National WIC Association

May 30, 2023

Debt Limit Agreement Could Cause WIC Funding Shortfall

WASHINGTON, D.C. - Over the weekend, President Biden and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy reached a tentative agreement to suspend the debt ceiling until the first quarter of 2025, preventing the United States from defaulting on its debts. Recent statements from Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen indicate that Congress must act before June 5 to avoid default.

The agreement includes a two-year budget deal that would hold spending flat for fiscal year 2024 and impose a limit on additional spending for fiscal year 2025. This could dramatically affect the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), as flat funding falls $615 million short of what the USDA estimates is needed to meet the program's expanding caseload in the fiscal year 2024.

The following statement is attributed to Dr. Jamila Taylor, President & CEO of the National WIC Association:

“The agreement to suspend the debt ceiling is a significant and necessary development, but it ties the hands of appropriators who recognize the growing needs of federal programs like WIC. The drastic gap in WIC funding is worrisome, particularly when families are facing high food costs and already struggling to put healthy foods on the table for their children. Simply put, legislators should safeguard the health of American families, not take food out of children’s mouths.

"WIC is an essential lifeline for low-income families, providing crucial support for the nutritional needs of pregnant women, new mothers, infants, and young children. However, the funding gap resulting from this deal–which favors defense programs at the expense of investments that serve families and communities–puts WIC at risk of being unable to meet the increasing demand for its services. This could force Congress to either reinstitute waiting lists for the first time in three decades or slash benefits that ensure toddlers have adequate access to healthy foods. It is time to dispense with the abstract budget discourse and focus on the actual needs of real families struggling to get by in this country.

"Congress should not be exacerbating hunger in this country, and new bureaucratic requirements on certain adults to obtain SNAP support are similarly misguided and harmful to some of the most vulnerable individuals among us.  If a topline agreement is advanced through Congress this week, legislators must ensure that the Agriculture/FDA Subcommittee receives an adequate allocation that prioritizes and invests in the nutrition support needed to assure the health and well-being of the next generation. Legislators must recognize the profound impact their decisions have on the lives of everyday Americans. We call on the leaders of both parties to address the funding shortfall and advocate for the needs of families across the country. Together, we can work toward a future where no family goes hungry and where every child has access to the nutritional support they need to grow and thrive."