Congress is Back in Session: Here’s What We’re Watching

As policymakers head back to Washington, DC this week for a 4-week stretch of work before the next Congressional recess, there are a number of items in front of them that would have an impact on the health and well-being of moms and babies. Below are some of the most pressing items we are watching here at 1,000 Days:

Changes to SNAP in the Farm Bill 

The Farm Bill is a major piece of legislation impacting numerous policies and programs – from trade to supports for farmers to federal nutrition programs. The House of Representatives recently put forth a Farm Bill proposal that included significant changes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) – changes that would increase food insecurity among low-income families. While the first attempt to pass the bill in the House failed, House leadership has made it clear that they will bring the Farm Bill to a vote again before the July 4th recess.

The Senate – on the other hand – has put forth a balanced and bipartisan Farm Bill proposal. In particular, the Senate Farm Bill supports the role of SNAP in addressing hunger and poverty in America. The proposal – which the Committee will mark up on June 13th – is an important first step toward renewing this critical program.

1,000 Days will continue to work with policymakers to support a Farm Bill that prioritizes the programs that young children and their families need to thrive.

Funding for WIC

The Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) is funded by Congress every year through the annual appropriations process. While 1,000 Days has strongly supported full funding for WIC and for the breastfeeding peer counselor program, both the House and the Senate appropriations bills include funding for WIC in FY19 that is significantly LESS than in FY18. What’s more, funding for breastfeeding peer counselors remained stagnant at $60 million. We will continue to work partners and allies to ensure WIC has the funding it needs to serve all women and children who need the program.

Upcoming Dietary Guidelines

In 2013, Congress mandated that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) and the United States Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) include pregnant women and young children as a part of the 2020-2025 Dietary Guidelines for Americans (DGAs). The updated DGAs will inform federal nutrition programs that reach young children and their families, as well as serve as an important reference point for physicians, nutrition counselors, early childcare providers, among others. Both the House and Senate funding packages for FY19 include $12.3 million in funding to USDA to support the development of the DGAs. This is a positive signal of the importance of a strong, evidence-based process to develop and then disseminate the DGAs. 1,000 Days will continue to track this process closely.

Pending Maternal Mortality Legislation

Champions in the House and Senate have introduced legislation that would take steps toward addressing the high rates of maternal mortality in the U.S. and, in particular, to focus on the racial and ethnic disparities in the rates of maternal mortality.  We strongly support these legislative efforts and are urging Congress to hold hearings and advance this legislation as soon as possible.

Proposed Cuts to the Children’s Health Insurance Program

President Trump has proposed to rescind $7 billion of funding from the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). This directly contradicts the fact that just a few months ago, a bipartisan bill extending the funding for CHIP was passed by Congress and was signed into law by the President. While Congressional leadership is currently considering these cuts, 1,000 Days joined hundreds of organizations to strongly oppose them. We will continue to highlight the importance of health care and coverage for moms and babies to ensure a healthy first 1,000 days.

Threats to Immigrant Families

The Department of Homeland Security is considering a new rule that would suppress immigrants’ access to benefits to which they are entitled, including Medicaid and WIC. The proposal—known as public charge—is pending review and could be released for comment soon. 1,000 Days is working in partnership with groups across the country to prepare for this forthcoming rule and the open-comment period that will follow.

Over the next four weeks, we will be working with our partners and allies, Congressional champions and YOU to make sure federal policies prioritize the nutritional health of young children and their families.