For busy WIC practitioners, sometimes it may seem like there is a constant need to advocate for adequate WIC funding with policymakers. Why are there so many urgent Alerts and Calls to Action? Why are both NWA and CWA always reminding you to invite your member of Congress for a clinic visit?
Can’t we all take a break?? I wish we could!
Three realities require us to maintain our vigilance and activism in the foreseeable future. First, we all know WIC is a domestic discretionary program, 100% federally funded. Even in a good year, we must work hard to ensure that our annual Congressional appropriations allow us to serve all needy families and pursue program improvements like breastfeeding services and EBT.
Next, while all other major nutrition programs (SNAP, school meals) are exempt from mandatory budget sequestration that will be imposed on federal programs for the next nine years, WIC is not statutorily protected and is very vulnerable to across-the-board cuts.
Thirdly, a polarized and divisive atmosphere in Washington means that WIC may not continue to enjoy the bi-partisan support that has allowed it to survive largely unscathed for decades. Republicans control the House of Representatives in the 113th Congress and are heavily influenced by the “Tea Party” wing. There are a growing number of Republican House members (and some conservative Democrats) who do not feel the same affinity for WIC as their more moderate brethren, many of whom are now retiring. They are more ideologically driven, are looking to cut any and all federal programs, especially domestic discretionary programs.
In FY 2013, WIC was funded sufficiently only because an adequate appropriations baseline, combined with declining caseload and other factors, allowed us to serve all eligible participants without waiting lists. The fiscal year that begins this October 1 is another story entirely. President Obama’s FY 2014 WIC funding proposal of $7.142 billion should be fully adequate, but it’s far from certain to be the final number. There will be less money left in the carryover/contingency pots to buffer funding cuts. The House has already appropriated inadequate funds and essentially eliminated set-aside funds for breastfeeding peer counselors, EBT/MIS and research. Even if Senate appropriators do better, sequestration will again be in play, with extremely fierce competition over scarce domestic discretionary funding.
So, once again, we’ll have to work very hard to WIC from damaging cuts that could take years to restore. To make it fun, CWA will launch Phase Three of our WE NEED WIC Campaign - California's WIC Business-Community Alliance - this summer. Stay tuned for more next week!
WIC got a reprieve last month from damaging FY 2013 sequestration cuts required by the Budget Control Act. Congress passed the Continuing Appropriations Act of 2013 replacing the expiring Continuing Resolution and funding WIC at a higher allocation of $7.056 billion through September 30, 2013. The higher CR appropriation for WIC raised the base upon which a 5% sequestration cut was imposed, with a further small amount subsequently shaved off by OMB to meet statutory caps. The final WIC funding level for the current fiscal year is $6.522 billion.
How could a total of $510 million in cuts be considered a reprieve for WIC? Because, even at this lower level, experts predict the appropriation will support full WIC participation. Contingency and carryover funds, declining caseloads (discussed in a previous blog), and tight fiscal management by state and local programs anticipating the worst, will allow the program to squeak through September.
Next fiscal year is another story entirely. President Obama’s FY 2014 WIC funding proposal of $7.142 billion should be fully adequate, but it’s far from certain to be the final number. The jobs picture is souring a little, and inflation will raise food and business costs. There will be less money left in the carryover/contingency pots to buffer funding cuts. Mandatory sequestration will again be in play, and the dynamics in Congress over how these cuts will be made will be much tougher, with fierce competition over scarce domestic discretionary funding.
In anticipation of the challenges of convincing Congress, particularly House appropriators, to continue supporting full funding for WIC, CWA is kicking off “Phase 3” of our WE NEED WIC organizing campaign designed to engage WIC’s key allies and business partners in communicating their support, by endorsing a simple statement that is posted on our website. By summer’s end, we would like to garner 500 endorsements by state and local groups, companies, and individuals, just in time to share them with Congress!
To meet our goal, we need your help! This will be easy because it’s all on-line. We’ll get you started at our Annual Conference Plenary, or you can use the WIC Employee Toolkit.
See you in San Jose!
