On March 9, House and Senate appropriators announced a bipartisan $1.5 trillion omnibus agreement to fund the federal government through September 30, 2022. The Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies funding bill, one of 12 subcommittee bills contained in the omnibus, overall provides $25.125 billion – an increase of $1.426 billion, six percent above 2021. The Committee highlights can be found here and a division-by-division summary of the bill as introduced is here.
What is In the Bill:
WIC: The bill expands access to fruits and vegetables to the WIC program through September 30, 2022, for more than 4.75 million women and children participating in the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC). The bipartisan agreement funds WIC at $6 billion, with a $621.7 million rescission. The bill continues WIC set-aside funding, including $90 million for breastfeeding peer counselors and $14 million for infrastructure.
SNAP: The bill provides $140.4 billion in required mandatory spending for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), including $3 billion for the SNAP reserve fund, which serves more than 42 million people. This provision is expected to fund anticipated SNAP participation including the SNAP enhanced allotments that was authorized by the Families First Coronavirus Response Act and increased benefits from USDA’s Thrifty Food Plan Review. The bill also supports $3 million to carry out pilots authorized in the 2018 Farm Bill to allow Indian Tribal Organizations, rather than USDA, to directly purchase commodities.
Child Nutrition Programs: The bill provides $26.9 billion in funding for child nutrition programs. This funding is an increase of $1.77 billion above the FY 2021 level. The funding is expected to support more than 5.2 billion school lunches and snacks. In addition, the bill provides $45 million for the Summer EBT program, $30 million for school kitchen equipment grants, $12 million for Farm to School Grants, and $6 million for school breakfast expansion grants.
TEFAP and Commodities: The bill funds $399.75 million for The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP) food purchases, which is outlined in the 2018 Farm Bill. This is an increase of $57 million to include USDA’s adjustment of the Thrifty Food Plan. The bill allows an option for up to 20 percent of TEFAP funds to be used for costs associated with the distribution of commodities. The bill provides $81 million in administrative funding for TEFAP storage and distribution, $126 million for the Food Distribution Program on Indian Reservations (FDPIR), $332 million for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and $26 million for the Farmers’ Market Nutrition Program.
Child Care Programs: In addition to nutrition provisions, child care funding is increased. Community Development Block Grant programs are increased to $7.37 billion, up from FY21 level of $5.9 billion and the Head Start program to $12.1 Billion, up from FY21 of $10.75 billion.
Other Provisions: The bill also includes $2 million for the Congressional Hunger Center – Bill Emerson and Mickey Leland Congressional Hunger Fellows, $966.9 million for Older Americans Act senior nutrition programs, $24.8 million for Older Americans Act health promotion and disease prevention services, $1.7 billion for the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG), $7.37 billion for the Community Development Block Grant (CDBG), and $2.5 million to convene a White House conference in 2022 to address food, nutrition, hunger and health.
What is NOT in the Bill:
The bill fails to include authority for USDA to extend child nutrition waivers which provide flexibility for school meal programs. The waivers, which are set to expire on June 30, kept school meal programs funded by reimbursing free meals at a higher rate to offset the rising labor, food, and supply chain costs. A recent USDA report underscores the negative impact of supply chain disruptions and staffing challenges on school nutrition programs during the 2021-2022 school year. It also found that nearly 90 percent of school districts used the Seamless Summer Option (SSO) waiver to serve meals for school year 2021-2022, which allows schools to offer all students meals at no charge and again provides higher reimbursement rates which have been needed to support nutrition finances during the pandemic and its after effects.
On February 17, just hours before government funding was set to lapse on February 18, the Senate approved, and President Biden signed, a House-passed short-term spending bill (H.R. 6617) to extend current federal government operation funding levels until March 11, 2022. Spending levels set during the Trump Administration have now continued for five months beyond the start of Fiscal Year (FY) 2022, following the passage of this Continuing Resolution.
It is paramount that Congress acts now to pass an omnibus appropriations bill that sufficiently funds crucial programs through the end of the Fiscal Year (September 30, 2022). As agreement draws near, advocates are encouraged to review FRAC’s analysis of differences between FY 2021 funding levels and the House-passed and Senate-proposed agriculture appropriations bills. FRAC and its partners will continue to call for an extension to USDA’s school meal waiver authority as a part of the appropriations process.
On November 19, by a vote of 220 to 212, the House passed the Build Back Better Act (BBBA) (H.R. 5376), which makes key investments in child nutrition and other important programs. FRAC President Luis Guardia applauded the action, calling the bill “a critical next step in the right direction toward addressing the alarming rates of childhood hunger and poverty in this country.” Since then, the Build Back Better Act has stalled considerably in the Senate. Advocates continue to urge all Senators to consider the positive impact the bill’s child nutrition provisions, and other anti-poverty priorities (e.g., the Child Tax Credit), would have on constituents in their state.
Rep. Rosa Delauro (D-CT), Chair of the House Committee on Appropriations, introduced the short-term Further Extending Government Funding Act (H.R. 6119) on Thursday, Dec. 2, a day before current government funding was set to expire. Extending funding to February 18, 2022, the bill passed the House by a vote of 221 to 212 and quickly cleared the Senate by a vote of 69 to 28.
