Biden’s federal budget calls for extending WIC benefit increase
President Biden’s budget for fiscal year 2022 calls for a 16 percent increase in funding for domestic programs, including a total of $27.9 billion for USDA programs.
The budget builds on investments in the American Rescue Plan Act, seeking to extend the four months of enhanced WIC benefits for fruits and vegetables for an entire year, through September 2022. Although overall funding levels will remain consistent with fiscal year 2021 at $6 billion, the White House calls for an end to rescissions of funding that could not previously be spent down due to the limited value of the food package.
The proposed extension of elevated WIC benefits results in a $1.2 billion increase in WIC funding, ensuring that women and children on the program continue to have $35 per month for fruits and vegetables – more than triple the prior value.
“This budget demonstrates that the Biden administration is solidly committed to building a healthier nation and rooting out nutrition insecurity, especially for children and youth,” said Rev. Douglas Greenaway, president & CEO of the National WIC Association. “By investing an additional $1.2 billion in WIC’s proven public health efforts, the Biden White House is smartly tackling the high healthcare costs associated with chronic diet-related conditions, while also promoting new and stronger markets for producers. Plainly said, increased access to fruits and vegetables leads to healthier kids.
“We look forward to working with Congress and USDA to extending this popular increase in WIC benefits and ensuring that pregnant and postpartum women, babies, and young children continue to have access to the nutritious foods necessary to promote healthy growth and development,” Greenaway said.
The budget also details USDA plans to advance a regulatory review that will bring the food packages further into alignment with the Dietary Guidelines for Americans. The National WIC Association has championed the food package review as an opportunity to sustain investments from the American Rescue Plan Act and double the value of the food package, bringing participating women, infants, and children closer to the nutrient intakes recommended by the DGAs.
Both NWA’s vision and the American Rescue Plan Act’s increase of WIC’s fruit and vegetable voucher reflect the thorough scientific basis for the food package presented in the 2017 review by an independent panel of the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine.
In addition to these crucial nutrition investments, the budget calls for two additional WIC investments – $100 million to replenish ongoing funding for WIC Management Information Systems and $200 million to support the contingency fund, ensuring that USDA can support state needs should costs or participation exceed budget estimates.
The budget would also earmark additional funding for WIC research and program innovation, building USDA capacity to support work that streamlines access to WIC and creates a more participant-centered service-delivery model.
Beyond WIC, the budget also calls for a $3 million increase in the WIC Farmers Market Nutrition Program, a 14 percent increase over fiscal year 2021 levels. This would ensure that states could expand the breach of WIC FMNP and permit new states to establish programs.
After a similar increase in fiscal year 2021, new states were able to establish WIC FMNP for the first time since the program’s establishment in 1992.