Meng: FEMA to Permit Homeless Assistance Providers to Purchase Feminine Hygiene Products-Such as Tampons and Pads-with Federal Grant Funds

Mar 1, 2016
Press Release

U.S. Rep. Grace Meng (D-Queens) announced today that she has convinced the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to add feminine hygiene products – such as tampons and pads – to the list of essential items that homeless assistance providers can purchase with federal grant funds from the agency’s Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program.

Although homeless assistance providers – including homeless shelters, nonprofit organizations and local government agencies – are permitted to spend the money they receive from the program on such personal necessities as blankets, toilet paper, soap, tooth paste and underwear, feminine hygiene products have not been among the eligible items, despite the fact that they are essential.

In January, Meng sent a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson (who oversees FEMA) asking that the program include feminine hygiene products on the list, and FEMA’s Administrator Craig Fugate recently replied to the Congresswoman saying that the items would be added.

“I thank FEMA for agreeing to my request and for understanding how critical feminine hygiene products are to women,” said Meng. “Homeless women and girls in shelters face serious hygiene and health issues when they do not have access to these essential items. There are reports of homeless women who ‘use rags or bleed through clothes until they throw out or get donated clothes’ when they do not have access to appropriate hygiene products. With toilet paper, soap, tooth paste and underwear included, it’s a no brainer to add feminine hygiene products, and I thank FEMA again for being responsive to this need.”

In his correspondence to Meng, FEMA Administrator Fugate said that the Emergency Food and Shelter National Board Program voted to include feminine hygiene products as eligible items, and that officials are developing language to include in the program’s manual that should be completed by April.

The full list of essential household items that can be purchased with the grant funds include cots, blankets, pillows, toilet paper, soap, toothpaste, tooth brushes, cleaning materials, limited first-aid supplies and underwear/diapers.

Recently, Meng also sent letters to Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Julian Castro asking that providers be allowed to purchase feminine hygiene products with grants that their agencies provide as well. Click here for letter to Burwell and here for letter to Castro.

In an additional effort to make feminine hygiene products more accessible to women, Meng recently introduced the Fund Essential Menstruation Products (FEM) Act, which would add feminine hygiene products to the list of items that can be purchased with funds in a Flexible Spending Account (FSA).