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New laws could allow WIC families more baby formula options

Under new legislation, some requirements will be waived so more types of baby formula can be used by families.

HARTFORD, Conn. — Low-income families who rely on the WIC program, Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children, to get baby formula will now have an easier time getting their hands on the food. This, was after President Joe Biden signed the Access to Baby Formula Act, co-sponsored by U.S. Rep. Jahana Hayes. 

This new law will allow certain program requirements to be waived so these families can access more than just one type of baby formula during this shortage.

In Connecticut, nearly 44,000 families use this program, and these families use twice the amount of baby formula than those not in the program.

"We provide nutrition education and nutritious food for low income women, infants, and children," said Shana Brierley, Program Coordinator for the Hartford WIC Program.

RELATED: Formula arrives in U.S. from Europe as shortage continues to hit families

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At Hartford WIC, they serve around 5,000 people, with 1,200 infants relying on baby formula.

“We will call around for participants and it is a struggle to find," Brierley said. 

The new law will make that easier for families and those who run WIC programs, by doing the following:

  • States can contract with more than one manufacturer (Here in Connecticut, the state used to only partner with Abbott Nutrition through the WIC Program. But, after the company saw a major shortage because of a recent recall, CT expanded that to outside companies back in February. The Access to Baby Formula Act does the same thing, but now it's for all states on a federal level).
  • Speeds up process to get product on shelves
  • Establishes plan for supply chain disruptions in future

But it's not just low-income families who need this formula. There's work being done to help everyone. 

"We want to meet the needs of the most vulnerable, medically sensitive babies first. But then make sure that we are working equally as quickly to make sure that all families have access. But from what I've heard, people are desperate," Rep. Hayes said. 

RELATED: Mothers speak out about formula crisis at Roundtable

Also on the federal level, the U.S. received one shipment of formula from overseas. There will be another coming next week.

“What this bill does is says that, if there’s ever a supply chain distribution, shortage, recall, states can automatically find new people to contract with," Rep. Hayes said. "In the short term and the long term, this crisis has shown us that we have work to do in this area and we have to make sure that this never happens again."

Hayes said she understands the situation WIC moms are in, as she was once a participant of the program.

"I was a young mom, I was on WIC and I was going to school full time, I was working full time, and milk is very expensive," Rep. Hayes said.

Now, it’s even more expensive, with prices rising nearly 18% within the last year, according to Hayes. 

In conjunction with the bill, House Appropriations Committee Chair, U.S. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-03), has also introduced a supplemental bill to hold the FDA accountable for their checks and balances on formula companies. That bill has yet to be brought up for a vote. 

For a link to all WIC programs in the state, click here.

Julia LeBlanc is a reporter at FOX61 News. She can be reached at jleblanc@fox61.com Follow her on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

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