Carbajal talks to News-Press about infant formula, gas prices
As depleted infant formula shelves and surging gas prices cause apprehension among consumers, U.S. Rep. Salud Carbajal remains confident the federal government is on track to alleviate the pressure.
The congressman expressed that confidence during a News-Press interview, prior to the House voting Wednesday in favor of two infant formula measures with a bipartisan majority. Rep. Carbajal voted for both bills. They now head to the Senate.
Families across the nation have scrambled to find the needed nutrients for children — often turning to social media and offering to pay exorbitant shipping fees or other costs. Yet, not every family, especially those who utilize programs like WIC, can afford to do so.
California has a relatively low out-of-stock rate of infant formula compared to other states — but the impact of the shortage, exacerbated by the temporary closing of a major factory in Michigan, is still deeply felt.
One of the two measures passed by the House would authorize $28 million for the U.S. Food & Drug Administration to purchase formula from Chile, Ireland, Mexico and the Netherlands.
“I’ve heard many of the concerns, and they’re extremely valid,” Rep. Carbajal told the News-Press this week, maintaining his commitment to addressing financial concerns felt by constituents. “We’re taking swift action in Congress, and I believe the White House is doing the same, to make sure formula is available on the shelves and that it’s safe formula for families to be able to get to feed their babies.”
The other measure, which passed Wednesday in the House, would loosen restrictions on what types of formula are covered by the WIC program. It’s called the Access to Baby Formula Act.
“The good news: We have been able to move swiftly to address this challenge,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Certainly, this was a real scare and wake-up call again, which is all part of what we learned through this pandemic. We can never take our supply chain limitations and challenges lightly. We need to address and have operational plans in place so that if any critical product becomes short in the supply chain, we have a backup plan to make sure we are immediately addressing that and not let it get to a point where it is a crisis.”
After Wednesday’s vote, Rep. Carbajal issued this statement: “I’ve heard firsthand from parents who are struggling right now to find essential formula needed to feed their children. The failures of one company should not lead to such a nationwide crisis, and this week my colleagues and I are stepping up to pass bills that will put more formula on store shelves and put an end to this shortage.
“For parents having trouble right now, I encourage you to utilize the new HHS dashboard that can help find formula near you. I will always fight to lower costs and ease burdens on Central Coast families, and I urge the Senate to act quickly to get these emergency measures implemented as soon as possible.”
To see the Health and Human Services dashboard and its information on locating formula, go to hhs.gov/formula.
As for gas prices, the House is slated to vote on a bill meant to penalize oil companies caught in price gouging — although there is some skepticism about whether it will actually lower prices.
The idea behind the legislation is to give the president the ability to issue an emergency proclamation to make it illegal to sell consumer fuel at an “unconscionably excessive” price.
“It’s just ridiculous,” Rep. Carbajal said. “Gas and oil companies should be held accountable and should not be making the situation worse by price-gouging Americans at the pump. The American people won’t stand for it, we won’t stand for it, and this is going to bring to light — while the price of oil and gas prices are set globally — the four major oil companies in the U.S. are contributing to these inflation costs and maximizing their profits and gouging the American people.”
Representatives for major oil companies recently defended their actions before Congress.
Chevron’s chief executive contended it “takes more time for competition among retail stations to bring prices back down at the pump.”
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has warned the bill could impose price controls resulting in “rationing and gas lines.”
This bill is considered likely to pass the House but could hit a roadblock in the Senate sans GOP support.
On Wednesday, the national average for gas prices had climbed to nearly $4.57. In California, the average was $6.05, nearly on par with the $6.04 average in Santa Barbara County.
San Luis Obispo County’s average was at $6.24, Ventura County reported $6.04, and Los Angeles County was at $6.09 a gallon.