Georgia STOMP Meets with Speaker Pro Tem Jan Jones

JonesJanOn Wednesday, January 22nd, Dominique Holloman (Chair, JL of Ga SPAC), and Adele Stewart (Co-Lead, Georgia STOMP), met with Speaker Pro Tempore Jan Jones to discuss her support of menstrual hygiene product availability in schools and inquire how Georgia STOMP could assure the continued allocation of funds for that purpose.

The Speaker Pro Tem was strong in her support of this initiative, and plans to add language this year focusing the allocation on districts and schools that have both high poverty rates and surrounding areas of low wealth. That, she says, will ensure schools which cannot fund these products on their own, will receive the money and get the products to students most in need.

Moreover, the Speaker Pro Tem noted that Georgia STOMP would do well to identify additional gaps in menstrual product access where the Legislature’s attention may be impactful. If you have seen gaps in your community, please email us with your experiences so that we might gather feedback and offer anecdotal evidence about addressable instances of period poverty in Georgia.

Stay tuned for more updates on HB8 as the legislature returns this week!

 

 

2020 HB8 Progress!

CooperSharonFollowing a request from Rep. Debbie Buckner and Rep. Teri Anulewicz to Chairman Sharon Cooper of the Health and Human Services (HHS) Committee, HB8 was officially moved out of the Ways and Means Committee and into HHS on Wednesday, January 29th!

It had been made clear that HB8 would NOT get a hearing in the Ways and Means Committee this session.  Objections to the bill are varied, but include that despite being classified as medical devices by the FDA,  menstrual products are not considered medical devices in Georgia. The goal of moving to HHS is to get that designation accomplished. Chairman Sharon Cooper has voiced support of that effort, so we are hopeful for a successful 2020 legislative session!

Once the definition of the devices is changed in Georgia, we will work with the Department of Revenue to accomplish the tax exemption.

Stay tuned for a “Tax Free Tuesday” email with information on how to advocate for the change of definition of menstrual products in Georgia!

 

 

Advocacy Highlight: Students Speak to Fulton County School Board

This guest blog post was written by Aanika Eragam, student at Milton High School and a Homegirl Project fellow.  On December 3rd, Aanika spoke to the Fulton County School Board about the need for period products in Fulton County Schools.  Prior to that, Aanika  reached out to Georgia STOMP regarding her research and intention to speak to the School Board. We are honored to be connected to such a capable young leader! Watch the video and hear why!

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On December 3, 2019, a coalition of high school students presented a resolution to the Fulton County School Board, requesting a specific policy amendment that would require secondary schools to provide menstrual products free of cost in restrooms. The event was a culmination of collective student outrage stemming from a lack of access to period products in the school setting, an issue that holds grave implications for students’ mental and physical wellbeing, as well as their academic achievement. When products like toilet paper, hand soap, and paper towels are available free of cost in all restrooms, students had to ask why menstrual products, which are also considered a basic necessity, are not.

Students explained to the Board how a lack of free-of-cost menstrual products in public schools confiscates the basic dignity of students, disrupts the learning environment for girls, and for those living below the poverty line, leaves them without basic access. Students hope they made a strong case to the Board and placed period poverty on the agenda. They will continue to work towards ensuring accountability through civic engagement at the grassroots level.

 

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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