By Bill Parry
New York is now the sixth state to ban taxes on feminine hygiene products after Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation into law last week. The repeal is expected to save women in New York $10 million per year.
“This is a regressive tax on essential products that women have had to pay for far too long and lifting it is a matter of social and economic justice,” Cuomo said. Feminine hygiene products have been taxable since the state sales tax was first instituted in 1965, even as a wide variety of other goods, such as dietary and family planning products, have been exempt.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Flushing) announced Tuesday she has introduced a series of bills which expand her efforts to make feminine hygiene products more accessible and affordable to women. The measures would create a $120 refundable tax credit to low-income individuals who regularly use menstrual hygiene products, a second bill would require ingredient labels for feminine hygiene products, and a final measure that would require large companies to provide free feminine hygiene products to their employees.
Meng and City Councilwoman Julissa Ferreras-Copeland (East Elmhurst), also sent a letter to U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch requesting that feminine hygiene products be made available to federal inmates and detainees at no-cost.
“Barriers to menstrual equality are quickly coming down and I continue to do everything I can to help all women achieve it,” Meng said. “These bills and our letter to the attorney general will help move these efforts forward and bring us closer to the day when access, safety and stigma are no longer issues with menstruation. Earlier this year, I was able to convince FEMA to add feminine hygiene products to the list of items that homeless assistance providers can purchase with federal grant funds, and this month Mayor Bill de Blasio signed legislation — for which I strongly advocated — that improves access to menstrual hygiene items for women and girls in New York City. The momentum for menstrual equality continues to grow and we will keep up the fight.”
Ferreras-Copeland’s campaign began with a free dispenser in a girl’s room at Corona’s High School for Arts and Businesses in September. She sponsored several of the bills signed into law by Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“The inequitable taxation on our periods can be found at every level of society from the pervasive stigma women face for menstruating to the poor accessibility to menstrual hygiene products,” Ferreras-Copeland said. “New York City has taken a giant leap towards menstrual equity by guaranteeing pads and tampons in schools, shelters and prisons and Rep. Grace Meng’s legislation goes beyond to rectify the problem for the workforce and low-income families.”
She added, “I am proud to work with women across this state and the country to end menstrual taboos and bring us into the 21st century where women’s bodies are respected.”
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr