Senior Policy Analyst
As we’ve noted previously, the 2014 agriculture appropriations bill moving through the House underfunds WIC, the highly regarded nutrition program for low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children, and as a result could deny WIC benefits and services to eligible women and children at nutritional risk. With the bill moving to the full House Appropriations Committee on Thursday, it’s important to understand what’s at stake.
The House bill relies on two unsound budget choices to try to avoid turning away about 140,000 eligible women and children, according to our updated estimate that’s based on new data.
The House bill would use these funds for benefits if there is a shortfall, which the bill’s funding level is very likely to create — effectively terminating the part of the program that provides breastfeeding counseling to pregnant women and new mothers. This would mark the first time since the breastfeeding program’s creation in 2004 — in response to medical evidence on the health benefits of breastfeeding — that policymakers have denied funding to this part of the program.
The full Appropriations Committee has an opportunity to amend the bill to adequately fund WIC. If the Committee raises WIC funding, the breastfeeding program could stay in place, the program could continue to be modernized, the Contingency Fund could be reserved for truly unanticipated costs — and policymakers could continue their longstanding bipartisan commitment to providing WIC with enough funding to serve all eligible low-income pregnant women, infants, and young children who apply.