Senators Mike Johanns (R-NE), Michael F. Bennet (D-CO) and Bob Casey (D-PA) today announced their bipartisan bill to protect military families and kids from being cut out of WIC and child nutrition programs simply because a member of the family receives combat pay. These federal nutrition assistance programs, such as the national school lunch program, rely on income requirements to determine family eligibility. Currently, the additional pay military personnel receive as a result of deployment to a combat zone can cause families to become ineligible to continue participating in child nutrition programs and WIC.
To ensure military families are not unfairly cut from critical child and maternal nutrition programs, the senators introduced the Military Family Nutrition Protection Act of 2009. The bill will require state agencies to exclude combat pay from income when determining eligibility for child nutrition programs and the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC).
"Members of the United States military and their families make tremendous sacrifices and we have an obligation to honor those sacrifices, especially when they are called to active duty. It makes no sense to take away critical programs for their families when they move to the front lines of battle," Johanns said. "This legislation honors the dedication of our courageous military men and women by ensuring we care for their spouses and children while they are away."
"It is not fair that military families can be excluded from vital nutritional programs when a loved one is sent overseas and they begin to receive combat pay. These nutrition programs provide kids and children with access to healthy food they otherwise wouldn't have - especially in these tough economic times," Bennet said. "This bill will make sure that military families maintain access to these much-needed nutritional programs."
"The brave men and women serving our country in combat have enough to endure while abroad without having to worry about whether their families are well cared for in their absence," said Senator Casey. "This legislation will ensure that military families are not shut out of vital nutrition programs while their loved ones are deployed."
The WIC program provides federal grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for mothers and children. The program, one of the most successful federally-funded nutrition programs in the country, provides vouchers that can be use at authorized food stores. Studies, reviews and reports show that the WIC program is cost effective in protecting or improving the health and nutritional status of women, infants and children.
Despite a precedent for honoring combat pay in other important programs, the WIC program currently includes the additional pay in a family's income level when determining eligibility for the program. For instance, combat pay has been exempted from eligibility determinations Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/food stamp program on an ad-hoc basis through various appropriations measures. The Food, Conservation, and Energy Act of 2008 made permanent the combat pay exemption for SNAP applicants.
The Military Family Nutrition Protection Act of 2009 brings consistency to the treatment of combat pay across SNAP, WIC and all child nutrition programs. The bill ensures that families of military personnel serving in Iraq, Afghanistan, and other combat zones do not suffer a penalty in child nutrition or WIC assistance by specifying that combat zone pay is excluded from eligibility determinations for all child nutrition programs including the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children (WIC), School Lunch and School Breakfast programs, as well as day care, summer and outside-of-school programs.
The bipartisan bill was introduced into the Senate late Thursday by Senator Michael Bennet with Senators Bob Casey and Mike Johanns.
Below are several of the programs the bill would impact:
Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women Infants and Children (WIC)
WIC provides Federal grants to States for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk. http://www.fns.usda.gov/wic/
National School Lunch Program Fact Sheet: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Lunch/default.htm
National School Breakfast Program Fact Sheet: http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/Breakfast/AboutBFast/SBPFactSheet.pdf
Summer Food Service Program
SFSP is the single largest Federal resource available for local sponsors who want to combine a feeding program with a summer activity program http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/summer/
Child and Adult Care Feeding Program
CACFP plays a vital role in improving the quality of day care for children and elderly adults by making care more affordable for many low-income families. http://www.fns.usda.gov/cnd/care/