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Diaper Accessibility

December 7, 2021
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WRITTEN BY Dr. Jill Barnas

Executive Summary 

Diapers are essential sanitary health care items for infants and toddlers. Many low-income families struggle to afford diapers. A diaper bank is typically a nonprofit entity operating primarily for the purpose of collecting, purchasing, and distributing disposable diapers or other hygiene products (e.g., baby wipes) for infants free of charge. In efforts to increase diaper accessibility, legislation has been proposed at the state and federal level to assist both families and diaper banks in varying ways including: 1) reduced sales tax; 2) coverage by government assistance programs; 3) tax incentives for diaper banks donations; and 4) increased funds to diaper banks. 

Highlights 

  • Of Missouri families with infants and toddlers, 19% earn below the federal poverty line. 
    • During the first three years of life, it is estimated that 4,600–4,800 disposable diapers are used, and have an average cost between $945–1,500 per year.
  • There are currently 8 diaper banks throughout the state of Missouri, and they distributed almost 2 million diapers in 2018.
  • Ten states exempt diapers from sales and use tax. In Missouri, diapers are taxed as luxury goods with a current tax rate of 4.2%, not including additional local use tax rates across cities and counties.
  • Low-income families with children can receive temporary assistance through Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF). Government assistance programs such as Medicaid, SNAP, and WIC are not eligible for use to purchase diapers.
  • The Missouri Diaper Bank Tax Credit for taxpayers provides a tax incentive to individuals who donate to qualified diaper banks. 
  • Under the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021, Missouri’s estimated allocation for TANF Pandemic Emergency Assistance is $14.5 million and a portion of funds may be used to fund diaper banks.

Limitations 

  • The amount of general revenue lost to states with diaper tax exemptions can vary by state depending on population and number of people who purchase these products.
  • It is unknown how financial assistance programs for diapers would increase the cost of existing supplemental assistance programs.
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