National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

November 18, 2019

NWA Leads Renewed Call for Full Funding for Breastfeeding Peer Counselors

On November 4, the National WIC Association led the public health community in calling on leading appropriators to provide full funding for WIC’s highly successful Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program. Over 150 national, state, and local organizations joined the renewed call for full funding.

Since its inception in 2004, peer counselors have been demonstrated to increase breastfeeding initiation, duration, and exclusivity among WIC moms. The Healthy Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010 recognized the value of peer counselors in supporting WIC moms to reach their breastfeeding goals by expanding available funding for the program. However, Congress has never appropriated the full funding for peer counselors. After nearly a decade of flat-funding at $60 million, both chambers have signaled an intention to increase peer counselor funding for fiscal year 2020.

The National WIC Association and the broader public health community urge appropriators to fund the peer counselor program at the fully authorized level of $90 million.

Congress to Vote on Short-Term Funding Ahead of Thursday Deadline

With the first continuing resolution set to expire on Thursday, both chambers are expected to vote on a second continuing resolution this week, which would extend federal funding to December 20. The continuing resolution is not expected to garner any opposition as appropriators continue negotiations for fiscal year 2020. Failure to pass another continuing resolution would result in another government shutdown.

Spending Deal Possible This Week

As legislators consider a continuing resolution, appropriators are suggesting that a deal could happen this week on the spending allocations. The spending allocations set funding priorities for the government by determining how much funding is available for each of the twelve appropriations subcommittees. Since a bipartisan budget deal in August, the spending allocations have been the main division point in fiscal year 2020 negotiations. Senate Republicans have largely insisted on additional funding for the Homeland Security bill, which would enable additional appropriations for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

Once a bipartisan deal on the spending allocations is reached, appropriators can swiftly move to advance individual appropriations bills. The Agriculture Appropriations bill, which passed through the full Senate in October, is one of the bills more likely to move swiftly through Congress after an allocations deal is reached. Both the House and the Senate bills include $6 billion in funding for WIC, a slight decrease from fiscal year 2019 levels.

NWA Leads Call for End to Controversial Relocation of USDA Research Agencies

On November 4, NWA and two dozen nutrition and early childhood organizations called on Congress to block USDA’s misguided attempt to relocate staff from two research agencies to Kansas City, Missouri. The relocation effort affects the Economic Research Service (ERS), which conducts USDA research into nutrition and program evaluation for WIC, SNAP, and other child nutrition programs. As a result of the relocation, there has been mass staff attrition and approximately 65% of ERS positions are currently vacant, leading to delays in research – including two separate WIC studies.

In June, the House passed an Agriculture Appropriations bill that bars the relocation. However, the Senate instead provides $25 million in funding to support the relocation. Appropriators will have to decide a course of action as they craft a consensus Agriculture Appropriations bill that can pass through Congress.

EPA Proposal Signals Efforts to Limit Science-Based Decision Making

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is considering a proposed rule that would restrict the consideration of scientific and medical research in the agency’s rulemaking process. A leaked draft of the proposed rule indicates that EPA would require researchers to disclose all raw data, including the confidential medical records of study participants. The move would permit the EPA to reject consideration of many foundational studies on air and water quality, which relied on information protected by individual confidentiality agreements. Under the leaked proposed rule, existing regulations could then be rolled back for not having a solid evidentiary basis.

The latest draft comes as new research is published demonstrating the health impacts of environmental quality controls on children. Research has consistently indicated that children are especially vulnerable to negative health effects stemming from pollution, particularly air and water pollution. Consistent with NWA’s work to assure science-based nutrition research in the WIC food package and Dietary Guidelines for Americans process, NWA will continue to monitor research that scrutinizes the health impacts of environmental quality on children’s growth and development.