On Wednesday, March 17, 2021, a panel of experts discussed how businesses, nonprofits, and the government could work together to address diaper needs, a growing public health issue. Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 babies lived in poverty, and 1 in 3 families struggled to afford diapers. Now, the pandemic has exacerbated this need which pervades every community across the country.
But first, what is a diaper need? Diaper need is the lack of an adequate supply of diapers (cloth or disposable) to keep your child clean, dry, and healthy. Diaper need is a public health issue because, as panelists expressed, diapers are not a luxury but a necessity.
Panelist Raziya Hill, who runs the diaper bank Every Bottom Covered, described how her organization is serving three times as many families now than before the pandemic. Another panelist mentioned how families and babies are not getting enough support and that babies need to be seen as a national priority; thus, diaper needs should be reflected in funding. As discussed, when families and babies do not have what they need, they will come to the government in other ways. In other words, diaper need causes various health issues in babies like diaper rash and more. These public health issues, after the fact, are significantly more costly.
Senators Joni Ernst (R-IA) and Chris Murphy (D-CT) have become the biggest champions of diaper needs. In their bipartisan effort to assist struggling families, the senators introduced the COVID-19 Diaper Assistance Act on February 5, 2021. This legislation would provide $200 million in one-time emergency funds through the Social Services Block Grant (SSBG) program for diaper assistance.
So, what can else be done? Individuals and corporations are very generous in their donations, but this assistance is not enough; there needs to be a government response. Individuals, organizations, and corporations need to apply pressure to national, state, and local policymakers to address the issue by reaching out to lawmakers and engaging with organizations like the National Diaper Bank Network.
SSBG is a flexible funding stream that child welfare agencies use for many emerging needs such as child care, respite, emergency assistance, and more.