CHN: House Subcommittee Rejects President’s Plan to Terminate Food Packages for Poor Seniors, Children and Moms
The House Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee approved its FY 2007 appropriations bill on May 3, rejecting nutrition aid cuts proposed by President Bush. The President’s budget would have eliminated all funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program , which provides food packages worth about $20 to 470,000 poor people per month, about 90 percent of whom are senior citizens. The rest are low-income children, pregnant and post-partum mothers. The President claimed that older people losing the commodities could instead qualify for Food Stamps, and that the children and mothers could qualify for WIC. But advocates pointed out that (1) some people would not be eligible for both programs, and (2) even when senior citizens are also eligible for food stamps, for example, they receive so little that the additional peanut butter, cheese, canned goods and other basics are still needed. The Subcommittee approved $118.3 million, $11 million more than the current year’s budget.
Food for Women, Infants and Children: The Subcommittee exceeded the President’s request for the WIC program (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children), and also rejected Administration proposals to reduce access to nutrition services through WIC and to restrict the WIC eligibility of Medicaid recipients. The Subcommittee’s bill provides $5.244 billion, or $44 million over the Administration’s budget and $40 million over current spending. The goal is to provide food supplements for a projected monthly caseload of 8.2 million participants next year. Although advocates had originally estimated that $5.38 billion was needed to support that caseload, analysts will be looking at whether a smaller figure may be adequate; if not, language in the bill provides for the funding to be adjusted as the bill proceeds through Congress. Advocates were pleased that the Subcommittee rejected a cap on nutrition services including state efforts to negotiate lower costs for infant formula, referrals for immunizations, etc.
Child Nutrition: The Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee included the figure estimated by the Administration for school meals, summer food, and food for child and adult care programs ($13.3 billion, or $685 million above this year’s funding), but did not include a new contingency reserve fund of $300 million sought by the Administration for these mandatory programs. The Subcommittee also did not allow expansion of the Simplified Summer Food Program (aka, the Â”Lugar PilotsÂ”) so that streamlined administration can be implemented in more than the current 26 states. Without the simpler administration, only 3 million low-income children have been receiving summer meals, far fewer than the 15 million who receive reduced price meals when school is in session.
The Subcommittee maintained other nutrition programs, such as emergency commodity purchases and farmers’ market programs.
Timetable: Action by the full House Appropriations Committee is expected on May 9. Senate action on their agriculture appropriations bill is not expected until after the Memorial Day recess.
In the normal budget process, all the Appropriations subcommittees receive funding allocations to work with after Congress passes a budget resolution. Without the resolution, appropriators may go ahead and recommend funding, but action on each appropriations bill on the House and Senate floors will require a prior vote to set the totals for all appropriations. (See the budget resolution article in this issue.)
For more information, see the Food Research and Action Center website, http://www.frac.org/Legislative/Budget_07/Alerts/05.04.06.html