Capitol Alert

CalWORKs diaper funding left out of California budget

One mother relies on donated diapers from a help agency as well as family and friends for her son with health issues, Byron, in St. Louis, Mo.
One mother relies on donated diapers from a help agency as well as family and friends for her son with health issues, Byron, in St. Louis, Mo. MCT

Hopes for starting the country’s first diaper assistance program in California were shot down last night when the budget conference committee chose not to fund it.

That outcome didn’t surprise bill author Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, D-San Diego.

“I would love for $16 million to go to diapers, but I didn’t have any belief that that would happen,” Gonzalez said.

Despite not getting the money, she said the result of the budgeting cycle is “a step forward.”

The program was proposed to address the “diaper gap,” or the difficulty low-income families have affording the cost of diapers. According to the nonprofit Baby2Baby that distributes diapers and other childcare-related items to low-income families, diapers can cost families an average of $100 per month.

The budget analysis said that instead of funding the program, the Department of Social Services, Department of Public Health, and legislative staff will work with stakeholders to “consider and inform the Legislature” of different options for how to administer the program and explore its long-term feasibility.

Gonzalez said forcing government agencies to come together and talk about how to practically make diaper assistance happen is progress.

Until now, the California Department of Social Services has opposed the legislation. The diaper assistance program would be the first of its kind in the United States, so they would be attempting to build a program from scratch.

“I felt like it’s a win,” Gonzalez said. “I don’t usually aim low, but I knew we would have to have an honest discussion first.”

The Assembly passed AB 492 back in January, which would allow for all CalWORKs recipients with children under the age of two to receive $50 of benefits per month to buy diapers. The bill has not reached the Senate floor.

The Assembly Appropriations Committee estimated the program would have cost approximately $7.8 million in 2016-17 and $15.6 million every year thereafter.

So-called “diaper need” is a widespread issue: a study published by Yale researchers in 2013 found of the mothers it surveyed, 30 percent reported difficulty paying for diapers. Of those, the Hispanic population was the most likely to be affected.

“I start my morning by reminding myself that one in three moms has had to choose between food and diapers for her children in this country,” Norah Weinstein, co-president of Baby2Baby, said in an interview with The Bee.

Rachel Cohrs: 916-321-1046, @rachelcohrs

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