What you should know about period poverty in Georgia and how to get free products

Volunteers sort through period supplies at a coalition event. (Georgia STOMP)

Credit: Georgia STOMP

caption arrowCaption
Volunteers sort through period supplies at a coalition event. (Georgia STOMP)

Credit: Georgia STOMP

Credit: Georgia STOMP

Advocacy groups are working to eliminate inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education.

Even though female-identifying individuals make up more than half of the state’s population, they still foot the bill for additional costs on essential health care items.

Georgia’s 4% state sales tax applies to period products, including pads, tampons, liners, cups and period underwear. There’s no male equivalent to this tax, meaning women with a typical 28-day period cycle will spend an average of $5 extra each month on tampons or pads, according to a cost calculator created by two Polish medical students.

That price tag doesn’t take into account pain medication or additional supplies women typically need during menstruation. To date, there are 28 states with some kind of sales tax on period products.

There has been some change. The Georgia Department of Corrections agreed in 2019 to ensure access of period supplies to incarcerated menstruators. That same year, Georgia lawmakers also approved a million dollar budget allocation to the Department of Education to help low-income schools afford period products for students in sixth through 12th grade.

“It’s just systemic changes that need to happen,” said Claire Cox, chair of Georgia STOMP (Stop Tax On Menstrual Products). “And they’re things that have never been talked about until this era.”

Leading advocacy groups like Georgia STOMP continue to work with partner organizations and representatives to eliminate period poverty. Period poverty is defined as inadequate access to menstrual hygiene tools and education.

Here is some essential information on where Georgia stands with period poverty, including where people can find affordable or free menstrual products in metro Atlanta.

There’s a difference between the “pink tax” and the period product tax

You may be familiar with the “pink tax.” This term refers to the upcharge in items traditionally geared toward female buyers, getting its namesake from pink packaging. It’s not an actual tax, but rather refers to a history of gender pricing.

The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs investigated this pattern six years ago, finding that “women’s products” cost 7% more than mens on average. Of the 800 identified products, those with a more than $2.30 price difference included dress shirts, hair care, some childrens toys and jeans.

Georgia charges a flat-rate sales tax of 4% on certain consumer goods, like “tangible personal property” and services. Some items are exempt, including most medical equipment, water and raw manufacturing materials. But no period products make that list.

Legislation asking for a tax exemption on period products was first introduced in 2018 as House Bill 731, which has been resubmitted every year since then with all the language intact. Cox said her team is preparing to reintroduce the same bill next year for consideration in the fiscal year 2023 budget.

“The leadership in the State House opposes this bill,” Cox said. “They understand period poverty, they believe it exists, they see the results, they hear school nurses and all talk about it. But they don’t see the equity issue of the sales tax.”

Here’s a list of programs providing free period products:

Georgia Department of Public Health

Allocation of funds from the Department of Public Health — previously cut during the pandemic but reinstated for the FY 2021 budget — ensures that local public health clinics should have period supplies on hand for people who need them.

“I want people to go and ask for (period products) because they should be there,” Cox said. “We’re working really closely with administrators at county health departments all over the state to make sure they know about it and to make sure they put them on their shelves.”

Contact: A full list of public health clinics at dph.georgia.gov/locations.

Helping Mamas

The baby supply and period product bank works with 200 agencies – including nonprofits, shelters and schools – to ensure period supplies are available to those who need them. Launched this year, Helping Mama’s mobile program also brings supplies to other areas, including libraries and apartment complexes.

The mobile program runs on a needed basis, typically around five times a month, said Demitrah Rasmussen director of volunteer and corporate relations. A program calendar at helpingmamas.org/mobile-distribution is updated every month.

Contact: Call the Helping Mama’s office at (770) 985-8010 for referrals to free products. A full list of partners can be found at helpingmamas.org/partners.

Atlanta GLOW

Atlanta Growing Leadership of Women (GLOW) partners with schools, communities and nonprofit organizations to pack and distribute menstrual hygiene care packages. Each Period + care package contains an assortment of pads, tampons and pantyliners, as well as feminine wipes, soap, deodorant, shampoo, a toothbrush and toothpaste.

“We want menstruators to know that they are more than their period and/or the lack of supplies thereof,” said Ashlie James, founder and executive director. “When girls don’t have access to period products, not only do they not feel protected, but it also puts their confidence, dignity and education at risk.”

Contact: Request care packages at atlantaglow.org/periodplus.

All three of these criteria must be met to be eligible for a Period + kit:

● A menstruator (ages 14-40) or their parent/guardian

● A resident of Georgia

● Economically disadvantaged as demonstrated by participation in a public assistance and/or student aid program

Homeless Period Project of Atlanta

The Homeless Period Project’s Atlanta chapter collects and distributes donated period supplies to local businesses, food pantries, shelters and other nonprofits. The organization is based in Greenville, South Carolina, and has a variety of chapters across the U.S.

Contact: Email atlanta@homelessperiodproject.org for help finding supplies.

Alliance for Period Supplies

More than 120 programs partner with the Alliance for Period Supplies, which collect, warehouse and distribute period supplies in local communities. A full map of allied programs can be found at allianceforperiodsupplies.org/allied-programs.

Contact: Call or text 2-1-1 if they need to find free period supplies in their area, or visit 211.org.


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