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Cost of Diapers Gives Children, and Their Parents, a Rash

Can we talk about diapers for a minute? Pretty much anyone who has raised a child will agree that diapers are not optional, they're necessary. In fact, states like Minnesota, New York, Pennsylvania, Vermont, Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Rhode Island acknowledge the necessity of diapers by exempting them from sales tax. Now, the District of Columbia city council is considering a bill to do the same thing. After all, D.C. doesn't tax some other products deemed necessities, such as food, medicine, and even Viagra. We agree that diapers should join the list of tax-free items.

Here's why:

  • Studies show that about 30 percent of low-income parents can't afford a sufficient supply of diapers, so they end up changing their children's diapers less often than they should. This increases cases of diaper rash and urinary tract infections and heightens the risk of stress-induced mental health issues in parents, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. And when parents are stressed, children develop at a slower rate than normal. The unaffordability of diapers unnecessarily jeopardizes the health and well-being of many families in the District.
  • Families who struggle to afford the diapers they need are placed at a disadvantage in the workplace. Mental health problems and sick children can cause parents to be distracted at work or school and have to take days off. The issue of unaffordable diapers even affects the ability to get quality child care, another Common Sense Kids Action priority. Child care programs -- a necessity for working parents -- require parents of young children to bring in a full day's worth or more of diapers, which, in addition to program-enrollment costs, is just not affordable for many families.
  • An insufficient supply of diapers hurts the District's economy. The physical ailments it leads to in kids result in otherwise avoidable visits to medical centers, which unnecessarily increases the costs of health care programs like D.C.'s Medicaid and the D.C. Healthcare Alliance. Also, the strain on so many working parents decreases the productivity of the District's workforce.

City Councilmember Anita Bonds and seven other councilmembers are pushing a bill, B21-0696, to amend the tax code to reflect the essential nature of diapers and exempt them from sales and use tax. We think the council should approve it as soon as possible. A tax exemption on diapers is an important step toward meeting all District families' basic needs, will improve overall mental and physical health, and will help bridge the opportunity gap between families of higher and lower incomes.

At Common Sense Kids Action, we're working every day to make the world a better place for kids. Join our efforts to make kids our nation's top priority -- become a Kids Action Advocate today!

Allie Littleton