By MADISON HUNT
Capital News Service
A Maryland bill would allow deductions of up to $1,000 from state income tax for donations of diapers or feminine products to a qualified charitable organization starting in tax year 2021.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, there is a heightened demand for diapers and feminine hygiene products, which are typically the first items to be out of stock at distribution centers, advocates said.
HB711, a bill cross-filed with SB622, incentivizes Marylanders to donate these essential items.
Anyone will be able to claim up to $1,000 against their Maryland income tax, if they donate or give money for these specific items, according to the bill. The donation would be registered with the Comptroller’s office.
Del. Dana Jones, D-Anne Arundel, the House sponsor of the bill, believes that adding the monetary incentive will raise awareness of hygiene inequity and urge people to donate.
“I do think this is the best way to engage and bring awareness, as well as encourage people to give,” Jones told Capital News Service. Sen. George Edwards, R-Garrett, Allegany and Washington, is the Senate sponsor of the bill.
Women and families with children are directly affected by this hygiene inequity, advocates said.
According to the National Diaper Bank Network, infants require up to 12 diapers per day, costing at least $80 every month per baby for disposables.
The Maryland Diaper Bank, founded by Shelly Tucker, is a nonprofit organization that works with at least 10 partnering organizations, delivering diapers to local communities.
The pandemic has only increased the demand for diapers, Tucker said Tucker told Capital News Service.
“Last year alone we distributed around 29,000 diapers,” Tucker said. “This year, post-pandemic we distributed a total of 109,000 diapers, so we were up about 400%.”
Organizations have been struggling to access these products to help local communities, advocates said.
Phoebe Letocha, period project coordinator for the Student Support Network, stressed the need for these products to help impacted local families. The Student Support Network, is a nonprofit organization that works with Baltimore County students who live in poverty to provide food and basic necessities.
“Qualified organizations, like ours, struggle to receive adequate diapers and period supplies, which are among items most requested by women,” Letocha said during a House committee hearing on Feb. 11.
“It will help us bring dignity to our families by providing them with the heightened supplies they need to go to school, work, and day care without shame or embarrassment.”
Women who are struggling with period poverty — lack of access to menstruation products — are typically the same ones struggling with diaper access, Letocha added.
Women and families rely on charitable organizations to get these products, advocates said.
Tucker believes this bill will encourage Maryland residents to pay close attention to what hygiene products really look like.
“We hope that they would take a look, realizing that these are not luxury items, but essentials that every person needs,” Tucker said.
No opposition testimony has been submitted on this legislation.
A hearing for the Senate version is scheduled before the Budget and Taxation committee on Feb. 24.