National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

November 25, 2019

Take Action: One Week to Weigh in on Latest Proposal to Limit SNAP
As the nation celebrates the Thanksgiving holiday, there is just one week left to weigh in on the third attempt this year to limit SNAP assistance. USDA now proposes to create a national standard for utility allowances, limiting state discretion to adjust a family’s SNAP benefits to account for the costs of certain non-food household expenditures. As a result, families will face an average benefit loss of $28 per month, totaling $4.5 billion in SNAP cuts over five years. You can submit comments here by December 2. NWA has prepared templates to support you in developing individual comments.

CDC Study Demonstrates WIC’s Role in Reducing Childhood Obesity
Last Thursday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new study demonstrating a statistically significant decrease in obesity prevalence among young children (aged 2-4) participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) in 41 out of 56 WIC state or territorial agencies. Nationally, the obesity rate among children ages 2-4 enrolled in WIC declined over this same period, from 15.9 percent to 13.9 percent.

The study specifically credits the NWA-promoted 2009 changes to the WIC food package, which increased access to healthier foods such as fruits, vegetables, and whole wheat products. NWA led the broader nutrition community in fighting to ensure that the WIC food package was guided by the work of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine (NASEM) and informed by the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. NWA is closely monitoring the pending Dietary Guidelines process, which will – for the first time – consider nutrition recommendations for pregnant women and children up to the age of two.

With New Continuing Resolution, FY 2020 Appropriations Moves Forward
Last Thursday, Congress passed a continuing resolution that extends government funding through December 20. With a few more weeks to reach an agreement, House and Senate appropriators announced a deal on Friday evening that set allocations across the twelve different appropriations committees. This had been the largest barrier to passing timely appropriations bills, as appropriators were split on how to respond to White House demands to invest additional funding in the Homeland Security bill for a wall on the US-Mexico border.

With the allocations set, appropriators can work on negotiating bipartisan funding bills. The Agriculture Appropriations bill – which funds WIC – advanced swiftly through both chambers earlier this year, being one of ten appropriations bills to pass the House in June and one of only four bills to pass the Senate in October. Leading appropriators have indicated they would like to pass all fiscal year 2020 bills by the end of the continuing resolution on December 20. NWA will continue to update members as the process unfolds in the next few weeks.

House Committee Advances Two Bills to Improve Maternal Health
Last Tuesday, the House Energy and Commerce Committee advanced two bipartisan bills that are intended to improve maternal health outcomes. The Helping Medicaid Offer Maternity Services Act, or Helping MOMS Act, is led by Reps. Robin Kelly (R-IL) and Rep. Michael Burgess (R-TX). The bill would permit states to extend Medicaid eligibility for postpartum women to one year, ensuring increased healthcare access for new mothers.

The Maternal Health Quality Improvement Act – led by Reps. Eliot Engel (D-NY) and Larry Bucschon (R-IN) – aims to decrease racial disparities in maternal healthcare by creating new funding to enhance perinatal quality collaboratives and enhance implicit bias training in medical and nursing schools.

NWA has endorsed both bills and is supportive of the wide-ranging efforts in Congress to address the nation’s high rates of maternal mortality and staggering racial disparities in maternal deaths.

White House Under Fire as Flavored e-Cigarette Ban Delayed
On Friday, the White House hosted a contentious meeting on e-cigarette policy as the White House continues to weigh action on banning flavored e-cigarettes. Public health groups like the American Heart Association warn that flavored e-cigarettes can influence teenager and young adult vaping initiation. The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) had been considering a ban on flavored e-cigarettes, but the White House delayed the ban at the last minute due to concerns about job losses in the vaping industry and the President’s reelection prospects. Former FDA Administrator Scott Gottlieb remains supportive of a ban, but his nominated replacement, Dr. Stephen Hahn, has refused to commit to implementing the ban in his Senate confirmation hearings.