NWA Legislative Agenda: We at the National WIC Association are proud to share our 2017 Legislative Agenda. Here are some highlights from the agenda:
Total Funding Request of $6.37 billion + contingency fund
Set Aside for Breastfeeding Peer Counselor Program of $90 million
Set Aside for Management Information Systems (MIS) and Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) of $75 million
Set Aside for WIC Infrastructure of $14 million
Set Aside for Program Initiatives and Evaluation of $26 million
$2/month increase in fruit and vegetable vouchers for fully breastfeeding women adding up to a total of $6.02 million
Maintaining the Contingency Fund at $150 million
NWA’s WIC funding request differs from the President’s 2017 Budget in two ways: 1. An additional $10 million for Breastfeeding Peer Counselors and 2. An additional $6.02 million for increasing fruit and vegetable CVVs for fully breastfeeding women. The president’s budget asked for a total of $6.35 billion for the WIC program, versus NWA’s $6.37 billion.
We will be launching a letter campaign supporting our legislative asks very soon, which you can sign onto using our website’s Advocacy Central page. Please be on the lookout for this letter as well as instructions for how to sign-on.
Appropriations: The House Appropriations Committee and Subcommittees hosted numerous hearings in the past few weeks related to the FY 2017 Budget.
The House Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies (the Subcommittee charged with determining WIC funding levels), chaired by Congressman Robert Aderholt (R-AL), hosted two budget hearings in the past few weeks: One on Thursday, February 11th and the second on Wednesday, February 24th. The Budget Hearing on February 11th included testimonies from Mr. Thomas Vilsack, Secretary of Agriculture, Mr. Robert Johansson, Chief Economist, USDA, and Mr. Michael Young, Budget Officer, USDA. Secretary Vilsack stressed the importance of WIC in his testimony, and assured the Subcommittee that the administration’s desired funding for 2017 will be adequate to meet WIC caseload needs. Testimonies and the Chairman’s statement can be found here.
At the hearing on February 24th, witnesses included Mr. Kevin Concannon, Under Secretary, Food Nutrition, and Consumer Services, USDA; Ms. Audrey Rowe, Administrator, Food and Nutrition Service, USDA; Ms. Angela Tagtow, Executive Director, Center for Nutrition Policy and Promotion; and Mr. Michael Young from USDA. In his testimony, Under Secretary Concannon called WIC a “premier public health program.” Mr. Concannon discussed the positive health effects of the recent changes to the WIC food package, and the need for more research “exploring the connection between WIC, early diets, and nutrition” and, more specifically, “a longitudinal study of WIC infants from birth throughout the program to measure these infants’ dietary intake, height and weight.” Mr. Concannon went on to highlight WIC’s breastfeeding peer counseling program, saying that it has been “proven to be effective at extending breastfeeding duration, which is important to infants’ healthy development.” Mr. Concannon wrapped up his discussion of WIC by alluding to WIC’s strong commitment to program integrity, through the completion of Management Evaluations (MEs) focused on vendor compliance and certification/eligibility and also through the conversion to WIC EBT in all states and territories. Testimonies and the Chairman’s statement can be found here.
Upcoming budget hearings on the Senate side include one this Wednesday hosted by the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies. Witnesses at Wednesday’s hearing will include The Honorable Thomas Vilsack as well as Robert Johansson and Michael Young from USDA.
EBT Final Rule: Last Monday, Mr. Vilsack announced the passage of the WIC Electronic Benefit Transfer (EBT) Final Rule. The Final Rule will improve the shopping experience for WIC participants by requiring states to transition from paper benefits to EBT systems by Oct. 1, 2020, as required by the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010. Secretary Vilsack made this announcement during a speech at the 2016 National Anti-Hunger Policy Conference, hosted by the Food Research & Action Center and Feeding America, in Washington, DC. The Secretary was joined at the conference by Dorothy McAuliffe, First Lady of Virginia and a champion of child nutrition programs. Virginia is one of 12 states and 4 tribal nations that have already competed the transition to EBT for distributing WIC benefits. Please see the full press release about the announcement.
Flint: The Senate may proceed this week to final passage of their energy bill, S. 2012, which, in addition to revising programs related to energy cybersecurity, efficiency, infrastructure and supply management, has been paired with legislation to help municipalities such as Flint, Michigan, clean up tainted drinking water supplies. Senate Democrats have strongly advocated for the pairing of these two pieces of legislation, but have been met with some resistance from Republicans. The Flint proposal would create $220 million in new lending authority to help communities to fix polluted municipal drinking water systems.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization: There is no planned movement on Child Nutrition Reauthorization this week.