WASHINGTON — Top Democrats and Republicans on Capitol Hill have agreed to fully fund the federal special supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children that’s known as WIC. The program serves more than 90,000 people in Wisconsin, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

What You Need To Know

  • There’s a deal in Congress to provide another billion dollars to a federal program known as WIC that provides food to millions of pregnant women and young children, more than 90,000 of whom are in Wisconsin

  • This likely averts a shortfall that would have forced some eligible mothers and children onto waiting lists for benefits

  • One WIC expert said if lawmakers hadn’t agreed to fully fund the program, WIC would have put some eligible recipients on wait lists for the first time in 25 years

  • Wisconsin Democrats are praising the final deal, which gives WIC about $7 billion

Until now, WIC had been funded at last year’s spending levels, resulting in an estimated shortfall of a billion dollars. But this week, a bipartisan group of lawmakers agreed to cover that shortfall so eligible moms and kids won’t be pushed onto waiting lists. The left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy priorities estimates that 27,000 people could have been turned away in Wisconsin alone had the program not gotten the new money.

“We have seen growing participation in 2022 and 2023, which is good news,” said Nell Menefee-Libey, the senior public policy manager at the National WIC Association. “It means that more eligible families are getting connected to WIC’s vital nutrition services. But that in combination with high food prices meant that the program needs more resources to serve all of those families.” 

Menefee-Libey said if lawmakers hadn’t agreed to fully fund the program, WIC would have put some eligible recipients on wait lists for the first time in 25 years.

“A child doesn’t get to live that really crucial first year of life over again, and so it’s important that WIC is a reliable and steady resource available to families during this really critical period of life,” Menefee-Libey said. 

During negotiations, some Republicans tried to link more WIC dollars to a pilot program that would have limited what type of foods some beneficiaries of SNAP, or the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, could purchase. That was stripped from the final bill. 

“I think in the long run, eliminating that piece of it was what is making it work on a bipartisan level,” said Renee Scampini, who teaches at the Univeristy of Wisconsin-Milwaukee’s College of Public Health.

Wisconsin Democrats praised the final deal. Congressman Mark Pocan, D-Madison, told Spectrum News in part, “Thankfully, our appropriations leaders were able to reverse the Republican effort to drastically cut the fruit and vegetable benefits in this program.”

And Congresswoman Gwen Moore, D-Milwaukee, said in a statement, “Congress has a history of working together in a bipartisan way to fund WIC, and I hope we can continue that work by finally passing this additional funding.” 

Lawmakers are expected to vote on the bill to fully fund WIC at about $7 billion on Wednesday.

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