Joint effort by House and Senate to raise awareness on diaper need in Pa.

HARRISBURG, Sept. 26 – Kicking off “Diaper Need Awareness Week” in Pennsylvania, and continuing to promote a plan for Pennsylvania that puts people first, state Reps. Rosita C. Youngblood, D-Phila., and Carol Hill-Evans, D-York, along with state Sen. John Blake, D-Lackawanna/Luzerne/Monroe, announced today their efforts to advocate and raise awareness about the growing “diaper gap” among many families living in communities across the state.

Earlier in the day, the Pennsylvania House of Representatives unanimously adopted a resolution introduced by Hill-Evans and Youngblood (H.R. 506) dedicating the week of Sept. 25 through Oct. 1 as “Diaper Need Awareness Week” in the Commonwealth. Youngblood said the basic, yet essential, necessity of having a reliable stream of clean diapers for babies, and incontinence products for adults, is often overlooked by many lawmakers and government officials.

“We need to focus on a clear plan for Pennsylvania – one that puts people first and establishes a new way forward for our state,” Youngblood said. “Access to a reliable supply of clean diapers is a necessity for the health and well-being of Pennsylvania's children and incontinent adults, but, unfortunately, across our commonwealth, and across this country, there is a growing epidemic as many working families and seniors on fixed incomes are simply unable to afford disposable diapers and undergarments. The long-term implications could be life-changing.”

Youngblood mentioned a new survey recently conducted that found that 1 in 3 families in the United States experience "diaper need,” or the difficulty in providing enough diapers to keep a baby or toddler consistently clean, dry, and healthy.

The survey was conducted by Huggies in partnership with the National Diaper Bank Network. According to the report, the average cost of diapers for one child is $18 per week, or $936 a year.

“At our local diaper bank in Northeastern Pennsylvania, 350 families come every month in need of clean diapers and supplies,” Blake said. “It is our hope that through our efforts in Harrisburg and at home, we can raise awareness and increase donations to diaper banks across the Commonwealth during National Diaper Need Awareness Week. It is important to many families and, of course, to our youngest Pennsylvanians.”

Underscoring the importance of diaper banks, the lawmakers noted that most public resources, such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants and Children Program (WIC), do not allow families to buy diapers with money they provide. Youngblood added that Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) and programs for the elderly, such as Medicare, are also silent on the issue.

Hill-Evans said, “Most people are unaware that diapers are not covered by any program, state or federal, that help working families. So it is up to nonprofit organizations and diaper banks across our Commonwealth to help. It’s a major issue in communities all across Pennsylvania.”

Diaper banks and diaper programs across the state are doing their part to help offset the impacts of the growing diaper gap in the commonwealth. Alison Weir, director of policy, research and analysis, for the National Diaper Bank Network spoke during the event. She said legislatures adopting resolutions recognizing Diaper Need Awareness Week helps to spread the word about the growing epidemic.

“This is the National Diaper Bank Network’s 6th annual Diaper Need Awareness Week, and during this week, we want to draw attention to the plight of infants and toddlers and how so many parents struggle to provide the clean diapers their children need,” Weir said. “But beyond simply declaring a week to recognizing diaper need and its impact on one in three families, we are seeing increased action to address diaper need at the state and local level. In 2017, eighteen states considered legislation designed to make diapers more available to families, either through sales tax exemptions or reductions, or through direct assistance with diapers for families in need. From California to Minnesota to right here in Pennsylvania, states are going beyond recognition, and taking action. Representative Youngblood and Representative Hill-Evans have been steadfast supporters of the state’s diapers banks and have spearheaded legislative initiatives to make diapers more available to families in need.”

Specifically, Youngblood and Hill-Evans have introduced a package of bills: H.B. 1766, which would streamline the sales and use tax exemption for diapers and incontinence products; H.B. 1815, known as the Community Diaper and Incontinence Act, which would provide grants to help offset the costs associated with operating a diaper bank or donation program; and, H.B. 1820, which would provide for a tax credit to businesses that contribute to programs that help address the growing issue of diaper need in Pennsylvania.

“Awareness must breed action, and these proposals put people first by recognizing we must do more to address this issue,” Youngblood said. “We need to recognize the important work our diaper banks and diaper programs are doing, and provide them with the resources necessary to make a difference. And we must reward those companies, businesses like First Quality, who donate to help working families and seniors.”

First Quality, a company that manufacturers diapers and other baby products, located in McElhattan, Pa., donated several boxes of diapers and wipes to aid this week’s event. The company has partnered with the Capitol Diaper Drive since its inception, and this year they doubled their donation. The company is represented by state Rep. Mike Hanna, D-Clinton/Centre, who also serves as the House Democratic whip.

Hanna said, "Bringing awareness to this basic, yet critical, need throughout our commonwealth is so important. I am always pleased to partner with First Quality and I applaud Representatives Youngblood and Hill-Evans for their mindful efforts to ensure our children receive the utmost care they so desperately deserve.”

As part of this year’s donation drive, unopened diapers, wipes and other products, including incontinent products and disposable adult undergarments, for the Capitol Diaper Drive will be collected in the East Wing Rotunda from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. every day for two weeks, from Sept. 21 to Oct. 2. Labeled donation bins will also be placed in locations around the Capitol.

For more information on “Diaper Need Awareness Week,” the 4th Annual Capitol Diaper Drive, or legislative initiatives in Pennsylvania aimed at helping reduce the diaper divide, please contact Youngblood's office at 717-772-9920 or Leach’s office at 717-787-5544.