CHN: Bill Funding Nutrition Programs Advances in the Senate

On June 23, the Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved the Agriculture and Rural Development spending bill for fiscal year 2006, which includes funding for discretionary nutrition programs such as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The House approved its Agriculture spending bill ( HR 2744 ) on June 8.
Like the House-approved bill, the Senate bill provides $5.257 billion for WIC , including a $125 million reserve. That amount is $22 million above this year’s level. The President had proposed capping at 25 percent the total amount WIC providers could spend for nutrition counseling and other services and administration of the program. WIC providers worried that the cap would hamper their ability to educate and provide services to recipients. Neither the Senate nor House bill includes the cap.

Another proposal of the President’s dealing with automatic WIC eligibility for Medicaid recipients was rejected by the Senate committee (although it is included in the House bill). Under the provision, families receiving Medicaid would only be considered automatically eligible for WIC if their income were under 250 percent of the poverty line. This change would affect families in six states (Rhode Island, Minnesota, Missouri, New Hampshire, Vermont, and Maryland) that offer Medicaid to families with incomes above 250 percent of poverty.

The Senate committee funded the Commodity Assistance Program at $179.935 million, which includes $50 million for the discretionary portion of The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) and $20 million for the Farmer’s Market Nutrition Program (FMNP) and $108.854 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) . The House version provides the same amounts for TEFAP and FMNP, but provides $107.716 million for the CSFP, which will result in at least 45,000 dropped participants, comprised largely of the elderly.

The total Senate committee recommendation for discretionary spending of $17.348 billion is $608 million more than the $16.74 billion appropriated in the House version. The Senate bill also includes a provision that excludes special pay for military personnel deployed to combat areas when calculating Food Stamp eligibility, allowing them to receive more Food Stamps.

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