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Lawmakers propose tax exemption for diapers

Lawmakers propose tax exemption for diapers

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SPRINGFIELD -- Illinois parents and seniors may get a better deal on diapers under a new proposal pending in the state Senate.

Legislation introduced this week would create a sales tax exemption for child-sized and adult diaper purchases in Illinois.

State Sen. Mike Frerichs, D-Champaign, drafted the plan after he saw that diaper prices were prohibitive for many residents in the state, leading some families to continue to use diapers after they are soiled.

“(The idea) came from a constituent of mine in Vermilion County who’s seen a large number of people out there who can’t afford diapers and are looking for some sort of relief,” he said. “She found too many families in Vermilion County willing to keep children in diapers longer because they couldn’t afford new ones.

“If parents are leaving their children in dirty diapers just because they can’t afford new ones, it has real health consequences.”

Karen Shiflett, a program director and family case manager at Macon County Health Department, said that the problem isn’t new to her.

“Our WIC families and case management families are often here requesting help with diaper assistance or diaper referrals,” she said.

She said that most people probably know most of the risks carried by diaper overuse, but she hears about it happening “continuously.”

“Certainly I think it’s common knowledge that when a child is left in a diaper for an extended period of time, a rash or breakdown of the skin is a definite possibility,” Shiflett said. “That’s painful for a child to endure.”

According to a study published by the Yale School of Medicine last year, the practice can lead to rashes, staph infections and urinary tract infections.

Frerichs, who also is running for state treasurer, didn’t have an estimate of the state’s cost or the consumer savings that the exemption would create, but said that the measure would still help low-income families.

An 88-pack of Pampers costs about $28, which -- with Illinois’ sales tax rate set at 6.25 percent -- comes with a sales tax of $1.75.

“They wouldn’t be paying the sales tax,” he said. “By no means would this solve all their problems, but it’s a little relief to a basic necessity.”

Frerichs said he’s had to deal with high diaper prices in the past.

“My daughter’s 5,” he said. “But definitely, when she was going through that time, we saw that cost. We could afford it, but there are other families out there that have to make some tough choices.”

Several other states, including Minnesota, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, have similar exemptions for diapers.

The legislation is Senate Bill 2672.

Contact Fowler at TJ.Fowler@lee.net or 217-557-9650.

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