This week Congress passed an omnibus budget bill to keep the federal government funded through next year. This is a huge, bipartisan accomplishment and given the current climate in DC, the fact that program funding levels were maintained with a few increases is a huge win. The bill emerged as two pieces of legislation that were ultimately combined into one bill: the budget and tax provisions.
The overall spending bill sets funding levels for programs through September 30, 2017. Key hunger program funding elements include:
- Increase of $5 million for storage and distribution of federal government commodity foods;
- Sufficient funding to meet expected caseloads for Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) and the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP);
- A $20 million increase for senior congregate and home delivered meals for a total of $835;
- A $7 million increase for Summer SNAP pilots, raising the total amount to $23 million and removing some of the restrictions for where the funds can be used; and
- $220 million to help states transition WIC from a paper to electronic benefit system (this is crucial to meet the 2020 implementation deadline for this transition).
Every year we have had to fight to encourage Congress to renew key charitable tax deductions that help Food Lifeline source more food and provide more resources for the clients we serve. This budget permanently extends three key provisions, saving us the work of having to continually fight for their extension:
- Expanded the types of businesses who can claim a deduction for food tax deduction to include farmers, ranchers, and small businesses and increase the cap for the deduction amount;
- The IRA Charitable Rollover which allows retired individuals to make non-taxed donations from their Individual Retirement Account (IRA); and
- Made permanent enhancements to the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), and American Opportunity Tax Credit from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA).
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities said that permanently extending the EITC and CTC “would rank among the biggest anti-poverty achievements…in years,” lifting 16 million people out of poverty every year. You can read more about the impact of these changes at CBPP.
Child Nutrition Reauthorization was not included in the spending bill as we initially thought it might be. There was one policy change included that extends a provision giving schools more flexibility with fully implementing new whole grain levels in school meals through next school year, and blocks future restrictions on sodium levels until scientific research shows a benefit. We are disappointed that the budgeting process was used to make this type of policy, but hope that the full process of reauthorization in the new year will provide an opportunity to address these and other issues.