Harrisburg, PAMay 7, 2024 – Pennsylvania Senators, state Representatives, and others gathered for a press event to support and advocate for Governor Shapiro’s proposal to fund period products in public schools through this year’s budget. Nearly 1 in 4 U.S. students cannot afford period products, threatening their ability to receive the education they deserve. Lawmakers and other Pennsylvania leaders and advocates joined in support of the proposal and highlighted why the legislature needs to include this proposal in the final budget.

In his second budget address as Governor, Governor Josh Shapiro took the time to propose a $3 million investment into public schools to provide period products at no cost to students. A big supporter of this proposal has been Pennsylvania’s First Lady, who stood in support at the press conference.

“Today, I was proud to stand with leaders from across our Commonwealth to bring attention to critical issues facing young women and girls in Pennsylvania,” said First Lady Lori Shapiro. “I’ve spent time listening to young women and girls in Pennsylvania who have been forced to miss school or other opportunities due to not having the menstrual products they need. We need to support and empower those girls — and that’s why Josh included $3 million in this year’s budget proposal to provide pads and tampons in schools at no cost to our students.”

“This $3 million investment – a fraction of a percentage of our total budget – is all it will take to provide period products in public school restrooms and make sure students can remain safe, healthy, and focused in class. I’m grateful to have a Governor who knows ‘period’ is not a bad word, and a First Lady who has brought menstrual equity to the forefront in Pennsylvania,” said Senator Maria Collett (D-12). “Together, we can get this program across the finish line and continue to advocate for the 2 in 5 menstruators who struggle to afford period products.”

As of April 18, 2024, 27 states and Washington D.C. have passed legislation to help students who menstruate have free access to period products while in school. Pennsylvania could be the next state to solve this problem for students.

“Every Pennsylvanian deserves access to the hygiene products they need to live healthy, rewarding lives. Governor Shapiro’s proposal to provide period products free to every public school in Pennsylvania is uncontroversial and will have a significant impact on the lives of many of our students,” said Senator Judy Schwank (D-11). “We have garnered strong support for this proposal from a diverse coalition, and I’m confident we will secure this crucial investment in this year’s budget.”

Funding period products in schools is just the beginning when it comes to tackling menstrual equity in Pennsylvania. Senators Cappelletti and Collett have introduced Senate Bill 906, known as The Pennsylvania Menstrual Equity Act, a bill that will require Pennsylvania’s public agencies serving those who are young, low-income, homeless, or incarcerated to make these products available at no cost.

“As children and adolescences, it can be extraordinarily difficult to ask for help in meeting our needs – especially ones as stigmatized as menstrual hygiene. So, imagine the added challenge that many students face when their parents can’t afford the period products they need. Or if a student has a difficult relationship with their parent or guardian and doesn’t feel comfortable or safe when asking for the products they need,” said Senator Amanda Cappelletti (D-17). “We have the power to eliminate these challenges for our students here in Pennsylvania and ease the stress that threatens their ability to get their education to the fullest extent.”

Leaders and representatives of the Shapiro Administration were in attendance, including many state agency leaders. Pennsylvania Department of Human Services Secretary Dr. Valerie Arkoosh, Pennsylvania Department of Health Dr. And Department of Education Executive Deputy Secretary Angela Fitterer all attended and shared their support. “Thank you to First Lady Shapiro and thank you Governor Shapiro for having the courage to put these dollars into your budget,” said Secretary Arkoosh. “Here we are talking about this with the potential opportunity in the budget to correct something that’s been in need of correction, frankly, for many decades.”

Many speakers detailed the lengths at which students who do not have access to the products they need must go to when they have their periods, whether it be using socks, t-shirts, or other unsanitary materials. Dr. Bogen, Acting Secretary of Pennsylvania’s Department of Health, mentioned using these unsanitary solutions puts people at risk of contracting a host of health issues that could affect a student’s health right away or in the future.

In today’s meeting of the House Education Committee, the committee passed House Bill 850, which would require our Department of Human Services to apply to the federal government if a waiver is made available to states to allow those receiving Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) to use the two programs for menstrual hygiene products. Currently, these programs do not allow for the purchase of menstrual hygiene products, despite being a necessity. A related bill, House Bill 851, would create a grant program to provide eligible public-school entities with funding to acquire and distribute menstrual hygiene products at no expense to students. That bill has yet to move in committee.

Representative Darisha Parker (D-198), the prime sponsor on House Bill 851, spoke at the news conference, sharing, “When you talk about this lane of work, it is hard. It is very embarrassing that a woman like me, today, will be walking with a box of tampons to tell the Senate to pass House Bill 851.”

Find the recording of the press conference here.