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Congresswoman Maxine Waters

Representing the 43rd District of California

Congresswoman Waters Opposes Republican Cuts to WIC, Nutrition Programs

June 15, 2011
Floor Statement

Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-Calif.) joined more than 35 of her Democratic colleagues last night who spoke or submitted statements in the Congressional Record opposing Republican cuts to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program and other critical nutrition programs serving low-income Americans.  The cuts are included in H.R. 2112, the Agriculture, Rural Development, Food and Drug Administration, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2012.  The House is currently considering amendments to H.R. 2112 and may vote on final passage of the bill tomorrow.  The Congresswoman submitted the following statement:

   "Madam Chair, I rise in opposition to the underlying bill, H.R. 2112, the Republican Appropriations bill for Agriculture, Food Safety and Nutrition Programs for the coming fiscal year. This bill drastically underfunds critical nutrition programs for hungry people throughout the United States.

   This bill is yet another chapter in the Republican attack on working families.

   First, the Republicans tried to cut benefits for seniors who rely on Medicare.

   Then, they went after low-income families who rely on Medicaid.

   They tried to dismantle health care reform and leave people with pre-existing conditions at   the mercy of profit-hungry insurance companies.

   Now, they're coming after hungry people who rely on food assistance.

   The bill cuts funding for the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) nutrition program by more than $650 million below the fiscal year 2011 level. The WIC program provides nutritious foods, counseling on healthy eating habits, and health care referrals to about 9 million low-income pregnant and postpartum women, infants, and children under five. WIC is an effective program with a long history of bipartisan support. For the past 15 years, Congresses and Administrations of both parties have always provided enough funds for WIC to serve all women, infants and children who qualify--until now. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that the funding cut in this bill would force WIC to turn away between 200,000 and 350,000 eligible low-income women and young children next year, including 32,000 to 56,000 women and children in my home state of California.

   This bill also cuts funding for the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), by 22 percent below this year's funding level. CSFP is an agricultural commodity program that provides nutritious food packages to about 604,000 low-income people each month, 96 percent of whom are senior citizens who earn less than 130 percent of the federal poverty level. The Republicans' proposed funding cuts would result in loss of food for at least 130,000 low-income seniors.

   The bill cuts funding to The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP), by $51 million and cuts TEFAP administrative funding for food storage and distribution by 23 percent. TEFAP provides nutritious food commodities to low-income Americans in need of short-term hunger relief. TEFAP commodities are distributed by organizations like soup kitchens, food banks, homeless shelters, and faith-based food pantries at churches, mosques and synagogues. These cuts would force many local organizations to turn away hungry people.

   Finally, the bill underfunds the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). SNAP provides monthly benefits to 44 million low-income Americans using a grocery debit card. The Administration requested a $5 billion reserve fund for SNAP to assure that there would be adequate resources to help needy people in the event of continuing high unemployment or unexpected increases in demand from events like natural disasters. The Republicans cut the reserve fund by $2 billion.

   Meanwhile, the Republican budget extends the Bush-era tax cuts beyond their expiration in 2012 and cuts the top individual tax rate down to 25 percent from 35 percent. According to the Center for Tax Justice, the Republican budget cuts taxes for the richest 1 percent of Americans by 15 percent while raising taxes for the lowest income 20 percent of Americans by 12 percent.

   Madam Chair, if we got rid of the tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires for one week, we could pay for the entire WIC program for a year.

   I urge my colleagues to stand up for working families--not millionaires and billionaires! Vote "no" on this bill."