Final Public Charge Rule Issued
This morning, acting director of the US Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) Ken Cuccinelli announced the final rule on public charge. The final rule expands an immigration law provision that penalizes legal immigrants from accessing certain public benefit programs. Under the final rule, an individual’s use of SNAP, Medicaid, or housing subsidies would weigh against their petition for legal status. These changes will not go into effect until mid-October.
NWA and a number of frontline WIC clinic staff from across the country weighed in during the public comment period in fall 2018, which generated over 266,000 individual comments. As a result of this advocacy, WIC is not included in the public charge rule. It should also be noted that the final rule exempts consideration of Medicaid for pregnant women, up to 60 days after delivery.
Despite these exclusions, the final rule will only exacerbate the significant chilling effect that WIC clinics have witnessed for the past three years, as immigrant and mixed-status families shun federal programs out of fear. NWA has spoken out against the final public charge rule. NWA will also be revising its resources for WIC clinics in the coming days.
For additional information about the final public charge rule and how it is affecting nutrition assistance, please register for this webinar on Wednesday, featuring experts from NWA, FRAC, and Feeding America.
USDA Agrees to Concessions in Union Negotiations with ERS Researchers
In the wake of mass staff attrition, USDA has agreed to several concessions requested by the American Federation of Government Employees (AFGE). AFGE is the union representing researchers in the Economic Research Service (ERS) and National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA), two USDA research agencies that were relocated in June 2019 to the Kansas City region.
ERS and NIFA employees were originally instructed that they must report to Kansas City by September 30. Under the union agreement, employees now have additional time to decide whether they would be willing to relocate. USDA has also agreed to provide incentive payments equal to one month’s salary, permit telework arrangements through at least December 30, and provide temporary housing.
USDA had previously rejected many of the union’s requests, before nearly two-thirds of the relocated employees declined to move to Kansas City. Staff attrition at ERS and NIFA will undermine the continued capacity of these research agencies to conduct studies into nutrition, food insecurity, and program evaluation for WIC, SNAP, and other child nutrition programs.
United Nations Publishes Landmark Report on Climate Change, Including Risks to Global Food Supply
Last week, the United Nations published a major report warning against climate change, specifically highlighting the interplay between climate change, land use, and food security. In the report, the UN cautions that agriculture practices associated with the global food system account for between 21-37% of net emissions, including carbon dioxide. The report calls for a wide range of both short- and long-term solutions that address land degradation and food insecurity, including reduced meat and dairy consumption and reduced deforestation.
The UN report follows an October 2018 report highlighting the climate change effects that could be avoided if the Paris Accords were observed. In 2017, the White House announced that the United States would exit the Paris Accords, becoming the only country in the world not to observe the agreement’s efforts to curb global emissions.