Critically, the deal includes language that will prevent a dramatic drop in WIC benefits on January 1 by extending current levels to March 31, 2022. This provides a continuation of the larger cash value for fruits and vegetables in WIC. An extension of SNAP benefits for residents of Supportive Living Facilities was also included.
On July 29, by a vote of 219-208, the House passed its fiscal year (FY) 2022 agriculture appropriations (spending) bill, H.R. 4356, in a package including six other appropriations bills (H.R. 4502). Check out FRAC’s analysis of the House and Senate agriculture appropriations bill for more information.
On August 4, the Senate Appropriations Committee, by a vote of 25-5, advanced its fiscal year (FY) 2022 Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies appropriations bill (S. 2599). Read a summary of the Senate bill from the Senate Appropriations Committee and our analysis comparing its proposals with the House-passed legislation.
By Dear Colleague letter, dated November 14, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) outlined the Senate agenda for the rest of 2021. On December 2, Congress passed the Further Extending Government Funding Act (H.R. 6119), a stopgap funding bill (a continuing resolution), that will fund government operations through February 18, 2022. FRAC and more than 20 other national organizations recently urged Members of Congress to include an extension of the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) school meal waiver authority in ongoing appropriations legislation.
Update on Recovery Plans
On April 28, President Biden presented the American Families Plan, which includes nutrition program investments that ensure children have access to the nutrition they need year-round, as well as other critical investments needed to offset rising hunger by providing much-needed assistance to low-income households. Urge Congress to move quickly and enact the American Families Plan and to pass additional relief packages.
Congress Passes Year-End Package with COVID Relief and FY 2021 Appropriations
Before leaving for the holidays, Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021, a package that would provide an immediate and essential downpayment on nutrition and other critical assistance for tens of millions of people across the country whose lives have been upended by the pandemic. The relief package boosts the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent for six months (through June 30, 2021), among other nutrition and anti-poverty provisions. Check out FRAC’s statement for more information, as well as the Congressional division-by-division summaries of the COVID relief provisions, appropriations provisions, and authorizing matters of the package. The President signed the bill into law on December 27, 2020.
Check Out SNAP Bills We’re Supporting
Check out FRAC’s Bills We’re Supporting page for bills introduced in the 117th Congress related to budget, appropriations, anti-poverty policy, and other critical issues.
Budget Reconciliation 101
Curious about Budget Reconciliation? Unsure about the process or special rules to look out for? Explore this three-page report that explains what you need to know.
Read FRAC’s Budget Reconciliation 101.
President’s FY 2021 Budget Would Increase Hunger and Poverty in America
On February 10, the president released his proposed FY 2021 budget. The budget recycles many of the harmful policy proposals in the administration’s previous budgets, including deep cuts to federal safety net programs. The budget would cut SNAP benefits by more than $180 billion over 10 years, including by reprising the widely ridiculed “America’s Harvest Box.” These proposed deep cuts to SNAP are on top of the billions of dollars in ten-year SNAP benefit cuts that the administration is seeking via rule makings. The budget would also cut school meals by $1.7 billion over 10 years by reducing the number of schools eligible to implement the Community Eligibility Provision and by changing the process for verifying school meal applications, which would result in eligible students losing access to free and reduced-price school meals. Read FRAC’s statement and detailed analysis of the president’s proposed budget.
Explore These Topics
- FY 2021 AppropriationsOn December 27, 2020, the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2021 was signed into law, which provided FY 2021 appropriations and an immediate and essential downpayment on nutrition and other critical assistance for tens of millions of people across the country. The relief package boosts the SNAP maximum benefit by 15 percent for six months (through June 30, 2021), among other nutrition and anti-poverty provisions. Check out FRAC’s statement for more information, as well as the Congressional division-by-division summaries of the COVID relief provisions, appropriations provisions, and authorizing matters of the package.
Stay up-to-date on the federal appropriations process through the Congressional Research Service’s Appropriations Status Table.
- Refundable Tax CreditsThe Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC) are critical anti-poverty programs and should be expanded. In 2019, the EITC and CTC together lifted about 7.5 million people above the poverty line, including 4 million children. Both of these tax credits are refundable, meaning that they can reduce a filer’s tax burden to zero and any remaining amount is treated as a direct refund to the filer.
Income thresholds for the EITC are dictated by marital status and number of children. The amount of the EITC depends on the filer’s income, the number of children, and marital status. In 2020, the EITC is worth a maximum of $6,660, but the EITC for childless workers is worth only $529. In 2021, thanks to temporary changes in the American Rescue Plan Act, the maximum for childless workers was increased to $1,502.
The American Rescue Plan Act also included a robust expansion of the Child Tax Credit (CTC) which is projected to cut child poverty nearly in half. The improved CTC will provide families with $3,600 per child under age 6 and $3,000 per child ages 6-17. This benefit is now available to families with little or no income who were previously excluded from the CTC benefit.
While this is great news, this expansion is authorized for just one year. Congress and the White House must make these program improvements permanent. President Biden’s American Families Plan would, in addition to critical nutrition and other investments, make permanent the full refundability of the CTC to provide support to families who have been affected by the pandemic and for parents who have been forced to cut down on work or give up jobs to take care of children after losing access to child care.
Did You Know?
Every year, Congress is supposed to follow a similar schedule of events throughout the budget and appropriations process. However, in recent years, this process has not always been followed — but the general schedule remains the same.