Committee Approves Bill to Aid Women with Period Poverty

Beverly Cantrell - March 3, 2022 1:46 pm

OKLAHOMA CITY – Sen. Jessica Garvin, R-Duncan, is tackling period poverty – a major and often overlooked issue among many Oklahoma women. The Senate Appropriations Committee unanimously approved her Senate Bill 1499 Wednesday, which would provide free menstrual products to low-income females, while also helping others save money.

“One in five women and girls in our state between the ages of 12 and 44, which are the common ages of menstruation, are below the federal poverty line. However, public assistance programs like SNAP, TANF and WIC don’t provide or cover the cost of feminine hygiene products, which can be quite expensive,” Garvin said. “Originally, I wanted to just provide a refundable sales tax exemption on these medically necessary products, but once I saw the statistics, I wanted to go ever further. My bill now also seeks to create a revolving fund in the Department of Health to help provide these products for free to those who need them.”      

Requested by the Oklahoma State Medical Association (OSMA) Student Section, SB 1499 would create the Feminine Hygiene Program, which would include a revolving fund and be administered by the State Department of Health (OSDH) to provide free feminine hygiene products to low-income women. The bill would apportion $1 million from sales tax revenue to the fund starting in FY’24 and local health departments could apply to OSDH for funds. Grants would be awarded based on the needs of the population served by each department. The measure also would create a refundable sales tax exemption for the sale of feminine hygiene products, including tampons, panty liners, menstrual cups, sanitary napkins, and other similar tangible personal property designed for feminine hygiene in connection with the human menstrual cycle. Women would provide their receipts to the Oklahoma Tax Commission for any qualifying purchases during the previous year and would be refunded the amount of sales tax paid on their menstrual products.        

According to a 2019 study by the Alliance for Period Supplies, two-thirds of women in poverty have had to choose between buying food and menstrual products. The study also found that one in four girls in the U.S. has missed school because of not having menstrual products.      

There are currently 28 states that tax menstrual products, commonly called a tampon tax. According to Period Equity, a legal organization working to end the taxation of feminine products, Oklahoma brings in an estimated $3.7 million annually on taxes from menstrual products.        

SB 1499 now goes before the full Senate.

For more information, contact:  Sen. Garvin at [email protected]

 

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