KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) — The costs of baby formula and diapers are up more than 10% since 2020, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. This means taking care of a baby for all parents, including foster parents, is even more expensive. This got one Tennessee senator thinking about what could be done to help.
He’s introduced a bill to the Tennessee General Assembly that proposes to eliminate the sales and use tax on infant diapers, wipes, and formula.
“There’s about 9,000 children in state custody which is just a huge number and no wonder that the department is struggling to keep up with that,” said Republican Senator Ferrell Haile of Gallatin.
Sen. Haile started looking into what the state could do to help the dire situation at the Department of Children’s Services when Tennessee’s abortion trigger law went into effect. He said while he is pro-life, he felt it was important to look at what could be done to help those children that will be born and put into the foster care system.
“One of the things we thought about was if infant formula, and baby wipes, and diapers, and that type of thing certainly is an expense and we could take the tax off of that,” Haile explained. “Then we got to thinking more and we want to support young families period, and so we expanded that to where we have this bill that takes the tax off of wipes, diapers, and baby formula.”
Tess Frear, the Executive Director of Helping Mamas Knoxville, said the nonprofit has seen the struggle firsthand. She said the need for diapers in East Tennessee has nearly doubled this year.
“Our outgoing diapers anyways over 175,000 diapers last year and we don’t foresee that going down,” Frear said.
She explained that at Helping Mamas Knoxville their mission is to help mothers connect mothers in need with resources to help get them the essentials. She says they also support several foster care agencies, so every bit of aid will go a long way.
“Everybody needs that,” she said. “It might be grandparents, it might be dad, it might be a mom, and it’s the foster care agencies.”
Frear also noted 15 other states across the country already have similar bills in place, saying she would like to see Tennessee join that group.
However, with Senate Bill 0529 comes a significant fiscal hit of about $23 million when you combine state and local. “It’s a real problem,” Sen. Haile said.
“Lots of times the cost of a bill, of an idea, prevents it from going into being passed, or even if it is passed it’s not funded so it’s not active,” he said. “So, we may have to go back to the original idea of it just being foster parents, new adoptive parents, and try to make that work, but we’ll see.”
While Tennessee parents wait to see what could happen, the bill is “placed behind the budget.” Haile explained this bill could pass in two ways: Either through the governor’s supplemental budget and then onto finance, or looking into funds that are left over at the end of the legislative session.