Congress is taking on “diaper need,” a hidden consequence of poverty that impacts one in three U.S. families, and the well-being of babies everywhere.
On Wednesday, Rep. Keith Ellison, D-Minn., and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., introduced the Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act of 2015 (H.R. 4055). The proposed legislation would make available Federal grant funds for States to create, administer and evaluate innovative programs that provide access to one of the most basic needs of every infant and toddler, clean diapers.
Working families often cannot afford the high cost of diapers because diapers cannot be purchased with Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program funds (Food Stamps). In addition, the benefits received under Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) are insufficient to cover diapers and daily expenses such as rent or clothing. Lack of access to diapers and supplies can cause children to get sick, and force families to skip work in order to care for their infant or toddler.
More than 275-member diaper banks make up the National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) and serve communities throughout the country. However, these nonprofit organizations, alone, are unable to meet the demand for diapers and supplies. Diapers are a necessity for the health and well-being of every child and family. The bill authorizes and funds State demonstration projects that provide diapers or a diaper subsidy for low-income and working families.
“Families should not have to decide between diapers, food, or rent,” said Rep. Ellison. “With millions of families struggling to provide diapers for their children, it’s time we recognize that families are being forced to make tough decisions that affect their child’s health. We all benefit when children are healthy, and families are not worried about how they will care for their infant or toddler.”
According to Rep. DeLauro, “Diapers are a basic need for parents of young children. No parents should have to choose between buying diapers for their child or buying groceries. Diapers are expensive, but necessary, to keep children healthy and in daycare, giving their parents the freedom they need to work. This bill is a simple, straight-forward proposal to change the current law to allow diapers and diapering supplies to be provided to families in need.”
The bill would amend title IV of the Social Security Act, and address the increased burden that maintaining the health and hygiene of infants and toddlers places on families in need, the resultant adverse health effects on children and families, and the limited child care options available for infants and toddlers who lack sufficient diapers, which prevents their parents and guardians from entering the workforce.
“We are thrilled with and proud to be a part of the legislation introduced by Representatives Ellison and De Lauro,” said National Diaper Bank Network (NDBN) Executive Director Joanne Goldblum.
“All babies deserve access to clean diapers. As more Americans learn about diaper need, they are increasingly supporting the diaper bank movement, and our simple solution to improving all of our communities … providing diapers to babies in need.”
Additional co-sponsors include: Rep. Raul Grijálva, Rep. Scott Peters, Rep. Tony Cárdenas, Rep. Andre Carson, Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Grace Meng, Rep. Yvette Clarke, Rep. Barbara Lee, Rep. Mark Pocan, Rep. Marcy Kaptur, Rep. Eleanor Holmes Norton, Rep. Jerry Nadler, Rep. Alcee L. Hastings, Rep. John Conyers Jr., Rep. Michelle Lujan Grisham , Rep. Judy Chu, Rep. Donna Edwards.
As the foremost authority on diaper need, diaper banks, and diaper distribution programs, the National Diaper Bank Network serves as a resource for elected officials, public policy makers, journalists, and community-based organizations. NDBN organizes Diaper Need Awareness Week, a national initiative that garnered the support of 30 state governors and legislatures this past fall.