House Republicans Pose an Increasing Threat to Women, Infant and Young Children Funding

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WIC serves nearly 40% of all infants in the United States, but the program is being put at risk by House Republicans as nearly 2 million parents and young children could be denied help under WIC by September.

Due to higher-than-expected participation and food costs, the White House is very concerned about the urgent need to fully fund the WIC program in 2024. This is all the more urgent given that “infant mortality is linked to women’s health status with healthier moms having healthier babies” and healthier babies are more likely to survive infancy. Yet, House Republicans have been messing around with Women, Infants and Children funding this year, but due to their chaotic approach to governing, the threat they pose to WIC has grown at a time when need is increasing.

The current failure to pass a budget including WIC is putting nutrition security for millions of women, infants, and children at risk.

WIC used to be bipartisan

“For 25 years, it (WIC) has been a no-brainer on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue,” Director of the Domestic Policy Council Neera Tanden said on a call with reporters in which PoliticusUSA participated. “There has been bipartisan support from Congress to make work available to every eligible person who applies. The Biden-Harris administration has repeatedly requested that Congress fully fund WIC in the fiscal 2024 year. The Congress so far hasn’t done so. If Congressional Republicans pass the budget without fully funding WIC, states will have no choice but to cut the number of people they serve.”

House Republicans are unable to agree on a budget, and so they’ve been punting with Continuing Resolutions. The problem with this approach for WIC is that it leaves food banks, moms and other vulnerable people with less certainty about the future and the longer this goes on, the uncertainty takes bigger cuts out of help.

“For nearly 50 years we could have the funding it needed to assist anyone who was eligible to participate, it didn’t matter which party controlled the White House or Congress,” Georgia Mitchell, Interim President and Chief Executive Officer of the National WIC Association, said. “If there was a need that need was met. Today, however, that compact is on really shaky ground. Raising participation and higher food costs means WIC needs more funding to do its job. The Biden administration has recognized the need and asked Congress for additional funding. That request however came months ago and Congress has not acted even worse, some in Congress are proposing to slash with funding by hundreds of millions of dollars.

Deputy Secretary of Agriculture Xochitl Torres Small explained how the CRs are threatening the program:

“Through the two recent continuing resolutions Congress allowed USDA to send funding to state and current funding at a faster rate. But what they didn’t do is commit to paying for the difference over the course of the whole year,” she said during the call. “And that puts states and moms and kids in jeopardy forcing them to hold on to a hope and a prayer that Congress is going to provide before resources run out. Now, if Congress does not address the needed funding when they ultimately pass a full-year appropriation, the impact of cuts would be magnified because all of the cuts would have to be absorbed in the last months of that year. So between April through September.”

“Here’s the scale of the problem. If Congress were to fund the program for the rest of the year, proportionately to what they’re doing in the congressional resolution or in the continuing resolution, there would be a billion-dollar shortfall. It’s one and a half months of benefits for all pregnant and new moms, babies, and toddlers on the program today. This is especially troubling because WIC serves nearly 40% of all infants in the United States.”

States will likely have to put applicants on waiting lists to reduce costs, which would start with postpartum women who are not breastfeeding, next will be children one-five years old. IF there’s still not enough funds, then the cuts would hit pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and infants.

Why is the White House sounding the alarm? The Deputy Secretary said it’s likely at the billion-dollar shortfall level that the waiting list could hit all categories.

What’s at risk:

“Families who participate in WIC have longer and safer pregnancies with fewer premature birth and infant deaths,” Grace Hou, Illinois Deputy Governor for Health and Human Services said.

Yet, a new analysis from the nonpartisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found “If Congress fails to do so and continues WIC’s current funding level for the rest of the fiscal year, WIC would face a roughly $1 billion shortfall in 2024.”

The above-linked analysis contains a state-by-state breakdown as well.

In The Larger context of the kind of country and people we are:

All of this is happening within the larger context of Republicans claiming to care about babies so much that they seek to force women and girls into medical torture, pain, suffering and health crises.

With WIC, Republicans have a chance to do something concrete for babies and pregnant women, and instead of acting, they are ensuring uncertainty and fear prevail.

Last spring, House Republicans came for food stamps in the debt ceiling deal and followed that up with proposed cuts to funds for WIC in the USDA annual spending bill.

Republicans justify these cuts as necessary because they want to cut costs, but they do not seek to cut costs in really impactful ways, such as by cutting their corporate tax giveaways or subsidies to oil and gas or collecting the correct amount of taxes from the wealthy.

For a party that professes to care so much about babies that it has stolen individual liberty from women and girls and in certain Republican-led states, monitors and legally intimidates anyone who helps women or girls get abortion medical care they need, it simply doesn’t make sense that they do not want to feed pregnant and post-partum women (e.g., nursing moms), infants and young children.

Funding WIC should have been priority one for House Republicans, but instead, they’re holding an impeachment inquiry based on Trump-driven fiction about President Biden, while putting pregnant women, infants, breastfeeding moms and children at risk.

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