Since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, the Greater DC Diaper Bank has seen a growing need throughout the region. The organization's numbers tell the story best: 2.5 million free diapers distributed in 2019, compared to more than six million in 2020.
That number climbed even higher in 2021, with 9.5 million diapers distributed.
"We are constantly having people call us and say we need to partner with you, our families need product," said Corinne Cannon, founder and executive director of the Greater DC Diaper Bank.
The nonprofit partners with more than a hundred organizations through the DMV region to distribute diapers to families in need throughout in Maryland, Virginia, and the District.
"The reality is that children need an incredible amount of diapers, they are very expensive, and they are something you can't go without," Cannon said.
That reality recently led DC Council Member Christina Henderson to introduce legislation she's calling the 'Diaper Affordability and Access Act of 2022'.
"We know a lot of families right now have been squeezed financially," Henderson said. "And diapers can cost anywhere from $75 to $100 a month, which is a costly expense for some families who might have to make a decision between do I put a fresh diaper on my child or do I pay the light bill? And I feel like no child in the district should have to make that choice."
Henderson's proposal would provide an additional monthly benefit of $100 to parents in the District who are enrolled in the federal Temporary Assistance For Needy Families program and have children under the age of three.
"We know that diapers are an extremely expensive yet essential need when you have young children, and unfortunately it's not covered by many assistance programs available to help families, like SNAP and WIC," Henderson said. "So I feel like an additional benefit can help cover the costs of some families who may be struggling."
The 'Diaper Affordability and Access Act' would also create a diaper bank grant program that would provide more funding and support to organizations like the Greater DC Diaper Bank.
"There are organizations like the Greater DC Diaper Bank that provide diapers for folks in need, and it might be for some people who don't qualify for TANF or any assistance programs, but you have a really tight month and need additional help and support," Henderson said. "And this grant would essentially boost the ability of those organizations to be able to meet the needs of those families."
Cannon says Henderson's proposal is something the Greater DC Diaper Bank has long been pushing for.
"I purchase five million diapers at a time, and that allows me to get an incredible wholesale rate, so we would be able to take those grant funds and make them go even further for families," Cannon said. "This is something we've been talking about for years. We know the families we serve need more support, and this bill would do that."
As for how much this legislation would cost the District if it's approved, Henderson says those details would be determined during the city's upcoming budget process.
"We're hoping to get a hearing scheduled fairly soon. As folks may know, we're about to head into budget season," Henderson said. "I'm hopeful my colleagues would also see this as something that is very much a priority for District residents."
Six other DC council members have already signed onto the bill.