Omnibus text released with WIC boost, no school waivers
Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., early today released the $1.5 trillion fiscal year 2022 Omnibus Appropriations bill.
The bill boosts the Special Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC) but does not appear to contain waivers to the school meals programs. That means the Agriculture Department would have to go back to normal rules for nutrition and procurement and that schools would not be able to provide universal free meals except in those schools that are already qualified due to high poverty levels.
The House is expected to vote on the bill today, along with a measure that would continue current spending levels until Tuesday so that the Senate can have time to consider the bill.
The omnibus includes a 6.7% increase for non-defense discretionary programs, the largest increase in four years.
Leahy said: “This bill makes bold investments in critical areas that went underfunded or even neglected in the previous administration, including education, childcare, healthcare, the environment, science and research, and many more.”
“It provides critical assistance to Ukraine and our NATO allies at a time when they need it the most, and it provides much-needed resources to ensure American can continue its battle against the coronavirus, both at home and abroad,” Leahy said. “It is unquestionably in the interest of the American people that the House and the Senate act quickly to pass this bill and send it to the president.”
Senate Agriculture Appropriations Subcommittee Chairwoman Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., said, “This bipartisan legislation is the product of Democrats and Republicans working together to support rural development, and a stronger and more resilient agriculture economy that works for our farmers, ranchers and families in rural communities.”
“Developed with input from my colleagues on both sides of the aisle, this bipartisan legislation will drive economic opportunities to farmers and invest in the long-term health of our working lands. It will also invest in broadband and ensure that people facing challenging times have tools to move toward nutrition, health and housing security.
“I am also very proud that our work together will make investments that support the Dairy Business Innovation Program, Grazing Lands Conservation Initiative, and research priorities for our dairy, specialty crop, and organic farmers,” Baldwin said.”This appropriations legislation makes sure rural communities are supported, and not left behind, as we work together to build a better America.”
House Appropriations Committee Chairwoman Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., also issued a statement and a separate summary of the Agriculture provisions, emphasizing the WIC increase.
“I am so proud of this government funding legislation, which delivers transformative federal investments to help lower the cost of living for working families, create American jobs, and provide a lifeline for the vulnerable,” DeLauro said early today.
“During this time of great uncertainty and change, we are tackling some of our nation’s biggest challenges, including making health care more affordable, confronting the climate crisis, and protecting our national security.”
The 2022 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies funding bill provides discretionary funding of $25.125 billion – an increase of $1.426 billion, 6% — above 2021. In total, the bill includes $234.2 billion for both discretionary programs funded on an annual basis and mandatory programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program.
Brian Dittmeier, the senior director of public policy for the National WIC Association, said in an email, that the WIC benefit bump was included in the omnibus.
“This amounts to $583 million in additional fruit and vegetable benefits for more than 4.75 million women and children participating in WIC — one of the most effective and substantial investments in building nutrition security for low-income families.”
The Washington Post noted today that the school waivers would be ending suddenly.
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