POLITICS

A Third Of U.S. Families Struggle To Afford Diapers. This Bill Aims To Change That.

The End Diaper Need Act of 2021, introduced by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, aims to create a better government safety net for families that can't afford diapers.

In the United States, 1 in 3 families struggle to provide enough diapers for their children ― often forcing them to choose between food and the vital child care item. Sometimes, it even keeps families from sending their kids to day care. Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) introduced a new bipartisan bill on Monday that aims to ensure every family can afford diapers. 

The End Diaper Need Act of 2021, shared first with HuffPost, will assist low-income families that aren’t able to afford diapers for their babies or toddlers. For these families, the inability to access diapers can be a significant burden on their physical, mental and economic well-being. Infants use up to 12 diapers a day and toddlers use around eight diapers a day, averaging a cost of around $80 a month, according to the National Diaper Network.

“In the middle of a global public health crisis ― with so many families struggling to put food on the table and keep a roof over their heads ― the last thing parents should have to worry about is being able to buy diapers that are essential to the health and well-being of their children,” Duckworth told HuffPost. Sens. Kevin Cramer (R-N.D.) and Bob Casey (D-Pa.) are co-leads on the bill alongside Duckworth. 

The bill will use three approaches to address the diaper need in minority and low-income communities around the country. First, the End Diaper Need Act will give $200 million to social services every year between 2022 and 2025, which will go toward diapers and other diaper supplies. The bill will also fund 200 medically necessary diapers per month for “medically complex children” through Medicaid. Lastly, the act will define diapers and diaper supplies as qualified medical expenses so that families can purchase them through their health savings accounts or health reimbursement accounts.

Currently, government programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or the Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children do not cover the cost of diapers. Diapers are also not considered reimbursable for some health spending accounts. 

Five million babies and toddlers live in poor or low-income households, according to the National Diaper Network. Sometimes, families struggling to pay bills are forced to choose between food or diapers for the week. To make matters worse, most day care facilities do not provide diapers, requiring parents and caregivers to leave diapers with their children every day. Often if parents and caregivers can’t provide diapers, they are not allowed to leave their children at day care.

“Past research has shown providing diapers keeps kids healthier and helps parents attend school and work, which of course benefits the family and the community economically,” Dr. Sanjeev Sriram, a general pediatrics physician in the Washington, D.C., area, told the National Diaper Network in 2019. “Diaper need is every community’s problem, every state’s problem, and the country’s problem.”