The House on Wednesday voted to pass the bipartisan Access to Baby Formula Act, a bill led by Congresswoman Jahana Hayes (CT-05), to help improve access to infant formula for families who participate in the WIC (Women, Infants and Children) program during a crisis, like the current shortage of formula in the United States.
WIC refers to the federal assistance program known as the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children. The program accounts for about half of all formula purchases in the U.S.
According to the AP, the vouchers can generally only be used to purchase one brand of infant formula, which encourages the manufacturer to offer big discounts to secure a state’s business.
The bill makes it possible for families to redeem the WIC vouchers for whatever formula brand is available.
The legislation also provides a backup plan in the case of future recalls or supply chain disruptions. It passed the House 414-9.
The “no” votes were cast by GOP Reps. Andy Biggs, Lauren Boebert, Thomas Massie, Clay Higgins, Matt Gaetz, Chip Roy, Paul Gosar, Louie Gohmert, and Marjorie Taylor Greene.
“Families nationwide are desperately trying to find food for their babies. Among the most impacted are mothers and babies enrolled in the WIC program who use formula at roughly double the rate of non-participating families,” said Congresswoman Hayes. “Since the onset of this emergency, I have been steadfast in my commitment to working to find a solution. Today, Congress took swift action to protect struggling families by passing the Access to Baby Formula Act. I thank my colleagues in joining me in this effort and I look forward to prompt consideration in the Senate.”
The Senate passed the legislation via unanimous consent on Thursday, and the bill now heads to President Joe Biden.
“The Senate has just passed legislation to help ease the terrible nightmare parents are facing trying to find baby formula for their kids,” said Majority Leader Chuck Schumer in remarks on the Senate floor. “It’s rare that we have unanimity in the Senate on important measures, and I wish we had more. But this is one of these important issues and I’m glad we’re acting with one voice.”
“The step we’re taking today is going to add flexibility and relief to WIC beneficiaries and almost half of all baby formula consumed in the US is by WIC beneficiaries,” Schumer added. “Now, millions of parents will have an easier time finding the baby formula they need.”