Necessities--like food and medical supplies are usually exempt from sales taxes. Until just recently, in New York State, tampons and menstrual pads were not. On July 21, governor Andrew Cuomo signed a unanimously passed bill to end the so-called “period tax,” calling New York’s action a matter of “social and economic justice.”
The Governor was following the lead of pioneering New York City Councilwoman, Julissa Ferreras-Copeland, who wants you to know that “periods are powerful.” She sponsored similar legislation after spearheading a successful program that provided free tampons and pads to girls in Bronx and Queens high schools. Ferreras-Copeland’s measure will serve 325,000 women, and provide 2 million tampons and 3.5 million pads each year, just to homeless shelters.
These measures make New York City and State a pioneer in proactively guaranteeing access to these kinds of products. The impact for women, especially low income women, will be immense. New Yorkers will save an estimated $10 million per year, and won’t be burdened with a cost that even President Obama has called unjust.
Earlier this year, the Huffington Post reported that periods can cost women over $11,000 in a lifetime, and cause female students to miss school, and even fall behind male classmates. Girls part of the Bronx and Queens pilot programs attended school at a measurably higher rate, and reported feeling more confident and focused at school.
These changes are part of a growing movement for period equity. New York’s action has prompted 15 other states to consider similar legislation. These states could not only make periods a bit more manageable for their constituents, but also update old tax codes to match commonly-held values for women’s equality.
We know that empowered women statistically live much longer, healthier physical and emotional lives. We know they are far more likely to complete formal education, participate in local and national economics, and empower other women and girls to do the same. We applaud the city councilwoman and governor from New York for their groundbreaking work.
By Kai Koopman