Lawmakers in Georgia just took a step forward to empower people who menstruate.
The state has allocated funds in its 2020 fiscal year budget to equip schools and community centers in low-income areas with period products, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. Out of the state’s $27.5 billion budget, $1.5 million will fund the initiative, effective in July. However, the funding is a one-time allocation, and will not necessarily be included in future budgets.
After stopping efforts to remove Georgia’s “tampon tax” — which taxes menstrual hygiene products as luxury items at 4% — Republican Rep. Jan Jones reportedly negotiated with lawmakers to include period product funding in the 2020 budget.
Jones, who is also the state’s Speaker Pro Tempore of the House, said she believes the measure more directly addresses the needs of those experiencing period poverty, though many experts still advocate for ending the tampon tax as well.
With the new budget, county health departments in the state will receive $500,000 to provide tampons and pads to low-income people who menstruate. The Georgia Department of Education will receive $1 million to help fight period poverty and keep students who menstruate in school.
Dana Marlowe, the founder of the organization I Support the Girls, told Global Citizen that tens of thousands of students who menstruate in Georgia — where 49% of children live in low-income homes — stand to benefit.
“Period poverty leads to education inequality, for cities and families that are low-income,” Marlowe said.
One in 5 girls in the US have missed school because they did not have period products, according to a 2018 poll conducted by menstrual product brand Always.
“I have seen firsthand, high school students and college students, who had to go to class hungry because they needed to purchase menstrual products. When you’re going to class hungry, day after day, it makes it that much harder,” Marlowe explained.
“Students need to be in math class and not worried about the mathematics of funding menstrual supplies,” she warned, noting the tampon tax can also be seen as an education tax, when looking at the bigger picture.
Marlowe commends Georgia’s new budget measure and said lawmakers talking about period poverty on the floor has had the ripple effect of prioritizing the need for menstrual health education, but she raised concerns over the fact that the state isn’t guaranteeing period product funding for marginalized communities beyond 2020.
She hopes other states will take similar steps in the right direction and that there will be a larger push to ensure homeless shelters, correctional facilities, and public spaces also provide resources for people to manage their periods with dignity and self-respect.
Read More: Period Poverty: Everything You Need to Know
Advocates who are working on the ground in Georgia see the state’s new budget as a sign of progress. Claire Cox and Adele Stewart, co-founders of Georgia STOMP, a group advocating to end the state’s tampon tax, are excited for what this means for menstrual equity in their state.
Cox told Global Citizen she’s surprised lawmakers acted quickly on the issue, considering research on period poverty in Georgia only recently gained momentum.
“The recognition by the state legislators of the existence of period poverty in Georgia, and their openness to address it to deliver funds already is a huge step forward,” Cox said.
Stewart remains hopeful after seeing people in her community take action after realizing period poverty was happening right in their backyards. She praised one group in particular, the Homeless Period Project, which encourages people to throw period supply packing parties to donate to communities who need them.
“Once you educate people about it, I truly think they get it,” she said. “Talking about the need and mobilizing to address the need is really easy to do and get excited about.”