National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

January 13, 2020

Public Charge Injunction Upheld in Federal Court
Last Wednesday, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York denied the Trump Administration’s request to lift a nationwide injunction on the Department of Homeland Security’s final public charge rule. With this ruling, the public charge rule remains blocked by a federal court from going into effect.

The public charge rule – which would penalize immigrants for accessing Medicaid, SNAP, or housing subsidies – has had a profound chilling effect on participation in other federal programs, including WIC. In the final public charge rule, WIC was explicitly excluded from consideration in public charge determinations. Issued in August 2019, the final public charge rule would have gone into effect in mid-October 2019, if not for this court action.

NWA joined an amicus brief (a court filing) that opposed efforts to reverse the nationwide injunction, which would allow the Administration to begin enforcing the final public charge rule. NWA will continue to advocate against harmful changes to longstanding immigration policies that recognize the basic needs of immigrant and mixed-status families living in the United States.

Congress to Consider Labor Protections for Pregnant Workers
This Tuesday, the House Education and Labor Committee will mark up the bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), led in the House by Reps. Jerry Nadler (D-NY) and John Katko (R-NY). This legislation would ensure that pregnant employees could obtain reasonable accommodations (i.e., relief from heavy lifting, a stool to sit on, the ability to carry a water bottle, etc.) to ensure that they can continue to work throughout pregnancy. Under existing pregnancy discrimination law, pregnant workers have few legal remedies to a denied accommodations request.

NWA has been actively engaged in advancing this crucial legislation. In October, the committee held a hearing to highlight the need for additional labor protections for pregnant workers. In the hearing, five congresswomen shared their own varied experiences of working while pregnant, ranging from miscarriages to fighting for additional bathroom breaks.

New Legislation Introduced to Support Breastfeeding Workers
Last Thursday, a bipartisan group of senators reintroduced the Providing Urgent Maternal Protections (PUMP) for Nursing Mothers Act. This legislation would expand labor protections for nursing mothers, requiring employers to provide reasonable break time and a private place to pump breastmilk for employees in salaried positions. These protections would cover approximately 13.5 million women in salaried positions. Earlier legislation – led by Rep. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and passed in 2010 – ensures these labor protections for hourly employees.

NWA has endorsed this legislation and is supportive of its passage. The bill is led by Sens. Jeff Merkley (D-OR), Lisa Murkowski (R-AK), Tammy Duckworth (D-IL), and Cory Booker (D-NJ).

Updated Nutrition Labeling Rules in Effect
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) implemented new rules governing nutrition facts labels on retail packaging. After an extensive process, the new FDA rules aim to enhance consumer knowledge, requiring companies to more effectively communicate key nutrition metrics, including serving size, calorie content, and the amount of added sugars. FDA has compiled key resources that explain the changes for a general audience.

NWA has been supportive of FDA’s process to update the nutrition facts labels in a manner that assists shoppers in making healthy choices. The labeling rules are effective for large companies as of January 1, 2020. Smaller companies have an additional year to comply with the new requirements.

Kansas Poised to Expand Medicaid
Last Thursday, Kansas Governor Laura Kelly (D) announced that she had reached a deal with the Kansas State Senate to expand Medicaid, which will lead to an additional 130,000 people being able to access healthcare coverage. Medicaid expansion is correlated with increased utilization of healthcare services, resulting in better health outcomes for a state’s low-income population. Kansas would be the 37th state to enact Medicaid expansion, originally offered to states through the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010.

Tennessee Set to Extend Paid Family and Medical Leave to State Employees
Last Tuesday, Tennessee Governor Bill Lee (R) announced that twelve weeks of paid family and medical leave would soon be offered to state employees. Tennessee is only the tenth state to offer these benefits to state employees, and only 19% of all employees in the United States have access to paid leave. NWA was supportive of recent provisions in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) – passed in December 2019 – that extended paid parental leave to federal employees, effective October 1, 2020. NWA continues to support legislative efforts for a national, comprehensive paid family and medical leave framework for all employees.