National WIC Association

Weekly WIC Policy Update

March 23, 2015

House and Senate Budget Committees Approved FY 2016 Budget Priorities

Both the House and Senate Budget Committees released their FY 2016 budget plans last week that if implemented, would have the consequence of potentially driving millions of our neighbors into deeper poverty by undercutting education, training, health care, and the nutrition safety net programs. Both Committees offer plans to balance the budget by FY 2025, without revenue increases and through dramatic, draconian cuts to mandatory and discretionary programs disproportionately affecting low and moderate income Americans. These budgets have the potential to undo the nation’s hard won economic recovery.

House Budget Resolution:

The House Budget Committee, Chaired by Rep. Tom Price, R-GA, passed its budget resolution Thursday evening in a party line (22-13) vote. Chairman Price intends to take his resolution to the House floor this week. Twenty-seven amendments offered in Committee by Democrats to repair the budget resolution’s damage to middle and low-income families were rejected along party line (14-22) votes. A Democrat alternative will likely be offered during House floor debate. For House Democrats' response to the Republican budget resolution, please click here

Among other priorities, and without providing detail or clear data, the House Budget Resolution reduces funding and sets plans to convert Medicaid and SCHIP into a single bloc grant; repeals health-care reform expansions affecting over 16 million previously uninsured Americans; cuts funding and converts SNAP to a bloc grant; makes significant cuts in Pell Grants affecting the ability of children from families of modest incomes to access college; indicates cuts to other mandatory programs including SSI for the elderly and disabled, child nutrition programs, Earned Income Tax Credit, veterans’ pensions and disability compensation, student loans, and farm programs, among others.

The resolution fails to lift the sequestration caps for non-defense discretionary programs (including programs like WIC) and cuts funding for them by nearly $760 billion through FY 2025 below the already low sequester caps. By 2025, total non-discretionary funding levels will be over 30% below FY 2010 inflation adjusted levels.

On the defense side, the resolution skirts the sequestration caps for defense spending providing $39 billion in additional funding via the Overseas Contingency Operations fund for FY 2016 and provides over $400 billion in defense increases through FY 2025.

Senate Budget Resolution:

The Senate Budget Committee, Chaired by Sen. Mike Enzi, R-WY, ordered its resolution favorably reported Thursday by a party line (12-10) vote (8 Democrats and 2 Independents). He too plans to bring their resolution (Budget Draft Language) to the Senate floor this week with votes likely on Thursday, including the potential for 100’s of amendments.

The Senate resolution maintains sequestration caps in FY 2016 for non-defense discretionary programs (like WIC) and cuts funding after FY 2016 by roughly $240 billion below the damaging sequestration caps through FY 2025. By 2025, total non-discretionary funding levels will be 24% below FY 2010 inflation adjusted levels.

Like the House plan, the Senate’s resolution makes dramatic cuts to mandatory programs eliminating health care coverage subsidies; repealing the ACA’s Medicaid expansions and cutting Medicaid a further $400 million while converting it to a bloc grant; reduces funding for SNAP, school lunch, and other child nutrition programs, SSI for the elderly and disabled, unemployment insurance, the low-income portion of the Child Tax Credit, and the Earned Income Tax Credit, among other programs. The resolution sets up a fast-track reconciliation process to replace part or all of the Affordable Care Act. In total, the Senate Budget resolution cuts well over $650 billion from these programs through 2025.

On the defense side, the Committee approved an amendment to increase defense spending by $38 billion in FY 2016 raising the uncapped defense account to $98 billion well above the President’s budget request of $58 billion. A further approved amendment would allow increased defense spending using the same mechanism found in the House’s resolution – the Overseas Contingency Operation account – that is coincidentally exempt from sequestration limits.

The Founder and President of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), Robert Greenstein, released statements regarding the House and Senate budgets: Statement on the House Budget Resolution; Statement on the Senate Budget Resolution

The House and Senate will separately consider the budget resolutions this week. 

FY 2016 Appropriations Update

The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (the Subcommittee) held a hearing last Tuesday, March 17 to review the FY 2016 budget request of the Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services agencies within USDA. The hearing provided a detailed review of various portions of the FY 2016 FNS and Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion (CNPP) Budget Requests. Key topics included recommendations regarding the Dietary Guidelines for Americans (including extension of the public comment period), school meal rules (particularly whole grain waivers), and operation of WIC.

You can view a video of the hearing here.

Key highlights: Subcommittee Chairman Aderholt (R-AL) suggested that more can be done to reduce costs by improving oversight of the programs (including WIC). Aderholt also noted that eligibility for WIC has been expanded, and should be reviewed.

Congressman Sanford Bishop (D-GA) inquired about EBT status of WIC agencies across the United States. USDA Food, Nutrition, and Consumer Services Under Secretary Kevin Concannon noted that Congress set the goal of 2020 for the conversion of all WIC agencies to EBT, and FNS is ramping up to meet that goal. FNS has had to work with Georgia, California, Louisiana, and North Carolina on vendor issues, but remains convinced that the 2020 goal will be met.

Vice Chair Kevin Yoder (R-KS) inquired about WIC income eligibility standards and how many states have income eligibility levels above the federal standard. Under Secretary Concannon replied that the federal standard is 185% of poverty, and that the statute allows eligibility to individuals in states based on Medicaid eligibility, including when the state has a Medicaid income eligibility level over the federal standard. 34 states have Medicaid levels above 185% of poverty.

Yoder referenced a GAO report that recommended that FNS develop a timeline for reviewing its monitoring reports to assess national program risks and target assistance. He asked about what progress is being made in meeting these recommendations, and if states and USDA could use additional tools. Under Secretary Concannon noted that the recommendations are being implemented, and that management evaluations have helped to identify problems in Georgia, Louisiana, and North Carolina. FNS has pushed for stronger management controls. Vice Chair Yoder asked for a direct response to the Subcommittee regarding the GAO report, and Under Secretary Concannon agreed.

Under Secretary Concannon went on to say that a recent CDC report credits WIC for a reduction in childhood obesity. He said that WIC is serving 85% of eligible infants. The FY 2016 budget request includes a contingency fund that would be used to help transition in the event of sequestration. He also said that every dollar spent on WIC is credited for saving $2.50 in health care costs.

House Appropriations subcommittees plan to continue hearings on Obama’s FY 2016 budget request this week.