Renowned as a forerunner for social, cultural, and legislative changes that impact the entire country, California may soon extend its influence to include diapers.
The California Assembly is expected to vote, this week, on two “diaper” bills, AB 492 and AB 717. The passage of the bills would effectively improve the well-being of infants and toddlers statewide, and intensify national momentum for the rapidly growing diaper bank movement that is addressing diaper need in communities throughout the U.S.
Upon passage, AB 492 would provide a monthly $50 diaper voucher for parents in the CalWORKs welfare-to-work program, and also to parents of children under 2-years-old who are enrolled CalWORKs child care program. The supplement would ensure that struggling families have supplies of diapers needed to keep their children clean, dry, and healthy. Currently, no state or federal assistance programs provide diapers, a basic need of all babies.
“The monthly supplement would only be used on diaper purchases, helping address a major barrier to parents seeking to enter and remain in the workforce by making child care more accessible,” according to California State Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez (D-San Diego).
Low-wage and struggling families would also benefit from the passage of AB 717. The bill would exempt diapers from the state’s sales tax, thereby putting dollars back in the pockets of all Californians who purchase diapers for infants and toddlers. The legislation would allow families to buy an additional 13 diapers each month. While modest, the savings are significant to improving the physical and financial health of young families, many of whom struggle to meet the costs of basic need items.
“We strongly endorse both bills, and have been working closely with Assemblywoman Gonzalez, who authored and introduced both bills,” said Alison Weir, director of policy, research, and analysis for the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN). “Lorena is a good friend of NDBN and a champion in the effort to end diaper need. Both bills will provide targeted support to families most likely to experience diaper need.”
Weir presented expert testimony on diaper need and state sales tax policies nationwide to the Assembly last year.
If the respective bills become law, California will be the first state to address diaper need through a statewide assistance program, and the eighth state to exempt diapers from state sales tax, the latter according to NDBN’s 50 state Diaper Sales Tax survey.
This past November, San Francisco became the first city in the country to fund a program that distributes diapers to families. The program, which helps families already receiving CalWORK’s assistance, operates through the San Francisco Human Services Agency (SF-HSA), via a grant to NDBN-member Help A Mother Out, which administers the initiative. According to SF-HSA research, a single parent working a full-time minimum wage job will spend 8 percent of her annual income, or about $1,872, on diapers a year.
“California continues to serve as a model for other states interested in addressing diaper need,” said Weir. “The passage of these bills could also have a positive impact on a bill currently in the House of Representatives, HR 4055, which would provide a block grant for states interested in demonstrating how a diaper distribution program could work in their state.”