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Low-Income Families Could Get Help Buying Diapers

Legislation to help families buy diapers is pending in Congress. (Brad Robinson)
Legislation to help families buy diapers is pending in Congress. (Brad Robinson)
July 18, 2016

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Federal lawmakers are considering legislation that would fund pilot programs in states such as Arkansas to help low-income families afford the necessity. Currently, no federal program meets that need, said Alison Weir, chief of policy and research with the National Diaper Bank Network.

"You tell people that you can't buy diapers with food stamps or WIC and the first response is 'what?' 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," she said.

Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), is the only program that provides money that could be used for diapers, but in Arkansas that benefit is limited to $185 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 said the pressure to provide diapers 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 delaying changing a diaper or, in some cases, shaking a diaper out and trying to reuse it." she added. "And if you don't have diapers in most cases you can't leave your child at day care because most day cares requires parents to provide the diapers their child will use."

There are about 115,000 children under the age of three in Arkansas, and according to the National Diaper Bank Network, about one in three are in a family that earns less than 100 percent of the federal poverty level.

Veronica Carter, Public News Service - AR