National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

January 6, 2020

New Lawsuit Challenges State Department Public Charge Policies
A few weeks ago, New York-based advocacy groups filed a new lawsuit challenging various policies that restrict the ability of immigrants to enter the country on a public charge basis. The lawsuit specifically challenges the January 2018 changes to the State Department’s Foreign Affairs Manual (FAM) and an October 2019 White House proclamation limiting visas to those who can produce evidence of having health insurance outside of Medicaid.

Additional visa restrictions have added to the chilling effect on WIC participation. The January 2018 FAM changes permit embassy and consular officials to weigh any benefit use by an immigrant or their sponsor when determining whether to issue a visa to enter the country. This has led to ambiguous and inconsistent application, with some consulates denying visas to poorer immigrants at higher rates.

This new lawsuit follows similar challenges to the public charge rule issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in August 2019. In October, a federal court in New York blocked implementation of the DHS final rule as various federal courts weigh legal challenges. For any questions on public charge, please reach out to Brian Dittmeier at

FDA Issues Rolled-Back Vaping Ban
Last week, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a limited ban on flavored e-cigarettes, barring the manufacture and sale of certain cartridge-based vaping devices in early February 2020. The ban has may exceptions, permitting the continued sale of menthol and tobacco flavors while also allowing for popular liquid-based vaping products, such as vape pens.

Public health advocates had pushed for a broader ban given rising vaping rates among teenagers. As most vaping products also include nicotine, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) caution that vaping and e-cigarettes are not safe for use during pregnancy. The White House had initially expressed support for a broader ban but backed away amid industry pressure and concern about the President’s reelection prospects. The new rules were issued mere weeks after the confirmation of the new FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn, who had evaded questions about vaping policy during his hearings in the Senate.

FY 2020 Appropriations Complete
Before the holiday week, both houses of Congress passed two spending packages that appropriated approximately $1.4 trillion in federal spending for fiscal year 2020. The two measures were largely divided between defense and domestic programs. WIC funding was included in the domestic package, which funded WIC at $6 billion.

The spending measure realizes the full expansion of WIC's Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program, appropriating the $90 million authorized amount included in the Healthy, Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010. This expansion - increasing funding by $30 million - will ensure that more pregnant women and mothers can access WIC's effective peer support. NWA led the broader nutrition community in fighting for this increase, which was championed by House Democrats throughout the appropriations process.

Congress has now completed its work for fiscal year 2020. The next appropriations cycle will begin in February after the release of the President's budget. NWA will update members with additional information when Congress begins to consider fiscal year 2021 appropriations.