Washington lawmakers consider $80 diaper stipend for families in need

The COVID-19 pandemic exposed and exacerbated how many families in our region had trouble making ends meet.

Food banks have stepped up to fill in the gap, but many parents continue struggling to meet the sanitary needs of their youngest kids. That’s where diaper banks have become a lifeline for many parents. Lawmakers in Olympia are considering a bill to help parents afford some of their most basic needs.

At The Market east of Bonney Lake, families know judgment won’t be in the bag.

"It puts a little bit more money in their pockets," said food bank volunteer Elizabeth Carter.

Saving families’ money includes offering clients baby basics, including expensive formulas for kids with sensitive digestive systems.

Situated next to the food bank drive-thru, the Basically Needed barn was volunteer Carter’s baby. She helps make sure families get help where they truly need it without prohibitively expensive burdens.

"A box of size 1 in Huggies is about $50," she said.

The Market is part of the Help Me Grow network which supports diaper banks across the South Sound. Plus, lawmakers in Olympia could soon approve a bill that helps families already receiving federal or state assistance add another $80 each month to help pay for diapers. The legislation pulls $2.8 million from the state’s general fund to pay for the program.

The food bank’s executive director Stacey Crnich says 1 in 3 Pierce County families with kids struggle to meet their needs.

"No family wants to come through a drive-thru and tell a perfect stranger they can’t take care of their kids," she said.

Carter says The Market also hands out other basics like hygiene packs and bottle basics in addition to the food. For those who do not or cannot travel to The Market, Carter says she and other volunteers deliver to their client’s homes.

"I just think if I can supply these things then they might be able to buy that birthday cake for their kids," said Carter.

The diaper dollars are part of the 2022-23 state budget and still needs Governor Jay Inslee’s signature. The Market serves 12-hundred families every week instead of the 150 it once did, said Crnich.

Food bank volunteers hand out more than just food, they offer dignity in times of despair. As long as volunteers like Carter continues giving her time and energy to help needy families, Crnich believes the East Pierce County community is in good hands.

"She’s mothering our entire community from that tiny barn," she said.