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Democrats in Ohio Legislature propose plan for infants, parents and families

Democrat legislators introduce bills to help babies, parents and families.
Jo Ingles
The Statehouse News Bureau

Updated May 24, 2022 at 4:00 PM EST.

Democratic lawmakers in the Ohio House and Ohio Senate say they want to make it easier for parents to afford the costs of raising infants and children in the state.

The elected officials unveiled a legislative package featuring several bills to address that goal. That includes bills that would eliminate the sales taxes families pay for diapers and create a one-time $600 Infant Formula Tax Credit to help families afford those items.

There's also a measure that would require health insurers to cover medically-necessary human breast milk obtained through a donor bank.

The Democratic lawmakers want to create the Infant Nutrition Protection Act — a policy that would limit the price hikes that could be put on baby formulas when they are in short supply as they are right now.

A national shortage has resulted in bare grocery shelves in some areas and caused panic for people, particularly low-income families, who cannot find the formula they need for their infants.

In addition, the legislators are proposing the Ohio Pregnant Workers Fairness Act. The act would require businesses to accommodate pregnant workers and adopt anti-discrimination standards, including the ability to breastfeed at work.

One of the plans proposed by the Democrats would allow parents who complete an online course on infant safe sleep practices to receive a baby box free of charge. A baby box is a bassinet-sized, laminated, cardboard box that is designed to provide a safe sleep environment for the first six months of an infant's life. The baby box would come with educational materials and essential items helpful to new and expecting parents such as diapers, baby wipes, and formula. Some studies have shown baby boxes help reduce infant mortality. Ohio has consistently had one of the highest infant mortality rates in the nation.

House Minority Leader Allison Russo (D-Upper Arlington) said it makes sense to pass this legislative package, especially considering majority Republicans are poised to pass legislation to ban abortions in Ohio.

“While Republicans are taking away the freedom for families to make the decisions that’s best for them, we as Democrats are empowering Ohioans by insuring that all babies, children and families have the resources they need to thrive in this state," Russo said.

There isn't a cost estimate for all of the items in the proposed bills. But Russo said there is plenty of money available in state government to pay for it. She suggested some American Rescue Plan Act dollars could be used to pay for these items as well.

Republican legislative leaders have not yet responded to a request for comment on the proposed bills.

Copyright 2022 The Statehouse News Bureau. To see more, visit The Statehouse News Bureau.

Jo Ingles is a professional journalist who covers politics and Ohio government for the Ohio Public Radio and Television for the Ohio Public Radio and Television Statehouse News Bureau. She reports on issues of importance to Ohioans including education, legislation, politics, and life and death issues such as capital punishment.
Statehouse News Bureau