Senator Caroline Menjivar Introduces the Menstrual Equity Act of 2023
SACRAMENTO - Senator Caroline Menjivar (D-San Fernando Valley) introduced SB 260 today, the Menstrual Equity Act of 2023. This measure aims to alleviate the menstrual product insecurity many Californians face, due to economic constraints and inequitable access, for California Work Opportunity and Responsibility to Kids (CalWORKs) participants.
Menstrual inequities exist across California for our most vulnerable communities and create obstacles to performing necessary duties. A national study performed by Alliance for Period Supplies showed inaccessibility to menstrual hygiene products has led to 1 in 3 low-income women missing work, school, or other important commitments. Rising costs and the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic have compounded the issue. During a 2021 YouGov survey, 2 in 5 menstruating people cited a lack of income as a barrier to purchasing period products.
YouGov research also documented how a lack of access disproportionately affects Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) communities. 23% of Black and 24% of Latina respondents “strongly agreed” they've struggled to afford period products in the past year. Along with the possibility of physical complications, including infection, the mental health toll can be great and result in anxiety and depression.
Current federal aid, delivered through CalWORKs, assists eligible families with cash aid and services according to their needs. However, recipients are not allocated money to purchase tampons, sanitary napkins, and cleansing wipes. SB 260 would increase equity by requiring the California Department of Social Services (CDSS) to cover applicable products for every menstruating person who participates in CalWORKs, easing a significant financial barrier, decreasing systemic inequities, and improving the livelihoods of recipients who lack these necessities.
Senator Menjivar stated, “Approximately 318,000 families with children receive vital assistance under CalWORKs, and this number is projected to increase considerably in 2023 due to economic uncertainties. These are families who are fighting to stay afloat and working to get back on their feet. While California has addressed some needs, such as increasing the allocation for diapers, we recognize additional financial burdens still exist. Menstruating people should not miss work or be hindered from performing family duties because they cannot afford essential products. This bill can bring us one step closer to closing an equity gap, specifically within the CalWORKs program, while we continue to work for solutions to the numerous obstacles working families encounter.”
Bill cosponsors also shared the following statements:
“As a youth organizer, passionate about advancing equity for all communities, I’m excited to be part of the leading effort to sponsor this crucial piece of legislation. Seeing my family’s experience from the benefits of California social welfare programs inspires me to make sure all families are supported with fundamental healthcare access, including menstrual products. It’s time to destigmatize periods, starting with the people who need it the most.”
– Fiona Lu, Policy Director for California High School Democrats
"My experience as a gender justice organizer is why I’m thrilled to be a part of leading the effort to expand menstrual product access for CalWORKs recipients, and I’m even more excited this effort is youth-led. This bill is a testament to the power of youth organizing and our potential to catalyze change, especially for marginalized communities. Fiona and I are both grateful Senator Menjivar is leading this important work."
– Esther Lau, Director for CA Generation Ratify Policy
Following its introduction today, SB 260 will be considered by relevant Senate committee(s) later this spring.
CONTACT: Celeste Jale - Celeste.Jale@sen.ca.gov