The Department of Education of New York City is spending $160,000 in tax payer money on free tampons for girls in middle school and high school in mostly low-income areas. Dispensers of free feminine hygiene will be installed in school lavatories.
Besides this pilot program to expand further access to free stuff, Julissa Ferrerras-Copeland – a member of the Council for Queens – has introduced a bill that would expand it to all school lavatories in the Big Apple. She told the Daily News that her intention is to remove any barriers to proper hygiene for all low-income students in the system. Council member Ferreras-Copeland said, “Girls in these districts face the greatest financial hardships.” She added, “I want to ensure none of them lose class time, face illness or feel humiliated because their family cannot afford pads.”
In addition, Ferreras-Copeland wrote on her Facebook that free feminine hygiene comes in addition to the provision of free condoms in middle schools and high schools.
Elsewhere in the country, there has been a push to provide free feminine hygiene products in schools and eliminate sales tax on these items. Most states in the Union charge sales tax on feminine hygiene products, thus allegedly limiting their availability to low-income citizens.
The issue has made it to the courts. In New York, five have sued the state Department of Taxation and Finance, claiming that the taxing of feminine hygiene products “serves no purpose but to discriminate.” Other items exempted from sales tax in the state of New York are: hair loss products such as Rogaine; facial wash; adult diapers and incontinence pads, foot powder, dandruff shampoo, and ChapStick.
An article at The Huffington Post expressed the concern that lack of access to tampons and other sanitary products can put health at risk. The article argued that their health may be put at risk if they instead resort to more traditional materials such as rags.
According to the Daily News, the elimination of sales tax on feminine hygiene would mean a $14 million drop in tax revenue for the State of New York. In California, a similar bill has been introduced into that state’s assembly. It could mean a loss of $20 million in revenue. 



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Spero News writer Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. His first novel 'Shaken Earth', is available at Amazon.

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