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Proposed WIC Cuts End Food Assistance to 325,000 - 475,000 Low-Income Women & Children

Proposed WIC Cuts End Food Assistance to 325,000 - 475,000 Low-Income Women & Children

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Published by Patricia Dillon

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Published by: Patricia Dillon on May 25, 2011
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05/25/2011

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May 23, 2011
PROPOSED WIC CUTS WOULD END FOOD ASSISTANCE FOR325,000 to 475,000 LOW-INCOME WOMEN AND CHILDREN
By Zoë Neuberger and Robert Greenstein
House Republicans are proposing a cut in the WIC nutrition program that would force WIC to turnaway 325,000 to 475,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year. This cut — part of the 2012 appropriations bill that Rep. Jack Kingston, chairman of the House agriculture appropriationssubcommittee, unveiled today — would break a 15-year commitment by Administrations andCongresses of both parties to provide enough WIC funding to serve all eligible women, infants, andchildren who apply. The proposal is particularly striking given Republican insistence late last year on extending all of President Bush’s tax cuts for the nation’s wealthiest households as well as Republican efforts of recent weeks to preserve lucrative tax breaks for oil companies at a time of huge company profits. Theappropriations bill reduces WIC funding from $6.73 billion this year to $5.90 billion in 2012 — a cut of more than $800 million below the fiscal year 2011 level, which obviously is much less than thecontinuing cost of the high-end Bush tax cuts, oil company tax breaks, and various other write-offs for well-to-do taxpayers or powerful corporations. WIC — the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children — providesnutritious foods, counseling on healthy eating, and health care referrals to roughly 9 million low-incomepregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under age five who are at nutritional risk. Anextensive body of research documents WIC’s high degree of effectiveness in improving birth outcomes,reducing child anemia, and improving participants’ nutrition and health.Unlike other key low-income nutrition programs, such as SNAP (formerly called food stamps) andschool lunches, eligible WIC recipients have no entitlement to benefits. If funds are insufficient, eligibleapplicants are put on a waiting list for services. The exact number of people that the proposed funding level could serve will depend in part on foodprices — the higher the prices for the foods that WIC provides, the fewer participants a given funding level can serve. Food prices have been rising relatively rapidly in recent months and are expected tocontinue doing so. The average federal per-participant cost of providing WIC foods in February 2011(the latest month for which these data are available) was 3.4 percent higher than when the fiscal yearstarted in October 2010 and 5.2 percent higher than in February 2010.Economists have varying views on the size of the likely increase in food prices over the next 18months. If the cost of WIC foods increases by 2 percent between fiscal years 2011 and 2012 — thesmallest increase likely — the proposed funding cut would force WIC to serve roughly 325,000 fewer
820 First Street NE, Suite 510 Washington, DC 20002 Tel: 202-408-1080Fax: 202-408-1056center@cbpp.org www.cbpp.org

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