Friday, May 27, 2022
May 27, 2022

Linkedin Pinterest

Sen. Rivers’ bills goals: Subsidize diapers, help foster teens

‘Cost of diapers has outpaced inflation,’ state senator notes

By , Columbian staff writer
2 Photos
Sen. Ann Rivers talks one-on-one with voters at Felida Park on Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021.
Sen. Ann Rivers talks one-on-one with voters at Felida Park on Thursday afternoon, June 10, 2021. (Amanda Cowan/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Friday proved to be a busy day for state Sen. Ann Rivers, R-La Center, with several bills she is co-sponsoring appearing before Senate committees. One bill looks to aid teens in foster care, and another helps low-income families struggling to meet their financial needs.

Senate Bill 5838, the Diaper Need Act, would direct the Department of Social and Health Services to distribute a monthly diaper subsidy to parents or other caregivers receiving Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, better known as TANF, with children younger than 3 years old.

The bill had its first public hearing Friday before the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee and is sponsored by state Sen. T’wina Nobles, D-Fircrest. If passed, the bill would go into effect Sept. 1, 2023.

“The cost of diapers is a barrier whether you have one child or four,” Nobles said during Friday’s hearing. “I know how expensive it was for my four children. While costs and hardships have only increased with the pandemic, support for paying for diapers has not. Furthermore, the cost of diapers has outpaced inflation, which has posed increased economic stress for families struggling to get by. And diapers are a basic need for every child.”

According to Nobles, many early child care programs, except for early Head Start, require an adequate supply of diapers for child attendance but do not provide those diapers. Yet, many parents and caregivers can’t afford disposable diapers for their children and are left without access to child care. Without child care, those parents are unable to go to work or attend school.

Additionally, families may be forced to provide less frequent diaper changes because they are unable to afford an adequate supply of diapers. This could result in an increased risk of diaper dermatitis and urinary tract infection.

“I am glad to co-sponsor this bill,” Rivers said. “Parents don’t have a choice about using diapers, and Sen. Nobles’ legislation pairs nicely with Senate Bill 5309, my bill to eliminate the sales and use tax on diapers for both babies and adults. Together, they would make a difference for even more families across our state.”

Nobles also said the cost for diapers has continued to rise, especially since the start of the pandemic, increasing the financial stress on families. She said low-income families are now spending 14 percent of their monthly income on diapers.

State Rep. Noel Frame, D-Seattle, is sponsoring a companion bill in the House.

“Families across Washington are struggling to afford diapers, an essential product needed to keep infants and toddlers healthy and required by most early child care programs in order for their child to attend,” Frame said in a statement released Friday. “As a mother of a young child, I can attest that parenting can already be stressful without struggling to afford the things your child needs. By providing a monthly diaper subsidy to low-income families, we can help keep young children and their families healthy and happy.”

Another bill co-sponsored by Rivers that received notable support during the same hearing is Senate Bill 5824 for dependent youth financial education. This bill would direct the Department of Children, Youth and Families to develop a program for dependent youth, ages 14 and older, to establish a self-controlled bank account, in which the Department of Children, Youth and Families will deposit a minimum of $25 per month.

“This is one way we can start to create more options, support and ownership for youth in care,” Emily Stochel of the College Success Foundation said during the hearing. “In general, teens in foster care have very little opportunity to make decisions that deeply impact their lives.”

Teens often receive financial support in the form of an allowance and financial guidance from their parents, but teens in foster care don’t have this option, Stochel said.

“It safely empowers them to practice money-handling skills with small amounts of money before their first job or paycheck,” she added.

Rivers is also co-sponsoring Senate Bill 5692, which requires the Washington State Criminal Sentencing Task Force to develop and recommend a formula for awarding earned early release time to individuals who complete certain Department of Corrections programs.

The bill was scheduled for executive action Friday in the Senate Human Services, Reentry & Rehabilitation Committee.

Support local journalism

Your tax-deductible donation to The Columbian’s Community Funded Journalism program will contribute to better local reporting on key issues, including homelessness, housing, transportation and the environment. Reporters will focus on narrative, investigative and data-driven storytelling.

Local journalism needs your help. It’s an essential part of a healthy community and a healthy democracy.

Community Funded Journalism logo