Oral Testimony from BRAWS Founder and Executive Director, Holly Seibold to the DC Council Good morning, Chairman Mendelson and Members of the Committee of the Whole. My name is Holly Seibold and I am the Founder and Executive Director of BRAWS (which stands for Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters). BRAWS was started nearly three years ago with the goal of bringing dignity and empowerment to women and girls in shelters by providing them with new, personally fitted bras and feminine hygiene products.
Last Fall, I was honored to testify before the Committee on Finance & Revenue in support of the Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2016, which would repeal the tax on feminine hygiene products in the District. We were beyond thrilled when the Council passed the tampon tax repeal into law, sending a message to the nation that inequality will not be tolerated in DC. However, our celebration turned to dismay when we saw that the Mayor's budget for Fiscal Year 2018 failed to fund the law.
I am here today on behalf of BRAWS to ask you to include funding for the tampon tax repeal in your recommended budget. It is absolutely critical to the women and girls in DC - our clients among them - who are hurt the most by the heavy 5.75% tax on tampons and pads. These products are expensive – Paying an additional 5.75% really makes an impact. Given that women in DC are already making 86 cents on every mans dollar, this added penalty really is the difference between food on the table or meeting their basic needs.
Furthermore, Women and girls menstruate for 4-7 days each month, 12 times a year - sometimes more - with an average of 450 cycles in a lifetime. During this time women and girls must invest in menstrual supplies to have the freedom to work, go to school, participate in sports, engage in social activities, and pursue their dreams. Without these products, women and girls are frozen- imprisoned by the biology of their own bodies. This is why they are essential.
Even though menstrual products are items to serve a basic need of women, our clients do not have access, nor can they afford them - with the average box costing $10. Our clients are women suffering from poverty and homelessness, domestic violence survivors, single mothers providing for their family. They find themselves living in unstable home environments – where basic survival needs are priority, as well as transitional housing where they’re working towards thriving in a more independent environment.
BRAWS also serves homeless and impoverished girls who do not have freedom or confidence and are extremely limited during their monthly menstrual cycle. In fact, girls right here in DC choose to miss multiple days of school during their period, instead of suffering the embarrassment of not being protected and clean. BRAWS provides pads and tampons to girls - we’re enabling girls to receive an uninterrupted education and help remove this anxiety from their everyday lives. But the need is great and we can’t do it alone.
As you can see, it is incredibly important to our organization—and this community—that we increase access to and the affordability of feminine hygiene products. We urge you to ensure that funding for DC Law 21-201 is included in the 2018 budget, so that the tax on feminine hygiene products may truly be repealed. Thank you for the opportunity to speak with you today.
May, 2017 Request from BRAWS to Fund the Tampon Tax Repeal Hello Councilmember Bonds, Our names are Tracey G. Jackson and Denisha Jones and we are student attorneys in the Legislation Clinic at the University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law (UDC-DCSL). On behalf of our client, BRAWS (Bringing Resources to Aid Women’s Shelters), we want to commend you for your work and efforts for women’s equality. In continuation of this work, we urge you to help increase access to feminine hygiene products in DC by securing appropriations for the law you authored and championed, the Feminine Hygiene and Diapers Sales Tax Exemption Amendment Act of 2016.
As you know, DC Law 21-201 must be funded to realize the desired repeal of the “tampon tax.” We were disappointed to see that the Mayor’s budget for Fiscal Year 2018 did not include funding for this crucial provision for women and girls in the District. Our colleagues in the Legislation Clinic were honored to meet you and testify before the Committee on Finance and Revenue on behalf of BRAWS in support of your bill last fall. As you may recall, BRAWS supports women and girls in the Greater DC area by providing feminine hygiene products as well as new bras and underwear to shelters. In the course of serving approximately 2,000 individuals, BRAWS has seen firsthand how sorely needed pads and tampons are in shelters. If the tax remains in place, it will only further impede women and girls’ access to these medically necessary items.
With the Council’s review of the budget underway, we ask that you help ensure that funding is included for this important step toward menstrual equity. We would welcome opportunities to advocate for funding the law, including by providing testimony for the Committee on Finance & Revenue’s Budget Oversight Hearing or reaching out to other Councilmembers who share the same values. We understand this is a hectic time, but please let us know if you or a member of your staff is able to meet and discuss how we can aid in the process. If a meeting is not possible, we would sincerely appreciate any direction or information you might be able to provide by email.