Damaging across-the-board cuts will go into effect at midnight today, March 1, forcing WIC and a host of other federal programs to begin the process of curtailing services over the next few months, beginning as early as April.
Advocates hold out some hope that a balanced debt reduction deal preventing WIC cuts could still be made by March 27, the expiration date of the current Continuing Resolution and our next “fiscal cliff.”
What Will Happen to WIC?
Given the unprecedented nature of sequestration, it is not yet clear how WIC cuts will be handled by USDA and state WIC Agencies. The National WIC Association answers some questions about how the sequester could play out, and a recent Center on Budget & Policy analysis underscores how difficult and damaging it will be for WIC families, providers and the public’s health. A series of phone calls hosted by NWA provided further funding and timing details, and urged state and local directors “to refrain from any actions to limit access” or reduce caseloads through March 31, and to contact USDA regional staff before taking any action.
What Can I Do?
- CWA joins NWA in urging all WIC supporters to contact your member of Congress and urge him/her to protect WIC from these unconscionable and harmful funding cuts.
- Answer inquiries and requests for interviews and site visits from local print and electronic media, and educate them about WIC’s important role in improving nutrition, contributing to local economies, and the irreparable harm caused by cuts. In California alone, 100,300 moms and kids would lose benefits and over 1,000 WIC jobs are on the line.
- Urge your local business and community partners to sign on to the WE NEED WIC Statement posted on our website.
- It will take you less than five minutes to be a voice for WIC! Use your personal time and personal communications tools to urge Congress to fix this mess and reverse these harmful WIC cuts. Please do it today!
Read more »
We had a busy and successful year working to protect and strengthen the California WIC Program and local agency efforts to help build healthier communities! Thanks to our members, corporate sponsors and fans for your financial underwriting, dues and donations. Our program and policy work is also generously supported by the California Department of Public Health Obesity Prevention Program, Kaiser Permanente Community Benefits, The California Endowment, DHHS Office of Women’s Health, CDC, and Vitamin Cases Consumer Settlement Fund.
This Year’s Top Accomplishments:
- Over 60,000 personal stories and pictures from WIC participants, captured on paper plates and videos, were collected in late 2011 as part of CWA’s WE NEED WIC grassroots campaign. These plates were delivered to Congressional district offices and the White House in January, and again at the nation’s Capitol by a feisty group of California WIC Ambassadors in March. Despite earlier House proposals to cut WIC caseloads and eliminate Breastfeeding Peer Counseling funds, a Continuing Resolution passed in July maintained program funding until March 2013. The fiscal cliff looms, but we’ve laid some excellent protective groundwork!
- CWA and CBC teamed up with Altarum and Every Mother on an exciting national project to document and promote lactation support for hourly wage workers, especially those in low-wage jobs, funded by the Office of Women’s Health, DHHS. A website will go live next year!
- Our “Quick and Easy” WIC Works Webinar series on Baby Behaviors, Breastfeeding, Worksite Wellness, and other hot topics attracted hundreds of listeners from around the nation – even the world. Lots of people are still watching them online!
- Six new local WIC agencies became accredited Well WIC Worksites: Watts Healthcare, Marin, Alameda, and Madera Counties, Tiburcio Vasquez, and LA Biomed WIC, bringing our total number to 31 local agencies with healthier work environments!
Read more »
The California WIC caseload is dropping, and that is as it should be. Like CalFresh (food stamps), the WIC program responds to economic changes, with participation expanding during economic downturns and contracting when the economy recovers and circumstances improve for WIC families.
California’s recovery from the Great Recession has been far slower than the rest of the country, with only two of five of the 1.4 million jobs lost in the crash coming back so far. Chronic unemployment and underemployment have driven poverty rates to record levels, endangering a generation of children: over 2 million California children – one out of four – were living in poverty in 2010. In fact, by a new, more sensitive federal poverty measure, California has the worst poverty in the nation. All of this may explain why demand for WIC services in California has been fairly strong over the last few years of the so-called “recovery,” while we hear from other states that their caseloads dropped a long time ago.
One result of economic distress is a decline in the birth rate -- when you’re out of work and running out of money, having a baby doesn’t make much sense.