COVID-19 stockpiling wiped out diapers and wipes. Baby essentials are returning to shelves, but it could be two months before they are easy to find.
A bipartisan group of senators on Monday called for the next coronavirus rescue package to include $200 million in diaper assistance as families contend with shortages and increased demand amid layoffs and lost income.
Sens. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called for the diaper relief in a joint letter to Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and Minority Leader Charles Schumer. They were joined by Sens. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis., Bob Casey, D-Pa., Susan Collins, R-Maine, Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., and Thom Tillis, R-N.C.
“COVID-19 has forced working families into dire circumstances. Even as parents face layoffs and unprecedented unemployment numbers, recent reporting has shown a run on diapers from stockpiling and supply chain issues leaving families unsure if they will be able to access diapers for their children,” the senators wrote.
One in three families already could not afford a steady supply of diapers before the pandemic began, with low-income families spending about 14% of their income on the disposable baby products, the senators said. Though non-profits help by distributing more than 80 million diapers a month, more needs to be done, they added.
“Even before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, nonprofit diaper bank distribution only met five to six percent of diaper need. Most diaper banks, which were already oversubscribed and had waiting lists for partner agencies, are now facing severe supply shortages due to the demand increase as more families experience job loss during this pandemic,” the senators said.
Looking for Pampers and Huggies?: Diapers and wipes return to store shelves as COVID-19 shortages ease
While some turned to cloth diapers as a backup, that wasn’t an option for those without a washing machine or easy access to a laundromat. Many child care providers require the parents to supply disposal diapers and won’t accept the kids without them.
“Essential workers should not have to worry about diaper need becoming a barrier for accessing childcare,” the senators said.
As with toilet paper and several other hygiene products, many shoppers stockpiled supplies of diapers when the outbreak began, draining the shelves and causing a shortage from which experts predict it could take at least another month to fully recover.
Despite this plea from the senators, which they call a “necessity for the health and well-being of every young child,” their proposal is just one of several items lawmakers have floated as possible inclusions in a future stimulus bill, the fate of which remains uncertain.
Some Republicans have balked at the direct relief for local and state governments that have been proposed by Democrats, while President Donald Trump has proposed a payroll tax cut that Democrats oppose. McConnell has suggested Congress pause before approving additional stimulus money and has expressed opposition to including what he calls “pre-existing partisan wish-lists” or “tangential left-wing daydreams.”
Contributing: Jessica Guynn
More checks? A payroll tax cut?: Trump and Congress are split on the next coronavirus stimulus plan
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