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High Cost of Diapers: Congress Looks to Change Diaper Assistance

Congress is considering a bill that would fund state pilot programs to help low-income families provide diapers for their children. (
Congress is considering a bill that would fund state pilot programs to help low-income families provide diapers for their children. (
July 18, 2016

RALEIGH, N.C. – One dirty truth – literally – about child rearing is the high cost of diapers.

They cost families from $70 to $80 a month per child.

Congress is considering legislation that would fund pilot programs in North Carolina and other states to help low-income families afford the necessity.

Currently, no federal program meets that need, says Alison Weir, director of policy and research at the National Diaper Bank Network.

"You tell people that you can't buy diapers with food stamps or WIC (Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants and Children) and the first response is 'What?'” she points out. “Neither program is meant for that, but the programs that were meant to cover basic needs have all shrunk to the point where there's a big hole in the safety net."

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families is the only program that provides money that could be used for diapers, but in North Carolina the TANF benefit is limited to $272,000 a month for a household with one parent and two children.

Missouri recently opted to fund diaper banks there, and California is considering a voucher to offset the cost for children enrolled in subsidized day care.

The federal bill has been referred to a House subcommittee for consideration.

Weir says the pressure to provide diapers for their children often forces parents to make tough choices. It's a fact illustrated by a survey from Feeding America in which parents shared some surprising confessions.

"A large number of folks admitted to delaying changing a diaper or, in some cases, shaking a diaper out and trying to reuse it,” she relates. “And if you don't have diapers in most cases you can't leave your child at day care because most day cares require parents to provide the diapers their child will use.”

The Diaper Bank of North Carolina distributes 50,000 diapers a month in Durham and Orange counties.

The organization recently expanded services to the Greater Triad and Lower Cape Fear Region. There are three other similar nonprofit groups in Charlotte, Raleigh and Boone.

Stephanie Carson, Public News Service - NC