Getting to the bottom of the diaper tax

Rep. Greenwood revisits proposal for Diaper Need Awareness Week

 (Shutterstock)

(Shutterstock)

By Ted Cox

State Rep. LaToya Greenwood wants to wipe away the diaper tax — or at least cut it to a minimum.

The freshman legislator from East St. Louis submitted a bill last year that would have cut the state sales tax on diapers and wipes from the 6.25 percent imposed on most goods to 1 percent.

It followed reforms adopted the previous year first by Chicago and then the General Assembly in dropping the sales tax on tampons and other feminine products, which were ruled “medical necessities.”

To Greenwood, the same reasoning should apply to the necessity of diapers for infants.

“I believe it’s a common-sense issue to take care of the woman and the infant — and just offering the support to families,” Greenwood said.

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“I believe it’s a common-sense issue to take care of the woman and the infant.”

Rep. LaToya Greenwood

The issue is fresh in the news because Monday marks the beginning of Diaper Need Awareness Week, intended to draw attention to the national crisis on what Greenwood refers to as “diaper affordability.”

“In some of the areas of my district, I saw a need — and in some areas across the state it’s a crisis — of people being able to afford diapers and wipes,” she said. “I saw that families are struggling to afford and to supply the proper care that you need for your child — diapers and wipes.”

The Obama administration made the “diaper divide” an issue in the last year of Barack Obama’s presidency.

“It’s not just a local issue or a state of Illinois issue,” Greenwood said. “I was surprised to find it’s happening across the nation.”

It’s gaining more attention, however, as diaper banks form across the nation and the state to get diapers to families in need, as with Lee Ann Porter’s Loving Bottoms Diaper Bank in Galesburg.

“It’s not just low-income. It’s affecting all of us,” Greenwood said. “Working families are not being able to afford these diapers and wipes.”

Cynics say those in need should use cloth diapers, but Greenwood pointed out, “When it’s cloth, it’s another cost for that,” whether paying for a diaper service or running to the laundromat or just doing the laundry every day.

As a freshman legislator, Greenwood had to accept that she had some trouble drawing attention to the bill, which remains in committee in the General Assembly.

“I was a little disappointed,” she said. “But I’m going to try to see where we can go with it next year.”

Even a veteran legislator like Rep. Robyn Gabel of Evanston has struggled to get colleagues to see the need, as with her proposal to grant an $80-a-month diaper stipend to eligible families below the poverty line.

Gabel has suggested combining their bills next year with the next General Assembly, and Greenwood said she’d welcome that — “anything to offer their support for the families that are in need in our state.”

Cher Vincent’s latest One Illinois “Best People” podcast is on the issue of the diaper divide.

Ted Cox