. This is one of the final steps before a floor vote in the House.
Two weeks ago, the Subcommittee on Agriculture Appropriations advanced a bill that included $6 billion in overall WIC funding, a slight decrease of $75 million from FY 2019 levels. The subcommittee's bill also included a $10 million increase in funding (to a total of $70 million) for the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program, which would be the first increase in nearly a decade.
The House has been moving swiftly to pass appropriations bills, with House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) hoping to pass all twelve bills by the end of June. The Senate has yet to craft any appropriations bills, as Senate leadership is awaiting the results of bipartisan budget talks that will set the overall spending levels for FY 2020. NWA will continue to update members as the budget and appropriations process unfold.
Remembering Senator Thad Cochran
The Hon. Thad Cochran, US Senator, Mississippi, December 7, 1937 – May 30, 2019, passed late last week. The late Senator Cochran (R-MS) was a steadfast supporter of WIC. He thoroughly understood WIC’s impact on Mississippi families and its importance to the health and nutritional well-being of families across the nation. The Senator and his staff often carried the water for NWA in pressing for Senate Appropriations bills that responded to both caseload needs and to protect program resources. His commitment to WIC was so important to him that he was a frequent speaker at NWA Washington Leadership Conferences.
Before coming to the Senate in 1978, he served in the US House of Representatives for five years. He served as Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, most recently from 2015-2018. He resigned from the Senate in the Spring of 2018 as a result of failing health.
Senator Cochran was the quintessential gentleman, bowing out of a Senate leadership race rather than embrace the hostility of political attacks fostered by colleagues. He understood the importance of bipartisanship and was deeply troubled by the divisive nature of the current political environment. Mississippi and the nation have lost a great statesman.
Long-Delayed Disaster Package Expected to Pass This Week
After months of contentious negotiations, Congress is poised to pass a $19.2 billion disaster aid bill. The bill includes funding for Puerto Rico, the Pacific territories, and states impacted by hurricanes, wildfires, and funds. The bill notably includes $600 million in nutrition assistance for Puerto Rico, sorely needed after Puerto Rico's block-granted Nutrition Assistance Program (NAP) had to slash benefits earlier this spring.
The House had first put forth a disaster bill in January 2019, but Senate negotiations faltered over opposition from the White House to additional Puerto Rico relief funding. The Senate passed the bipartisan compromise bill before Memorial Day, but the House was unable to advance the legislation throughout the recess week due to opposition from Reps. Chip Roy (R-TX), Thomas Massie (R-KY), and John Rose (R-TN). Now that the House is back in session, the final package is expected to receive broad support for passage.
New Legislation Addresses Maternal Mortality
Two weeks ago, Senator Kamala Harris (D-CA) and Rep. Alma Adams (D-NC) reintroduced the Maternal CARE Act, which aims to address racial disparities in maternal mortality rates by funding implicit bias trainings for healthcare providers. The United States has one of the worst maternal mortality rates in the developed world, and black women face substantially higher risk than their white counterparts.
Last Congress, NWA worked to advance the Preventing Maternal Deaths Act, to provide funding for state-run maternal mortality review committees. NWA has likewise endorsed the Maternal CARE Act and is working to ensure its passage in this Congress.
New Legislation Addresses Needs of Pregnant Workers
Two weeks ago, the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act was reintroduced in the House with bipartisan support. The legislation, modeled after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), requires employers to make reasonable accommodations for pregnant workers to continue working.
NWA has endorsed this legislation to ensure that WIC participants do not face adverse employment consequences for the simple fact that they are pregnant. The bill - sponsored by Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA), Jerrold Nadler (D-NY), John Katko (R-NY), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and Bobby Scott (D-VA) - could advance in this Congress.
New Bill Pilots Diapers in WIC
The End Diaper Need Act has been introduced in this Congress by Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) and Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL). This legislation would create a $100 million demonstration program, looking to distribute free diapers and diapering products in states, communities, and nonprofits around the nation. The distribution projects are specifically instructed to integrate at points-of-contact, including WIC clinics. NWA has not endorsed the legislation in its current form. NWA will continue to update members if this bill moves forward.
Congress Again Scrutinizes ERS Relocation Plan
This Wednesday, there is a hearing scheduled to examine the impact of relocating USDA research agencies on agriculture research. This is the second hearing on this topic in the past three months, emphasizing the need for answers as USDA continues with it's relocation plans.
In August 2018, Secretary Perdue announced his intent to relocate ERS outside of the National Capital Region. Of the 136 parties in 35 states that submitted interest, there are three finalists in Indiana, Missouri, and North Carolina.
Multiple news reports indicate declining morale at the research agencies, which conduct studies into nutrition, food security, and program evaluation for WIC, SNAP, and child nutrition programs. Indeed morale has suffered so much that key ERS staff have resigned over the planned relocation and remaining ERS staffers unionized last month in the most forceful step to counter the relocation.