In the midst of the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic, the Georgia General Assembly drastically reduced funding designated for the Departments of Education and Public Health to purchase period products. With no appetite for tax cuts in the 2020 and 2021 legislative sessions, Georgia STOMP’s focus became ensuring product availability in schools and at community health departments. With the Governor’s restoration of funds for the provision of “feminine hygiene products” in his AYF21 budget and data obtained from surveys of Georgia public school nurses, Georgia STOMP successfully worked with bipartisan leaders in the House and Senate to increase funding to the Department of Education to $1.25 million and reinstate the previously eliminated line item for the Department of Public Health, funding at a level of $200,000.
After Georgia Women (And Those Who Stand With Us) presented legislation in 2018 (HB731) to eliminate state sales tax from menstrual products in Georgia, organizations with memberships now totaling over 15,000, united behind this initiative and created the Georgia STOMP coalition. Lead Sponsor, Rep. Debbie Buckner, filed HB 8 in the 2019 session. The coalition rallied in support and garnered significant media coverage across the state. The bill was given a hearing, and while it didn’t pass out of the Sales Tax Subcommittee of the Ways and Means Committee in 2019, nor was it considered in the 2020 session interrupted by COVID-19, the coalition continues to advocate as to the discriminatory nature of the tax on menstrual products.
The Georgia Emergency Management Agency (GEMA) has been a wonderful ally, improving access to menstrual products for those experiencing situational poverty following an emergency or disaster. In late 2018, Director Homer Bryson swiftly made administrative changes to include menstrual products in the list of basic needs that shelters receiving GEMA funds can purchase with that money. GEMA continues to work to ensure that supply chain logistics are in place so that those experiencing temporary homelessness (like many Georgians following Hurricane Michael) receive the assistance needed, in both the short AND long term. Director Bryson met with coalition partner, Helping Mamas, to discuss supply chain issues in early 2019.
“Toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and tampons will also be readily available to offenders in the housing units. The Sanitation Officer will ensure daily that the hygiene cabinet in each dorm is stocked with toilet paper, sanitary napkins, and tampons always.”
At Georgia STOMP’s February 2019 press conference, Period Progress, the coalition honored Commissioner Tim Ward for his leadership in policy changes related to menstrual product access at Georgia Department of Correction (DOC) facilities. Products are now available pursuant to DOC’s Feminine Hygiene Items Issuance Policy. Additionally, Georgia DOC Director of Female Services, Pamela Wiggins, provided Georgia STOMP pictures of supply cabinets situated “on every dorm within all Female Prisons, Transitional Centers and Probation Detention Centers.” This policy is a welcome step towards Georgia women being treated with dignity and acceptance and greater normalization of the natural, healthy nature of menstruation.
With the institution of this policy, protections now exist for women in the Federal Bureau of Prisons and Georgia Department of Correction facilities. Georgia STOMP now turns our focus to county and local jails and juvenile justice facilities.
In light of the $1 million allocated in the 2020 budget during the 2019 Legislative Session, Georgia STOMP coalition members attended a meeting at the Georgia Department of Education to discuss the grant process in May of 2019.
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!
Current DPH distribution plans for menstrual products purchased with the $500,000 allocated in the 2020 state budget are summarized below:
- 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.