Much like its impact on the lumber supply or the cost of groceries, the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the difficulty many low-income parents face in being able to access and afford diapers for their babies. children, lawmakers and advocates for needy families testified on Monday.
The need, advocates say, has impacts beyond the obvious desire of parents to be able to put their children in clean, dry diapers and keep them healthy. It can also determine whether parents put their children in daycare and return to work, as most daycares require parents to provide at least a day of diapers.
âDiapers are an essential item for babies and too many families in Massachusetts are struggling to ensure their children have a sufficient supply,â said Representative Mindy Domb, an Amherst Democrat.
The Joint Committee on Children, Families and Persons with Disabilities heard testimony on Monday on bills that propose a greater role for the state to help ensure that child care providers and other community providers who distribute diapers needy families have the resources they need to meet demand.
Domb and Representative William “Smitty” Pignatelli filed a invoice (H 206) to establish a pilot program to provide funds to 12 vendors located geographically across the state to help purchase, store and distribute diapers. The bill would also require them to monitor and report on the impact of the pilot project, with funds either from the state or from private donations.
Senator Joan Lovely tabled a version (S 125) of the bill in the Senate.
Domb said the pilot program could cost “several million dollars” to set up and operate, but said much would depend on feedback from community suppliers who know more about the need and their ability to store the supply. for distribution.
While the need for diapers among low-income families is not new, advocates have said the COVID-19 pandemic has made the situation worse. Other states with similar programs include California, Colorado, and Washington.
âThe diaper needs have been out of this world, like something I’ve never seen before,â said Jamill Martinez, network organization director for Lawrence CommunityWorks.
Lisa Smith, deputy director of Neighbors in Need, said her organization, which runs a pantry in Lawrence, helps more than 1,200 unique families a year, and she said 75% of the diapers she distributes come from private donations.
To meet the remaining need, Smith said, she has to buy from stores like Walmart, but has encountered some of the same supply chain issues that have impacted the availability of many other consumer products.
A 192-piece box of Baby Pampers went on sale Monday on Walmart’s website for $ 59.30.
âThis bill would allow the diaper bank to have the resources to purchase in larger quantities,â Smith said.
Rep Christina Minicucci said she remembers the “sticker shock” of having to buy diapers for the first time when she had the first of three children, and knows what it is like. to struggle with expenses as a young family. She said she and her husband had to move in with her mother at some point when they both lost their jobs.
âIt’s not uncommon to find parents who need to reuse disposable diapers or find other methods of keeping their children dry,â Minicucci said.
While helping diaper pantries meet the needs of their communities was one proposed solution, advocates said it was not the only way to tackle the problem.
Currently, low-income parents who receive food assistance cannot use their public benefits to pay for diapers. Representative Steven Xiarhos, a Republican from Barnstable, introduced a bill (H 280) this would allow anyone eligible for Department of Transitional Assistance benefits to receive an additional $ 30 per month for diapers.
Xiarhos said he also supports the other diaper aid bills tabled this session.
“I have seen with my own eyes how people struggle,” said the former Yarmouth policeman.
While not directly related to diapers, the committee also heard testimony on legislation tabled by Senator Becca Rausch and Representative Steve Owens. (H 262 / S 143) which would require all newly constructed public buildings and those undergoing major renovations to provide a neutral and fully accessible cloakroom in a bathroom or other semi-private space.
A similar bill received a favorable report from the committee in the last session.
âWe are past the time when only moms change diapers,â said Rausch.
(Copyright (c) 2021 State House News Service.