Bipartisan WIC Legislation Introduced in the Senate
Last week, Senators Bob Casey (D-PA) and Susan Collins (R-ME) introduced the Wise Investment in our Children (WIC) Act. This bipartisan legislation would allow states to enact reforms that streamline WIC services and heighten the program’s public health impact. The WIC Act would permit states to: (1) extend child eligibility to age six or the beginning of kindergarten; (2) extend postpartum eligibility to two years; and (3) extend infant certification periods to two years.
NWA strongly supports this bipartisan legislation and applauds Senators Casey and Collins for championing these critical WIC priorities. Under the WIC Act, each provision will expand access to the program’s quality nutrition services, ensuring healthier pregnancies and birth outcomes, improving diet quality for women and children, and streamlining WIC clinic processes at a crucial period of growth and development.
Learn more about the WIC Act from this one-pager. You can help promote the WIC Act by contacting your senators here and highlighting on social media using this toolkit. NWA staff will discuss the WIC Act, as well as other priorities for the upcoming Child Nutrition Reauthorization, at a webinar on Tuesday, August 6 from 1-2pm EDT. NWA will continue to update members on how they can learn about the WIC Act and support WIC priorities in Congress.
August Recess is a Great Opportunity to Advocate for WIC
Both the House and Senate have recessed for the entire month of August, with legislators returning to their home districts. As members of Congress meet with key constituents in their communities, legislative staffers are considering key WIC priorities, notably the FY 2020 appropriations funding levels for WIC and pending proposals related to Child Nutrition Reauthorization.
During this time, NWA encourages you to connect with your member of Congress and set up WIC clinic visits. Setting up visits to your clinics allows your member to see the excellent work you’re doing every day, as well as increase their understanding of this vital public health nutrition program. If you are unsure of how to set up a WIC clinic visit, please refer to NWA’s advocacy toolkit section on contacting your elected official or reach out to Kirsten Kelley, State Public Policy Associate, at email@example.com.
After Budget Deal, Congress Focuses on FY 2020 Appropriations
Key senators are indicating that Congress is unlikely to pass all twelve appropriations bills before the end of the fiscal year on September 30. As a result, a continuing resolution is likely to ensure continued federal funding of programs – including WIC – until the spending negotiations are complete. Either a continuing resolution or complete appropriations bills are needed to prevent another government shutdown.
Congress made substantial progress in advancing FY 2020 appropriations with last week’s passage of a bipartisan budget deal. The deal – negotiated by Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) and Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin – increases federal spending by $324 billion over two years, including an additional $27 billion for non-defense discretionary programs in FY 2020. The deal also prolongs the debt ceiling through July 2021, extending government borrowing through the 2020 election. In a win for advocates of robust investment in domestic programs, including NWA, the deal ends the controversial provision that has plagued budget negotiations for a decade – automatic spending cuts mandated by the Budget Control Act of 2011.
With the budget deal signed into law, Senate appropriators will now work swiftly to craft appropriations bills before September 30. In June, the House passed FY 2020 appropriations bills using placeholder total numbers that were a bit higher than the budget deal. NWA will continue to update members as legislators reach compromises that will sustain funding for federal programs like WIC.
USDA’s Harmful SNAP Proposal to Impact Access to School Meals
USDA’s Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) estimates that the Administration’s recent proposed rule to undermine SNAP access by limiting broad-based categorical eligibility could also lead up to 500,000 children to lose free school meals. Under current provisions, broad-based categorical eligibility – which streamlines SNAP’s certification process by simplifying the asset and income tests – also allows for children in SNAP households to be automatically certified to receive free school meals. Last week, Chairman Bobby Scott (D-VA) of the House Education and Labor Committee sought clarification from USDA after the FNS estimate was excluded from the proposed rule’s analysis.
The proposed rule does include an estimate that over three million SNAP participants will lose their benefits. As USDA notes in the proposed rule, limiting SNAP access will only increase food insecurity and leave families without the resources they need to put food on the table. Reduced access to SNAP can also impact families’ access to WIC services through adjunctive eligibility.
The proposed rule is now open for public comment until September 23. NWA will be releasing template comments and other materials to assist WIC staff and agencies with their responses to the proposed rule. Should you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out to Brian Dittmeier, Senior Public Policy Counsel, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
White House Official Confirms the Truth About ERS Relocation
In June, USDA announced that researchers at the Economic Research Service (ERS) and the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) would have to relocate to the Kansas City region as a condition of continued employment. Over the weekend, acting White House chief of staff Mick Mulvaney confirmed long-held suspicions that the relocation – strongly opposed by the research community and employee unions – is part of an effort to shrink government and coerce researchers to quit. A majority of ERS staff – approximately 80% – has signaled they intend to leave the agency as a result of the relocation.
This rationale conflicts with USDA’s professed reasons for the relocation – bringing researchers closer to their presumed customers in the agriculture sector, itself suspect given that ERS researchers’ main audience is policymakers in the National Capital Region. Federal legislators have expressed skepticism about the relocation since it was first announced in August 2018. The House FY 2020 appropriations bill would prohibit the relocation, but it is unlikely to be passed into law before the relocation is complete on September 30.
Mulvaney’s remarks were followed by the resignation of a top scientist at USDA’s Agriculture Research Service, who accused USDA of attempting to cover up his recent study that demonstrated diminished nutrients in rice as a result of climate change.