There was a flurry of legislative activity at the beginning of May in DC which bring both good news and continued uncertainty to our ability to fight hunger, improve health ad strengthen communities.
Increased funding for emergency food!
Congress managed to avert a government shutdown by passing HR 244 on May 1, which funds the government until the end the Federal fiscal year (September, 2017).
In the bill, funding for federal food commodities distributed through food banks and other agencies (known as TEFAP) received an additional $19 million in funding for the remainder of FY 2017. Funds to help offset the costs of storage and distribution also received an additional $5 million.
While our food banks do not distribute TEFAP commodities, we strongly support expanded funding for food and the full allocation for storage and infrastructure. This additional funding was a significant win for food banks, food pantries, and our friends and neighbors in Wisconsin and throughout the nation.
Other key nutrition and safety net programs also fared well in the legislation, including modest increases for Senior Congregate Meals and Senior Home Delivered Meals.
Thank you for reaching out to your elected officials on these issues! In this environment, they need to hear from you about why these programs are so important!
Now, onto the uncertain news: The House also passed the American Healthcare Act (AHCA). In its current form, the bill would essentially block grant the Medicaid program, eliminate subsidies that reduce deductibles and other costs for Marketplace enrollees with low-incomes, and would allow insurers to charge older Americans significantly more for insurance than younger people, among many other things. The bill now moves onto the Senate for consideration and changes.
Some estimates suggest that over 200,000 Wisconsinites could stand to lose coverage and see premiums increase by 20%.
As we have learned in a survey of our food pantry clients, out of pocket medical costs are one of the key drivers that lead people to utilize our services.
On the horizon...
Now that the House has passed the AHCA, it can move onto tax reform. The recent outline of the administration’s tax proposal does keep the charitable tax deduction intact.
However, by doubling the standard deduction, there may be fewer people who itemize their tax return, which could affect the nearly 28 million taxpayers who currently itemize and who are responsible for over 1/3 of total charitable giving in America.
In the tax reform discussions, Feeding Wisconsin joins many of our non-profit partners in supporting the creation of a Universal Deduction, or a non-itemizer deduction, for charitable gifts. This would extend the ability to deduct charitable gifts to all taxpayers, regardless of their itemization status, thus unlocking the full potential and generosity of all American taxpayers.
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