National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

February 3, 2020

Public Charge Set to Take Effect on February 24
Last Thursday, the Department of Homeland Security announced that the final public charge rule will go into effect in 49 states on February 24, 2020. The path for implementation was cleared last Monday, when the U.S. Supreme Court reversed a nationwide injunction that had blocked the public charge rule since October. A separate court injunction that blocks the rule statewide in Illinois remains effective.

The final public charge rule will penalize immigrants for accessing Medicaid, SNAP, or housing subsidies. WIC is explicitly excluded from consideration in public charge determinations, as is Medicaid for children (up to age 21) and pregnant women (up to 60 days postpartum). DHS will only consider benefit use of these additional programs taking place after February 24. The rule will not apply retroactively. While the rule is due to go into effect later this month, court cases continue to challenge the legality of the rule.

NWA has developed resources to support clinic staff and participants in learning more about the effects of public charge. Last Thursday, NWA staff held a webinar to talk through the impacts of the Supreme Court decision – you can access the webinar slides here. NWA continues to monitor the significant chilling impact that has affected WIC participation, as families remain concerned about participating in federal programs and immigration attorneys urge caution. If you have additional questions, please reach out to Brian Dittmeier at

Congress Puts Spotlight on Maternal and Infant Health
Last Tuesday, two subcommittees of the House Education and Labor Committee held a joint hearing that focused on maternal and infant health, specifically highlighting the systemic racial disparities that impact the nation’s maternal and infant mortality rates. Throughout the hearing, WIC partnerships with healthcare providers was featured as an important part of various solutions to the public health crisis. You can watch the hearing here.

House to Vote on Disapproval for Administration Plans to Block Grant Medicaid
The House of Representatives announced that it will vote this Thursday on a resolution disapproving of recent Administration action to block grant Medicaid. During the healthcare reform debate in 2017, Congress considered and ultimately rejected various reforms to Medicaid – including proposals to cap federal spending.

Despite strong Congressional opposition, the Trump Administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) announced new guidance last Thursday that would permit states to seek waivers of Medicaid funding rules – essentially creating block grants for non-disabled adults covered through the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act of 2010. Instead of joint federal-state funding, the waivers would set a defined federal contribution – capping spending at a set level.

This new guidance would be a significant departure from the existing Medicaid structure, leading to reduced healthcare access, coverage, and benefits for low-income populations. NWA will continue to monitor structural changes to Medicaid that may affect healthcare access for WIC families.

SNAP Online Pilot Expands in Washington State
Amazon is rolling out online purchasing and home delivery for over 800,000 SNAP participants in Washington State, starting last Wednesday with those in the Seattle area. This significant step is part of a broader USDA pilot that began in New York in April 2019 and will eventually permit online options in eight states from various retailers, including Amazon and Walmart. Under the pilot, SNAP benefits will be able to cover the cost of groceries, but not any service or delivery charges. The USDA pilot was first authorized by Congress in the 2014 farm bill. NWA is supportive of efforts to explore online ordering and purchasing in WIC, although Congress has not yet authorized a similar pilot for WIC participants.

Public Health Emergency Declared over Coronavirus
Last Friday, Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar declared a national public health emergency in response to the coronavirus outbreak. There are now at least 11 confirmed cases in the United States, including at least two confirmed person-to-person transmissions. The United States is denying entry to any foreign nationals who have recently been in China, where the outbreak originated. U.S. citizens returning from parts of China will now be subject to a mandatory two-week quarantine.