National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

December 9, 2019

USDA Issues First Final Rule to Restrict SNAP Access
Last week, USDA published a final rule limiting access to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) for able-bodied adults without dependents. Adults without dependents or disabilities are restricted to only three months of SNAP benefits unless they can produce documentation of ongoing work, but states have historically been able to waive these strict time limits for areas with high unemployment. USDA’s final rule limits the waiver process and is estimated to leave nearly 700,000 individuals without access to SNAP.

The final rule is set to take effect on April 1, 2020, although forthcoming litigation efforts may delay implementation of the rule. SNAP’s documentation requirement does not apply to pregnant participants or parents of young children. If implemented, the rule could adversely affect food access for eligible families before pregnancy and discourage families from reaching out for nutrition assistance, including WIC. NWA joined other anti-hunger groups in opposing this rule. Please see NWA’s full statement here.

This final rule is one of three pending USDA proposals that would restrict SNAP access. USDA is also considering sweeping reforms to adjust SNAP’s categorical eligibility and allowances for heating utility costs.

Congress Poised to Pass Paid Parental Leave for Federal Workers
Over the weekend, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) announced that a defense bill nearing final passage will include twelve weeks of paid parental leave for federal workers. The new paid leave provisions will impact nearly two million workers, providing vital support and job security as families welcome new children.

The federal government does not require paid leave in any context, although some workers can access twelve weeks of unpaid leave under the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993. Only 17% of workers have access to paid family leave through their employers. NWA has also endorsed the FAMILY Act, a comprehensive bill that would extend twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave to all workers.

The paid leave provision was included in the House version of the defense bill and championed by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-WA). NWA joined other organizations to support the inclusion of paid leave provisions in the defense bill.

Appropriators Conferencing FY 2020 Bills Before Funding Deadline
With federal funding expiring on December 20, leading appropriators continued to negotiate over the weekend with the aim of moving spending bills before the holidays. Negotiations have been delayed for weeks by ongoing funding disputes over the border wall, immigration enforcement, and the President’s emergency powers to redistribute appropriated funding.

WIC funding, included in the Agriculture Appropriations bill, was passed in the House in June and the Senate in October. Without agreement on the broader funding disputes, spending bills cannot advance to final passage.

Funding is currently authorized by a continuing resolution that expires on December 20. Another continuing resolution would be necessary to avoid a government shutdown on that date. Leading appropriators are signaling that a second continuing resolution would be likely if they cannot come to an agreement before the holidays. NWA will continue to update members as the funding deadline approaches.