CENTRAL TEXAS (KXAN) — A new bill filed by State. Rep Donna Howard earlier this month could remove sales taxes on both child and adult diapers — a measure, one state diaper bank said, that could have significant impacts on their customers as well as their day-to-day operations.
Jorge Medina serves as CEO of the Texas Diaper Bank, based out of San Antonio. As of mid-2022, the organization had distributed 873,000 diapers, nearly 103,000 incontinence products and more than 41,000 menstrual products.
As inflation rates have risen and more Americans have felt financial strains and higher bills, that's translated into more customers in need of assistance, Medina said. The Texas Diaper Bank launched an at-home delivery service during the COVID-19 pandemic, and the organization is now seeing significant demand levels for those core services.
"That [delivery program] has become far more important for families, even more so with rising gas prices and inflation," Medina said. "We have, currently, a 300-person waitlist to get into our program right now. And so the need is tremendous, and we're just seeing more and more families utilizing our services."
If Howard's bill is approved in the state's 88th Legislative Session next year, it would update the state's tax code to add diapers to its list of medical products with sales tax exemptions. Currently, items like drugs and medicines beyond insulin, hearing aids and braille writers or equipment for people who are blind or visually impaired are all exempt.
It's Howard's fourth attempt at getting the bill through the Texas Legislature, with Medina adding the Texas Diaper Bank has supported the effort since its first introduction in 2017. Should the Texas Legislature pass the bill, the sales tax exemption would take effect Sept. 1, 2023.
"Repealing the tax on these essential items would be great because more families would be able to purchase more of these essentials and reallocate those funds and those savings to other essential needs," Medina said.
The impacts of inflation levels have been a one-two punch, Medina added; more families are seeking out the Texas Diaper Bank's services, while fewer people are donating due to their own financial constraints.
Medina added other diaper bank leaders across the nation have reported similar donation pinch points. Unlike other essential services like food banks, he said diaper banks don't receive much federal or state-level assistance, with their dependency on individual and retailer donations.
"We have seen a decline in donations and support. This has been one of our toughest years in fundraising," he said. "The donations and support that we get is important, but when you're looking at less money coming in, you're also having to make difficult decisions, as these families are."
If the sales tax on diapers is removed, Medina said both customers and the diaper bank's money would stretch further to capture more products for those in need. Through monetary donations, the Texas Diaper Bank participates in purchasing programs to buy diaper products and other essentials at a discount.
The more people are able to give through donated items or monetary donations, the more assistance the organization can provide, Medina added.
"We're able to take your $1 donation and are able to multiply that four times, six times over because of the cost savings that we have," he said.
Those looking to get involved with the Texas Diaper Bank can find more information on donations and volunteer service options online.