ALBANY, NY (WENY) — Last year, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law a bill requiring homeless shelters across the state to provide free feminine hygiene products, making New York one of four states to pass legislation like this. Last Thursday, the bill reached it’s anniversary.
In a two-part special report, WNY News Now took a look at how the legislation has performed over the past year and how shelters were impacted.
Hochul said it has made a great impact so far.
“It’s something we’re proud of. You know, recognition that we have to have equity. Far too many times, women have higher costs to go through everyday life than men do,” she said.
Period poverty is defined as the lack of access and affordability to menstrual products.
The bill essentially added to the social services law that any New York state provider of temporary housing are required to provide period products on-site including sanitary napkins, tampons, and panty liners at no cost to the menstruating individual.
Social services districts are also required to ensure the availability of these products on site.
The State Office of Temporary Disability Assistance oversees inspecting homeless shelters to make sure they are in accordance with state regulations. A spokesperson from the state agency said that so far homeless shelters are in good compliance.
Hochul and state Senator Roxanne Persaud, a co-sponsor of the bill said the implementation process has been going well. But some advocates said there have been challenges.
“This legislation it allowed the shelters to be able to provide products but at the same time we know that shelters have limited budgets,” said Lacey Gero, Policy and Coalition Coordinator for Alliance for Period Supplies.
Gero added that a majority of shelters rely heavily on donations.
Senator Persaud said through this legislation shelters have to allocate state funding they receive to budget for these products, on top of operating costs. Some shelters said the per diem rates aren’t enough.
“I don’t think there’s a true appreciation for how much these mandates cost,” said Tracy Pitcher, Executive Director of St. Paul’s Homeless Shelter.
Persaud said it is possible the legislature will look at additional funding.
“People menstruate all the time, and so we cannot walk around and say oh we funded it last year that’s okay. No, we have to continue funding it because there’s always going to be the need,” she said.
Persaud added, moving forward the legislature will be looking at expanding this initiative to public schools.
In part two of this special report, we examined how shelters were impacted by this legislation.