National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

August 19, 2019

Comment Opportunity: Speak Out to Preserve Access to SNAP, School Meals
USDA is currently requesting comments on a proposed rule that would undermine SNAP’s broad-based categorical eligibility, adding new barriers to access SNAP benefits and eliminating direct certification of children in school meals programs. Currently, categorical eligibility allows more families to readily access nutrition assistance by simplifying SNAP's asset and income tests. Should this proposed rule be implemented, nearly 3 million SNAP participants and approximately 500,000 children receiving school meals will be ineligible to continue receiving fundamental nutrition assistance.

The proposed rule is open for public comment until September 23. NWA has released template comments to support WIC staff and agencies in responding to the proposed rule. Should you have any additional questions, please reach out to Brian Dittmeier, Senior Public Policy Counsel, at

Four Lawsuits Challenge Final Public Charge Rule
Last week, the Department of Homeland Security announced the final rule on public charge.The final rule expands limitations on legal immigrants, penalizing individuals who are seeking legal status if they accessed SNAP, Medicaid, or housing subsidies. WIC is not included in the final rule.

Last Tuesday, San Francisco and Santa Clara Counties filed the first of four legal challenges against the rule. Over the course of the week, additional lawsuits were brought by eighteen State Attorneys General and advocate groups, including healthcare providers. The states challenging this policy change include: Washington State, California, Colorado, Delaware, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Michigan, Minnesota, Nevada, New Jersey, New Mexico, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Virginia, and the District of Columbia.

The final public charge rule is due to go into effect on October 15. This litigation could delay implementation of the policy change, if the courts grant a temporary stay.

NWA has created resources to assist clinics with counseling concerned participants. The updated resources included NWA’s FAQ documents on public charge, with translations in both Spanish and Chinese. Lastly, you can also view NWA’s press release regarding the final rule here.

The August Recess is a Perfect Time to Connect with your Member of Congress
Both the House and the Senate are on recess for the entire month of August, making this a perfect time to connect with your member of Congress. As they meet with key constituents in their communities, legislative staffers are considering key WIC priorities, including 2020 appropriations funding levels and pending proposals for Child Nutrition Reauthorization.

Last week, the South Nutrition Center WIC Program, hosted Congressman Jim Cooper (D-TN) at their WIC clinic. In celebration of National Breastfeeding Month, the Congressman accepted an invitation to visit the WIC clinic to see first-hand how the program helps and supports Davidson County moms with breastfeeding. He received a tour of the facility, and learned about the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program.

During this recess, NWA encourages you to connect with your member of Congress and set up clinic visits. Setting up these visits allows your legislator or staffer to see the excellent work you’re doing every day, as well as increase their knowledge 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

Legislators Seek to Protect Children from ICE Detention
Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) and Rep. Grace Meng (D-NY) introduced the Stop Cruelty to Migrant Children Act, a new bill that would enact new requirements for the health, safety, and well-being of children and families that are in federal immigration detention. Senator Merkley is a recipient of the NWA Leadership Award for his steadfast commitment to WIC and his work to promote breastfeeding. NWA has endorsed this new bill, which would ensure that any infant or child in federal custody is fed three meals a day that align with the WIC and school meals nutrition standards.

The bill more broadly limits the detention of children for extended periods of time, consistent with the Flores precedent that encourages quick release of children into family or community settings.

NWA has spoken out on the needs of migrant infants and children. Another example of the current system's flaws was exposed earlier this month, when a breastfeeding mother was detained during an ICE raid at a food processing plant in Mississippi. After eleven years in the United States, she has been separated from her three children - including a four-month-old infant - for 12 days at a facility nearly 200 miles away. She has stated that she is in pain from being separated from her children, as well as not being able to pump. NWA will continue to monitor the detention of migrant women and children and advocate for more humane conditions that adequately address their nutrition and health needs.