In closing, we appreciate all you do for DC residents and your continued leadership in helping women and girls in our community access necessary feminine hygiene products. We look forward to your response.
Tracey G. Jackson, Ph.D. Denisha Jones, Ph.D. Student Attorney Student Attorney Legislation Clinic Legislation Clinic University of the District of Columbia University of the District of Columbia David A. Clarke School of Law David A. Clarke School of Law
May 25, 2017-Congresswoman Grace Meng Introduces Legislation to Require Ingredient Labeling for Feminine Hygiene Products- To read more click here. Our own Holly Seibold was part of the panel discussion!
May 24th 10 am-We were very glad to have participated in Congresswoman Grace Meng's panel discussion on, "The Case for #MenstrualEquity: How Policies Surrounding Menstruation Affect Outcomes for Women" in the Rayburn House Office Building, House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee Room- it was certainly an empowering morning! #MenstruationMatters
Politics & Pads: Providing Dignity to Women and Girls in Virginia On May 8th, BRAWS was honored to welcome Lieutenant Governor Ralph Northam, Candidate for Governor, and Delegate Jennifer B. Boysko, Sponsor of the Dignity Act - the 2017 bill to provide tax free purchases on basic necessities, for an evening of discussion at Caboose Brewing Co, 520 Mill St NE, Vienna, VA. Special thanks to Delegate Mark Keam for joining us, Laura Goyer Photography for the amazing photos and Caboose Brewing for their hospitality! It was a great evening raising awareness and collecting donations for BRAWS!
Town Hall Statement (4/3/17): Senator Peterson and Delegate Keam- My name is Holly Seibold and I am the founder of BRAWS. We supply homeless women in shelters and homeless girls in schools with undergarments and feminine hygiene products. I would like to address feminine hygiene products in particular- such as pads and tampons. Women and girls menstruate for 4-7 days each month. During this time women and girls need menstrual supplies to have the freedom to work, go to school, participate in sports, engage in social activities, and pursue their dreams. Without these products, women and girls are frozen- inprisoned by the biology of their own bodies. Unfortunately government legislation, mostly designed by male representatives, ignores the basic needs of women. Federal programs such as SNAP, WIC and Medicaid (even though the FDA categorizes these items as medical devices) does not include these items when assisting women. Shelters, prisons, public government buildings and schools are not allocated money to purchase these items for women and girls. Tampons and pads are taxed heavily- 6% in stores Virginia- and these items are already expensive with an average box costing about $10. The additional tax really makes a tough economic impact- especially for low income women making just enough money to exist above poverty level. Given that women are already making 80 cents on every mans dollar, this added penalty really is the difference between food on the table or meeting feminine hygiene needs. The women and girls I am describing are not a population of residents in another town far away. These individuals are right here in Vienna and all over Fairfax county. They are victims of domestic violence, single moms, women who lost their jobs suddenly and gave bills to pay. Girls in your very own district are missing school each month because they do not have access to menstrual supplies. We need policy immediately that addresses the basic needs of women. We need to show our support and recognize that this is an equity issue, that hurts our ENTIRE community.
BRAWS was featured on ABC 7 WJLA News discussing VIrginia's upcoming bill, The Dignity Act, that will exempt feminine hygiene products from sales tax. Check it out HERE.
Please check out the piece in the Connection Newspaper HERE.
Click HERE for the link to Delegate Jennifer Boysko's proposed bill, The Dignity Act.
Congresswoman Grace Meng recently introduced the Menstrual Equity Bill. We encourage you to contact your representative today and ask him/her to support this bill! http://www.marieclaire.com/politics/features/a25464/congresswoman-grace-meng-menstrual-equity-bill/
Founder and Executive Director, Holly Seibold, along with two UDC legislative clinic lawyers representing BRAWS recently testified at the DC Council's hearing to repeal the "tampon tax." You can watch the oral testimony at the 1:35 mark and read the entire written testimony below. We are hoping in a few months, women will be able to purchase all feminine hygiene products in DC stores without incurring the extra burden of a 5.75% sales tax.