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Wednesday, January 19, 2022

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    Michigan groups want to eliminate tax on feminine hygiene products

    A pair of bills that would eliminate a tax on feminine hygiene products in Michigan is welcome news for local advocates and community organizations on the forefront of the fight to tackle “period poverty” — or the struggle to afford pads and tampons. 

    The legislation, introduced this year and headed to the House floor for a vote, seeks to exempt tampons, pads and other menstrual products from Michigan’s 6% sales and use tax. That tax unfairly burdens people who menstruate, advocates say. 

    For years, advocates and local organizations have been pushing to eliminate the so-called “tampon tax.” They’ve been filling in gaps, too, by providing pads, tampons and other menstrual hygiene products to people who can’t afford them.

    The bills are a step in the right direction, they say, and the bipartisan nature of the legislation this year is promising. Bills to eliminate the tax have failed in the past, but the COVID-19 pandemic’s economic upheaval has only made those everyday products more expensive while people struggled to balance staying safe and staying employed.

    “For many years, we’ve known that having a tax on those (products) puts undue burden on people when they have to make decisions around whether to buy products, or eat or buy clothing for children,” said Celia Thomas, chief operating officer of Alternatives for Girls in Detroit.

    The COVID-19 pandemic's economic upheaval has made everyday products, like feminine hygiene products more difficult for many who are struggling financially to afford.

    The organization distributed 1,600 hygiene kits, including period products, last year compared with 1,200 kits in 2019. Thomas attributed the spike to the COVID-19 pandemic. Distribution numbers this year are expected to be similar to 2019, she said. 

    Thomas said she is cautiously optimistic about the legislation passing. 

    “The truth is, we’re going to buy them regardless of whether there’s a tax or not. It’s just that when you take the tax away, it makes buying them less of a sacrifice, and it makes buying them less of a hard decision,” she said about period products.

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