Background: Neither the House nor the Senate have included adequate funding for the Special Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) in their Agriculture Appropriations bills. Based on the most recent economic data and conservative projections of unemployment levels next year, the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that as many as 7.5 million people could be eligible for WIC next year. To meet that need, Congress must provide $4.387 billion in WIC funding next year or states will have to turn people away.
But the WIC funding in the bill passed by the House falls short by $250 million as many as 345,000 eligible low-income women, infants and children could be denied WIC next year under the House bill. The Senate added more WIC funding in its version of the bill but not enough without $140,000 million in addition to the funding in the Senate bill, 160,000 people could be denied needed food assistance.
Action Needed Now: Contact your Senators and Representatives and let them know that the Agriculture Appropriations bills do not include enough WIC funding for states to provide food assistance to everyone who is likely to be eligible next year. Urge them to support adding the additional needed funding, either through the Agriculture Appropriations conference committee or the economic stimulus package.
(Note: The Conference Committee is expected to begin meeting the week of November 5th to resolve differences in the House and Senate bills and could complete its work that week. Because of delays in the mail, you may receive this after they have finished their work on the bill. Please contact Kathy Curran at the number or email address below for an update if you would like to check the status of the bill before you act.)
Food Stamps Reauthorization
Background: The Senate Agriculture Committee began work on its version of the 2002 Farm Bill on October 31, 2001. Both Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA), the chairman of the Committee and Senator Richard Lugar (R-IN), the ranking member, have released Farm Bill outlines. We are still analyzing the Nutrition titles of the two proposals, and both have strengths and weaknesses. For example, Senator Lugar proposes to add more money to the food stamps program $10 billion over ten years, compared to $6.2 billion over ten years in Senator Harkin's plan. On the other hand, Senator Harkin goes farther in restoring benefits to legal immigrants. Both bills contain other improvements to the program as well. (See the Food Research and Action Center website for more detailed information on both proposals, frac.org). We hope the final Farm Bill will include the best provisions of the Harkin and Lugar proposals, as well the Nutrition Assistance for Working Families and Seniors Act of 2001, S. 583, key sections of which would restore food stamp eligibility to legal immigrants, increase the minimum benefit level, and link the standard deduction to family size.
Action Needed Now: Contact your Senators and urge them to support measures to strengthen the Food Stamps program and restore eligibility to legal immigrants. Ask them to let Senators Harkin and Lugar know they would like the Committee to include in the final Farm Bill the best aspects of the Harkin proposal, the Lugar proposal and S.583, to make the best possible package of Food Stamps improvements.
How to contact your Senators
Because of uncertainty about Senate office building closures, we suggest you call your Senators' state offices unless you are certain their Washington offices are open. To find the number, look in the "blue pages" federal government listings of your phone book or check out your Senators' web sites.
The U.S. Catholic bishops have consistently supported national policy to establish food security and combat hunger, and to strengthen domestic food assistance programs to ensure that no one in America goes hungry or suffers malnutrition. "When the economy fails to provide the jobs and income necessary to prevent hunger and malnutrition, the various local, state, and national food assistance programs must be funded and expended to provide food to all in need." Food Policy in a Hungry World  pp. 26-27.
For more information, contact Kathy Curran at 202-541-3188 or email@example.com.