N.C. budget proposal includes funding for schools to provide free menstrual products to students
School districts can receive p to $5,000 to purchase menstrual products
CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - More help could soon be on the way for students with menstrual cycles in North Carolina.
The recently released budget proposal for the 2022-2023 fiscal year includes funding that would codify, or make the Feminine Hygiene Products Grant program permanent and recurring.
The funding proposal for the grant program was derived from House Bill 1087 “Menstrual Equity for All.”
The purpose of the act is to achieve menstrual equity by eliminating the sales tax on certain menstrual products and creating a recurring fund for the Feminine Hygiene Products Grant program.
This proposal is in the budget agreed to by House and Senate Republicans that was unveiled Tuesday.
The grant program was piloted last year through the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction with a fund of $250,000. Through the program, public school districts across the state could apply for up to $5,000 in grant funds to purchase pads, tampons, underwear, cups, and other relevant items. The funding is available on a first-come-first-serve basis.
According to a report from NCPDI, the 2021-2022 applications were flooded and NCPDI reached its funding limit in less than one week. Out of the 134 applicants, 66 school districts received funding ranging from $500 to $5,000.
Several of last year’s recipients are in the WBTV viewing area including the following school districts: Alexander, Anson, Avery, Burke, Cabarrus, Cabarrus Charter Academy, Catawba, Hickory City, Newton Conover, Iredell-Statesville, Lincoln Charter, Movement Charter, Rowan-Salisbury, Stanly, and Union County Schools.
This year’s budget proposal includes doubling the fund to $500,000, an effort to expand opportunities to more school districts.
Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools student Veronica Bofah, says the struggles of trying to find a spare pad or tampon takes time away from learning and only adds to the discomfort.
“There was one time when my period came unexpectedly and so I didn’t have anything with me my friend didn’t have anything with her,” she said.
Bofah says thankfully she was able to get the product she needed through CMS’ partnership with the organization Communities in Schools, which had extra items in its storage.
While Bofah had access that day and her own items at home, access to menstrual products isn’t equitable for all students.
“That access is not always a privilege for everyone to have outside of school,” she said.
Bofah believes the program will help remove the stigma and anxiety about menstruation, make it more inclusive not just for people who identify as women and help students stay focused in class.
“It’s not only people who identify as female who are struggling with this issue, but it’s also people who have periods, and that in itself can sometimes be difficult to go to someone and receive the necessary products that they need, especially if they’re younger kids with periods and they don’t know what to do if it comes unexpectedly,” Bofah said.
CMS student Destiny Young also weighed in on the program.
“These products should have been free a long time ago because no woman asks for a period and its cost, but I’m thankful this topic is being talked about now,” Young said.
The grant program provides the items at a tax-free rate to school districts.
Young says this will be a huge help when students don’t have a spare product on hand if their menstrual cycle starts unexpectedly.
“It will benefit me for those days when I unexpectedly run out of tampons or pads,” Young said.
Over the last five years, the non-profit Flo Charlotte has collected thousands of menstrual product items and donated them to different schools in CMS and around Mecklenburg County.
Executive Director Ricketa Harvey and her team are working to make sure more students get the items they need, especially if their school isn’t participating in the grant program.
“We’re grateful because it’s a step in the right direction in ensuring that our local government is going to be able to assist those families in need, but Flo Charlotte is here to fill the gap,” Harvey said.
Harvey believes this budget proposal and the bill are a setup for achieving equity.
“Although it is a huge benefit and a step in the right direction we definitely can’t stop here and we have to try to push for more until all menstrual hygiene products are free,” Harvey said.
If you are interested in donating to Flo Charlotte, click here.
The proposal still has to pass both chambers before heading to Governor Roy Cooper’s desk for its final fate.
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