Update from the Department of Public Health

Wednesday, June 5th, Georgia STOMP coalition co-leads, Claire Cox and Adele Stewart, received an update from the Georgia Department of Public Health (DPH).

Current DPH distribution plans for menstrual products purchased with the $500,000 allocated in the 2020 state budget are summarized below:

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  • Local community health departments (CHDs) will be able to order menstrual products using existing purchasing procedures for health products supplied by the Department of Public Health.
  • CHDs will be encouraged to start the fiscal year with a supply of a variety of products on their shelves, and order according to community need.
  • Recipients of the products will receive three months’ worth of menstrual products at each visit to DPH, to alleviate the burden of finding transportation.
  • The DPH will assess the distribution at both a mid-year point and at the end of the year.

Georgia STOMP looks forward to learning from the DPH’s program, and is grateful to work alongside them in the pursuit of improved menstrual product access.

Georgia STOMP Coalition Members Meet with the Department of Education

In light of the $1 million allocated in the 2020 budget during the 2019 Legislative Session, on Thursday, May 30, Georgia STOMP coalition members attended a meeting at the Georgia Department of Education to discuss the grant process.

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From Left to Right: Krista Lowe, Sylvia McGee, Therese McGuire, Dr. Bethany Caruso, Adele Stewart, Dr. Andrea Swartzendruber, and Claire Cox. Not pictured: Allan Meyer

Georgia STOMP coalition members were excited to learn about plans for the grant money from Georgia DOE representatives: Allan Meyer, Director of Policy, Krista Lowe, Program Manager for Residential Treatment Facilities, and Therese McGuire, Health and Physical Education Program Specialist.

Thank you to the legislators and advocates who made this program possible. Georgia is on track to be a national leader in the campaign to understand and address period product need in schools. Stay tuned for program updates over the coming months!

#HB8 Hearing Recap, and Steps Forward

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

What #PeriodProgress Looks Like

#PeriodProgress looks like boxes upon boxes of menstrual products passing through the security gate at the Georgia State Capitol building

#PeriodProgress looks like leaders of state-wide government organizations standing in support of menstrual product access

#PeriodProgress looks like the terms ‘period poverty’ and ‘menstrual equity’ being broadcast in the Rotunda

#PeriodProgress looks like a diverse group of state delegates and advocates showing up on a rainy Tuesday to talk about #periodpoverty and #menstrualequity

#PeriodProgress looks like the elimination of the state sales tax on menstrual products, and continued efforts to ensure that those products are safe, accessible, and affordable.

Ask your State Representative to support House Bill 8, today!

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Our conversation is being heard!

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GOOD NEWS FROM THE LEGISLATURE THIS WEEK!

Late Tuesday afternoon, in the annual budget hearings before the Joint Budget Committees of the General Assembly, Department of Corrections Commissioner, Tim Ward, was asked about the cost and availability of feminine hygiene products for women inmates by Representative Carolyn Hugley (D), of Columbus. 

Dept. Commissioner Ward replied, “I do not know the cost but one change we did make about a month ago…normally we had a limit. We made a change and there is no limit on items of personal hygiene products for females and we made them more accessible in a common area bathroom. We started that about month ago.”

We applaud the Georgia Department of Corrections for this decision and encourage free and unlimited access for all those detained in correctional facilities in our state.

WJCL Covers Georgia STOMP-supported House Bill 8

Thanks to the work of groups across the state, the #GeorgiaSTOMP coalition is getting some great press, ensuring that Georgians know why we need to eliminate the state sales tax on menstrual products.

Most recently, Ciara Lucas with WJCL put together a video about #HB8, spotlighting the Junior League of Savannah’s valuable contribution to raising awareness of the discriminatory nature of this tax and the effects of #periodpoverty.

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Junior League of Savannah members with WJCL’s Ciara Lucas

Click here to watch the video!