Proposed Diaper Subsidy for the Poor Sparks Debate

Proposed Diaper Subsidy for the Poor Sparks Debate

The question of whether state welfare recipients should receive additional cash for diapers is at the heart of the debate over California’s new “Diaper Bill,” fast on its way to passage in the State Senate after clearing the State Assembly.

Dubbed the Diaper Bill, Assembly Bill 1516 was authored by Democrat Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, who represents part of the San Diego area. In addition to current state subsidies, the bill would institute a “young child special needs supplement” at a starting rate of $80 per month, with an annual COLA (cost of living adjustment). The program would operate under California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs), and would be available for children under two years of age within an assistance unit. Under current laws, diapers are not an allowable expense through CalWORKs.

Proponents claim residents on California state financial assistance are having trouble attaining gainful employment due to the inability to leave their children at child care facilities. The argument is that most facilities refuse to take children for whom diapers are not provided. 

In  comments made on her Facebook page, Assemblywoman Gonzalez says:

I believe in the dignity of work, self-sufficiency & having a job. I want poor mothers to be able to move quickly from Welfare to work, so they can be self sufficient. But, without adequate diapers, women can’t access child care. Without Child care, women can’t get trained, find work or hold a job. Our bill seeks to erase this barrier. In the long run, it will save the State money.

Opponents say the cost of the bill is too vague and too costly, and that the program will be too easily abused due to an inability to monitor how the funds are spent.

There are also private sources for free diapers for needy families. Websites like the National Diaper Bank Network offer a long list of organizations offering free diapers across the country. That site lists 11 diaper banks in California. Diaper producer Huggies also offers a link to this resource.

Gonzalez also posted a link on Facebook to a local news poll with the comment, “Low-income women need diapers to help become self sufficient and get off welfare. Agree? Please vote yes here.” Poll results in the voluntary, unscientific survey were tight as of Aug. 8, with 52% supporting the bill and 48% expressing concern about costs.

Follow Michelle Moons on Twitter @MichelleDiana

Photo: AP