There are many ways that diaper need can be met through legislation and other policies considered by the Congress or the Administration.

Federal Legislation

Lee-DeLauro End Diaper Need Act of 2021 (H.R. 259)

Introduced January 11, 2021 by Congresswoman Barbara Lee and Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro, the End Diaper Need Act of 2021 (H.R.259) would appropriate $100 million each fiscal year from 2021-2024 to fund the expansion and scaling of programs addressing diaper need and improving the health and wellbeing of infants, toddlers, and families across America. This bill also defines diapers as “medically necessary” so that families can purchase them through health savings accounts and HRAs. 

Duckworth, Cramer, and Casey End Diaper Need Act of 2021 (S. 304)

Introduced February 8, 2021 by Senator Tammy Duckworth, Senator Kevin Cramer, and Senator Robert (Bob) Casey, the Senate End Diaper Need Act would direct the Department of Health and Human Services to create a demonstration project to fund state or local agencies, nonprofits, or tribal organizations addressing the diaper needs of low-income families with infants and toddlers. Similar to H.R. 259, S. 304 would appropriate money ($200 million) to fund the project and would define diapers as “medically necessary.”

Ernst-Casey DIAPER Act (S. 3660)

Introduced February 16, 2022 by Senator Joni Ernst and cosponsored by Senator Bob Casey and Senator Tammy Duckworth, the DIAPER Act would allow the cost of diapers as an allowable medical expense for purposes of health savings accounts (HSAs) and health flexible spending arrangements (FSAs). The bill recognizes diapers as a basic necessity for keeping children clean, dry, and healthy and would make it easier for many families to afford the diapers they need. 

Federal Funding for Diaper Banks

In 2022, the federal government appropriated $10 million in funding dedicated to expanding diaper distribution programs. This historic investment was championed by Representatives Rosa DeLauro and Barbara Lee and Senators Tammy Duckworth, Kevin Cramer, and Bob Casey. Numerous additional Senators and Representatives supported efforts to secure this funding. The $10 million provided for a federal pilot program in FY 2022 represents the first time that the federal government has invested specifically in supporting diaper distribution programs across the country. 

Federal Programs Investing in Children and Families

Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) & Women, Infants and Children (WIC)

Federal assistance programs do not currently provide adequate funds for buying diapers. Diapers cannot be bought with SNAP (formerly called “food stamps”) or WIC.

SNAP and WIC should NOT be used for diapers. They are nutrition programs administered by the Department of Agriculture.  Diapers would be a big cost addition to these programs that already face budget challenges.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)

Diapers can be bought with TANF cash assistance, but nationwide only 23% of families living below the Federal Poverty Level receive cash assistance through TANF. In 13 states, fewer than 10 of every 100 poor families receive cash assistance. The funds they do receive are insufficient to buy diapers and pay all the other expenses (utility bills, rent, other hygiene essentials, clothing, etc.) that money is supposed to cover.

Learn more about TANF here.

Early Head Start and Head Start

Diapers are provided to children enrolled in Early Head Start and Head Start center-based programs during the time they are in the center. Diapers are not required in home-based programs. There are not enough slots for all the children who would be eligible for Early Head Start to enroll–only about 4% of children who are eligible can enroll.

See the program instruction that requires Head Start and Early Head Start to provide diapers here.

 

Child Care Development Funds (CCDF)

The Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program provides subsidies for low-income families needing child care. Child care centers receiving CCDF though these subsidies are not required to provide diapers. Indeed, most child care programs require parents to provide their own diapers. States may use CCDBG moneys for diapers, but the CCDBG program is so underfunded with so many mandates that for most states, the funds are expended by paying for salaries, facilities, and quality improvement programs. Indeed, in most states, the CCDBG funds for the state does not cover the need.