By Annie Rose Ramos

BALTIMORE (WJZ) — President Joe Biden is addressing the baby formula shortage by invoking the Defense Production Act.

His decision to address the shortage comes as Baltimore parents are scrambling to find the specific formulas their children need.

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“As a parent and a grandparent, I know just how stressful that is,” Biden said.

The shortage has impacted stores across the country.

More than 40% of the top-selling formulas are out of stock after manufacturer Abbott was forced to close down a plant linked to several infant hospitalizations, including two deaths.

“It is so hard to find baby formula . . . I have to call numerous markets, like, over 12 markets,” Imani, a mother raising her child in Baltimore, told WJZ.

Biden announced that he would be invoking the act on Wednesday.

He said he wanted “to ensure that manufacturers have the necessary ingredients to make safe healthy infant formula here at home.”

His solution is known as “Operation Fly Formula.” Essentially, Defense Department aircraft will be tasked with picking up infant formula from countries overseas and carrying it to the United States. 

Imani said the solution to the formula crisis was a long-time coming. She has a two-month-old child. She says that ever since he was born, she has struggled to find baby formula at stores.

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“Sometimes I’ll call and they say they have the formula, and then I get there and it’s gone,” she said.

About 50% of babies rely on the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program for assistance.

Earlier this week, the Maryland Department of Health is advising families to keep in close contact with their child’s health care provider and helping residents see if they’re eligible for expanded WIC benefits.

“I don’t even know if WIC is even providing INFAMIL anymore. . . . I just checked my son’s WIC and I didn’t even see my son’s milk on there.”

Imani questioned why Biden waited so long to take action. 

“I don’t understand because these are babies born into this world and I’m pretty sure he knows that they survive off of this—survive—like, they can’t eat anything else,” she said. “They don’t eat anything else.”

A few hours after Biden announced that he had invoked the Defense Production Act, the House of Representatives passed two bills to assist with the formula shortage.

One bill would give the Agriculture Secretary the ability to waive requirements that limit WIC recipients to receiving certain brands and quantities of formulas.

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The second bill provides an extra $28 million to the Food and Drug Administration so that it can remove fraudulent formula products from store shelves and beef up its workforce.

Annie Rose Ramos