National WIC Association

July 20, 2022

Chairman Scott, Chair Bonamici Introduce Comprehensive Effort to Modernize WIC, Strengthen Nutrition Outcomes for Young Kids

National WIC Association: “The urgently needed improvements in this bill seamlessly incorporate lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to build a modern and accessible WIC for the next generation of families with babies and young children.”

 

WASHINGTON, DC – This afternoon, Rep. Bobby Scott (D-VA), chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, and Rep. Suzanne Bonamici, chair of the Civil Rights and Human Services Subcommittee, introduced the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act. The bill includes ten titles that aim to reauthorize WIC and other child nutrition programs – including the Child and Adult Care Food Program (CACFP), school meals, and summer feeding programs. This legislation marks the first Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill in over six years, since Chairman Pat Roberts (R-KS) introduced a Senate bill in 2016. A Child Nutrition Reauthorization bill has not been enacted into law since the Healthy, Hunger-Free Kids Act of 2010.

 

Brian Dittmeier, senior director of public policy at the National WIC Association (NWA), issued the following statement in response:

 

“It has been twelve years since Congress last reauthorized WIC and the child nutrition programs, and WIC providers are simply no longer operating in the same landscape as 2010. Two years into a global pandemic and several months into an infant formula recall, new parents have embraced program modifications and new technologies that streamline access to WIC without sacrificing the quality of WIC’s healthy foods or tailored nutrition services. The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act would codify thoughtful reforms that will unleash further innovation in WIC’s clinic-based services and shopping experience, mirroring standards already commonplace in healthcare and commercial retail settings. Remote certification and appointment options have upended a nearly decade-long trend of declining child participation, demonstrating that more flexible services can enhance WIC’s reach and amplify WIC’s public health impact. The urgently needed improvements in this bill seamlessly incorporate lessons learned during the COVID-19 pandemic to build a modern and accessible WIC for the next generation of families with babies and young children.

 

“Modernizing WIC will also strengthen the federal response to urgent public health concerns, especially as the program reaches nearly half of all infants born in the United States. As the nation continues to grapple with higher maternal mortality rates than comparable nations – driven by entrenched racial disparities – extending WIC’s postpartum eligibility can mitigate risk factors before and during a subsequent pregnancy while providing crucial touchpoints for education, screening, support, and referrals. Expanded investments in WIC’s breastfeeding services will deepen the program’s commitment to tackling income- and race-based disparities in breastfeeding initiation and duration, a first step in improving the nation’s fragile infant feeding infrastructure after the pain caused by Abbott’s recall. As WIC contributes more to these public health priorities, the Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act will also close inequitable disparities for the WIC population, including by scaling up online shopping options for participants by 2025 and improving the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program.

 

“The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act advances common-sense reforms that reflect bipartisan support for WIC’s crucial public health mission and provisions from five different bipartisan bills. Approximately three-quarters of likely voters have signaled support for key reforms included in this bill – including remote certifications, postpartum eligibility extension, and online shopping. We thank the broad coalition of legislators on both sides of the aisle who have contributed to the ideas included in this legislation, and we applaud Chairman Scott and Chair Bonamici for their leadership in advancing this reauthorization. With too many flexibilities contingent on the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, the time for legislative inaction is over. NWA calls for swift passage of this legislation in the House and urges Senate leaders to make quick work of passing these needed reforms into law.”

 

The Healthy Meals, Healthy Kids Act incorporates several WIC provisions, including:

  • Provisions drawn from the Wise Investment in our Children Act (WIC Act) (H.R. 2011), sponsored by Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Jenniffer González Colón (R-PR), Linda Sánchez (D-CA), Kim Schrier (D-WA), and the late Don Young (R-AK):
    • Extends postpartum WIC eligibility and certification periods from six months (or one year, if breastfeeding) to two years
    • Extends child WIC eligibility from age 5 to age 6 or the beginning of full-day kindergarten
    • Extends infant certification periods from one to two years
  • Provisions drawn from the WIC for Kids Act (H.R. 4455), sponsored by Reps. Jahana Hayes (D-CT) and Jenniffer González Colón (R-PR):
    • Extends child certification periods from one to two years
    • Automatically certifying infants born to pregnant participants
    • Revising adjunctive eligibility to include applicants who live in a household that receives Medicaid, SNAP, TANF, Head Start, CHIP, FDPIR, or the nutrition assistance programs for territories
    • Permits updated certification periods to promote alignment between participating family members
    • Requires WIC agencies to develop outreach plans for kinship families
  • Provisions drawn from the MODERN WIC Act (H.R. 6781), sponsored by Reps. Andy Levin (D-MI), Jaime Herrera Beutler (R-WA), and Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA):
    • Updates physical presence requirements to permit certification through phone or video options
    • Updates benefit issuance rules to permit remote benefit issuance through online EBT systems or other electronic means
    • Invests $90 million per year in WIC technologies, including for the purpose of building secure communications between healthcare providers and WIC clinics
  • Provisions drawn from the Healthy Beginnings Act (H.R. 7603), sponsored by Reps. Lucy McBath (D-GA), Lisa McClain (R-MI), Andy Levin (D-MI), and Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-IA):
    • Establishes a public website containing active bid solicitations for infant formula procurement
  • Provisions drawn from the Supporting Healthy Outcomes for Mothers and Infants Act (H.R. 5934), sponsored by Reps. Kathy Manning (D-NC), Glenn Thompson (R-PA), David Trone (D-MD), Brett Guthrie (R-KY), and Ann Kuster (D-NC):
    • Updates statutory language for initiatives related to substance use disorder
    • Requires USDA to develop nutrition education materials related to substance use disorder, including prenatal substance exposure and neonatal abstinence syndrome
  • Directs State agencies to authorize at least three vendors to process online payments by October 1, 2025
  • Removes barriers to online shopping innovation, including the cashier-presence rule and the requirement that all WIC vendors be a single, fixed location
  • Invests $40 million per year to enhance vendor partnerships and streamline the shopping experience
  • Adjusts the reimbursement rate and allows for home delivery options offered by above-50-percent vendors
  • Invests $180 million per year in breastfeeding peer counselors, including out-of-clinic placements at hospitals and physician offices and partnerships with the Maternal, Infant, and Early Childhood Home Visiting Program
  • Permits WIC food funds to be utilized to cover additional breastfeeding supplies, in addition to breast pumps
  • Requires USDA to develop nutrition education materials related to food allergies
  • Authorizes WIC agencies to purchase and distribute safe drinking water in the event of disasters or emergencies
  • Directs State agencies to report data on cross-enrollment between WIC, SNAP, and Medicaid, and to coordinate with State agencies administering those programs to facilitate cross-enrollment
  • Adjusts spend-forward authorities to support multi-year technology investments
  • Modernizes the WIC Farmers Markets Nutrition Program by:
    • Permitting CSAs to be offered (consistent with Senior FMNP)
    • Permitting WIC FMNP benefits to be redeemed at a central point-of-sale market model
    • Removing the $30/year cap on benefits and raising the floor for benefits to $20/year
    • Eliminating the state-match requirement
    • Increasing administrative funding for FMNP programs from 2% to 3%

More information about this policy and its impact on the WIC program can be found here. For additional comment, please contact Tim Ward at tward@nwica.org or 304-654-6397.

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