Ill-Informed Claim Does Not Justify WIC Cuts

June 14, 2011 at 12:11 pm

The House is scheduled to vote today on a measure to slash funding for the WIC nutrition program, which (as we have shown) would force the program to turn away at least 200,000 to 350,000 eligible low-income women and children next year.  The Appropriations Committee approved this unprecedented cut last month, in part based on the claim that more than 40 percent of WIC costs go to program administration.  But this claim is flatly false, as our new paper shows.

In reality, only about 9 percent of federal funds for the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) go to administrative costs, and these costs represent only about 6 percent of the program’s total cost (see graph).

WIC Administrative Costs Only about 6% of the Total Program's Costs

In deriving the 40 percent figure, the Committee apparently misunderstood a finding in a federal Agriculture Department (USDA) report that for every $1 in federal WIC funds spent for WIC foods in 2006, another 41 cents in federal funds went for administrative costs plus WIC nutrition services.  But:

  • 41 cents out of $1.41 in expenditures equals 29 percent, not 41 percent; and
  • over two-thirds of that 29 percent goes not for administrative costs but instead for core WIC services such as breastfeeding support, nutrition education, smoking cessation support, diet and health assessments, substance abuse screening and education, and referrals for immunizations and other needed care.

Moreover, by law, WIC funding per participant for these nutrition services and administrative costs combined is allowed to rise no faster than inflation, a constraint that has been in place for more than 20 years.

The proposed funding cuts for WIC are unprecedented.  Since 1997, Congress — on a bipartisan basis — has provided sufficient funding each year for WIC to serve all eligible low-income pregnant and breastfeeding women, infants, and young children at nutritional risk who apply.  False claims regarding WIC administrative costs are no justification for breaking that 14-year commitment.

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More About Zoë Neuberger

Zoë Neuberger

Neuberger, a Senior Policy Analyst, joined the Center in May 2001.

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1 Comments Add Yours ↓

Comments are listed in reverse chronological order.

  1. Jonathan Flack #

    Thank you for the important information! Why and how is the House Appropriations Committee able to lie and base policy on misinformation? This sort of corrective information should be widely available and reported on in the mainstream media. It should also be buzzing in the policy blogosphere more than 8 hours before the vote was scheduled (now delayed).

    While most of these outrageous cuts have no chance of being signed into law, some will be agreed upon in final budget negotiations. Making policy on faulty facts is disgraceful.

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