Continuing Resolution Likely as Senate Begins FY 2020 Appropriations
With the September 30 deadline approaching, members of Congress returned to Washington this week to consider appropriations bills for fiscal year 2020. In June, the House passed ten out of the twelve appropriations bills – including an Agriculture Appropriations bill that includes robust WIC funding and record investment in the Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program. The Senate has waited to act until the bipartisan budget deal was passed at the beginning of August.
This week, the Senate Appropriations Committee will begin considering four appropriations bills, including Defense and Labor-HHS. These four bills account for more than 70% of federal discretionary spending. The Senate has not yet announced plans to consider the Agriculture Appropriations bill.
House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-MD) has signaled that additional time will be needed beyond the September 30 deadline to pass the Senate bills and reconcile them with the previously passed House versions. Next week, the House is expected to take up a continuing resolution that would extend funding through at least November 22.
Cherokee Nation Seeks Congressional Delegate
Two weeks ago, the Cherokee Nation announced that it will send a delegate to Congress, naming former Obama Administration official Kimberly Teehee as the nation’s delegate in the House of Representatives. The historic appointment relied on provisions of the 1835 Treaty of New Echota, which listed the appointment of a congressional delegate as one of the various forms of compensation for land that was forcibly taken from the Cherokee Nation.
Teehee’s appointment will still have to be confirmed by Congress, and it is unclear whether she will be granted voting status. The District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, American Samoa, Guam, and the Northern Marianas Islands all have non-voting delegates in the House of Representatives. There are no non-voting members of the Senate.
White House Weighing Severe Reduction of Refugee Program
The White House is weighing changes to the long-standing refugee program that provides legal status to individuals fleeing war, famine, or persecution in their home countries. The Administration has already shrunk the refugee program to its lowest levels in history, capping the program at 30,000 in 2019. While no formal plan has yet been issued, some White House advisers are now advocating for elimination of the program. The White House is expected to announce their final decision in the next two weeks, to set a cap for refugees admitted in 2020.
Former military officials have spoken out in opposition to a potential reduction or elimination of the program, noting that refugee status is often used to support individuals who assist American troops and diplomats abroad. Some White House officials are pushing back against elimination of the program, arguing for exceptions for Iraqi and Afghans who supported the American war efforts in their home countries.
The United States has a long record of welcoming refugees into the country, historically leading other nations in accepting the most refugees. Many WIC agencies are familiar with serving refugee communities. Any further reduction stands contrary to decades of American policy.
Federal Report Spotlights Public Service Loan Forgiveness
A new federal report scrutinizes the U.S. Department of Education’s implementation of an expanded public service loan forgiveness program. First created in 2007, the program extends debt relief to students who have gone on to pursue careers in government or not-for-profit work. As a result, many WIC staff should be eligible to obtain debt relief through this program.
When the first class of eligible borrowers applied for relief in 2017, the program’s strict requirements led to the overwhelming majority of requests being denied. Congress then streamlined the program to ensure that a greater number of applicants could obtain debt relief. This latest report indicates that the U.S. Department of Education has still not acted to support additional applicants, approving only 661 out of roughly 54,000 requests.
Deportation Order for Sick Immigrant Children Sparks Outcry
On August 7, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) announced that it would no longer accept petitions for deferred action, which allow immigrants and their family to remain in the country legally if they are seeking lifesaving medical treatment. The relatively small program – which sees only about 1,000 applications each year – is one of the various grounds where an immigrant can obtain legal status on a humanitarian ground.
The end of the deferred-action program sparked an outcry as several families seeking clinical treatment were issued deportation orders. Last week, DHS officials agreed to reconsider pending applications while they weigh a more concrete policy change. NWA has joined a number of other children’s organizations in cautioning the Administration against considering a more permanent change to the deferred-action program.
ERS Report Highlights 2018 Food Security Data
Last week, the Economic Research Service (ERS) released a report on household food security in 2018. The report shows, for the first time, that the national food insecurity rate of 11.1% has returned to pre-recession levels. However, out of the 2.7 million households with children, 7.1% of households faced food insecurity – relatively unchanged from last year (7.7%). The static rates for food insecurity among children demonstrates a continued need to support programs like WIC that address child nutrition and improve access to healthy foods.