Legislators push to end tax on feminine hygiene products

A woman stocks sanitary towels in Caracas on February 2, 2015. The shortage of food and different products in Venezuela has worsened in 2015, and diapers are some of the most valued goods, for which people queue since daybreak when there is a rumor they are arriving to a certain store. AFP PHOTO/FEDERICO PARRA (Photo credit should read FEDERICO PARRA/AFP/Getty Images)

Flint, Michigan (WNEM) — There’s a new push across the country to end taxes on necessary feminine hygiene products, such as tampons and pads.

The products are categorized as luxury items even though women have no choice but to buy them.

Legislation working its way through several state legislatures and Congress could change that.

“Their EBT cards don’t cover items such as this. They don’t cover shampoo and personal needs items so we give out these to the community on a weekly basis,” said Cindy Johns, director of community engagement at Carriage Town.

Every Friday, homeless and low income families in Flint can go shopping at Cara’s Closet. It is part of Carriage Town Ministry’s shelter.

Feminine hygiene products are something people don’t always associated with homeless needs, but for many women part of shopping at the closet includes getting pads and tampons.

“There definitely is a need. We’re often asked about it, if we have more and then we just try to be as generous as we can with it,” Johns said.

Since feminine hygiene products are not option for women, legislators in Michigan and other states said it’s time to get rid of the tax.

A New York congresswoman is the first politician to focus on feminine hygiene on the national level. Locally, several Democrats in the state legislature have a bill on the table to repeal Michigan’s tax on feminine products.

At Carriage Town, workers take the time to place feminine products on beds before women arrive at the shelter.

“It’s just kind of embarrassing to have to ask for feminine needs. So we have them and we make them available for the residents,” said Trina Carswell, director of the family center.

When it comes to donations at the shelter, feminine products can sometimes be an afterthought which is part of the reason some lawmakers said they should be more affordable.

“We have women, we have young women, teenagers even that are in need of those items,” Carswell said.

State Rep. Brian Elder (D-Bay City) said other items are already exempt from sales and use tax.

“Cold medicine, food, things that we feel is important that people, if they need them, they don’t have to pay an extra tax on them. For whatever reason, feminine hygiene products are not on that list,” Elder said.

Elder recognizes he’ll need support from his Republican colleagues across the aisle in order to move the bill he co-introduced this year to repeal the tax.

“I’ve had very good conversations with some of my friends in the majority caucus. Some of them have actually teased me because they think it’s odd a male would actually bring forward the bill. I don’t think that’s odd at all. I happen to be a married man and when my wife purchases these products she does it from a join account,” Elder said.