To date, the work of the Georgia STOMP coalition has focused on 4 pillars, most of which address period poverty and product access in some form — tax elimination, access for school age girls unable to afford products, access in times of situational poverty following a natural disaster and access to those detained in state prisons.
Yesterday, HB8 was heard before the Sales Tax subcommittee. This bill strictly addresses an equity issue – the tax is unfair and should be eliminated on the grounds that women should not support the state budget to the tune of $9M each year on something about which we have no choice.
At yesterday’s hearing, coalition members walked away feeling a combination of emotions: frustration and hopefulness.
First: Frustration. The equity conversation was not heard. Questions from the committee’s chair focused on the minimal savings to an individual the tax elimination would generate, conflating the fairness issue with period poverty and ignoring the larger issue of women paying a discriminatory tax while being economically disadvantaged in our state.
Instead of focusing on the menstrual equity conversation, the subcommittee came to the table ready to talk about ways to address period poverty. That is where coalition members began to feel great hope for the outcome of this meeting!
Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones outlined how the work of the Georgia STOMP coalition and Representative Buckner brought to her attention how challenging it is for those with limited means to purchase menstrual products, making it difficult for them to participate in school, work, and society.
Jones reported to the subcommittee that $500,000 was added to the House budget for feminine hygiene product grants for schools serving low-income students, and her plan to focus those grants on schools with a high percentage of students receiving free and reduced lunch, and in geographic areas with low property values. $500,000 has also been added to the House budget for funding for the Department of Public Health (DPH). We are not clear yet in regards to how the DPH funds will be distributed, just that it will go to “provide funds for feminine hygiene products to be provided to low-income clients at county health departments.” The administration of both of these “pots of money” will be a coalition focus in coming weeks.
As representative of House leadership, Jones made it clear that the House is asking for matching funds from the Senate, which means IF those line items stay in the budget, there will be $2 million going towards menstrual hygiene product access for Georgians in need!
$2 million could put 8 million menstrual hygiene products in the hands of Georgians who desperately need them to participate fully in society, school, and the workforce!
That is not the win we were looking for in the HB8 hearing. We are highly disappointed that the leadership in our state does not yet understand that the tax on menstrual products is discriminatory and should be eliminated on that basis, alone. BUT, the fact that the most powerful woman in the State House is acknowledging the existence of, and seeking to address, #periodpoverty in Georgia, is a huge step forward in the overall progress of our work. As one coalition member said, “The winners: low income girls and women! Sounds awesome to me!”
Because of the proximity of crossover day, Georgia STOMP does not plan to push HB8 forward in this session. This is the first year of the two year term, so it remains a viable bill into next year’s session, and we believe is a bill that CAN be passed in Georgia.
The advancement of menstrual equity issues in Georgia over the last year as a result of Georgia STOMP’s inquiries and work cannot be overstated.
- Period products added to GEMA’s list of basic needs
- Period products readily available to detainees in Georgia Department of Correction facilities
- A highly anticipated addition of significant state funds to directly provide products to school girls and those utilizing our public health systems
- Conversations at the highest levels of our state government about Period Poverty!
We will keep you posted as we are able to make connections with Speaker Pro Tempore Jones and move forward with already-planned discussions with the DOE.
Claire Cox + Adele Stewart
Co-Leads, Georgia STOMP