Column: Lorena Gonzalez’s long, successful fight to address ‘diaper need’

Friday, May 10, 2019

By MICHAEL SMOLENS 

Lorena Gonzalez has been trying to make diapers more affordable for almost as long as she has been in the California Legislature.

In 2014, the year after the San Diego Democrat was elected to the Assembly, she launched her first effort, which would have provided a subsidy to help poor families buy diapers. The idea of the state financing diapers would take some getting used to for a lot of people. Gonzalez headed down a rocky road of resistance and had to change her approach and scale back her early ambitions.

Despite the challenges, Gonzalez has pushed through diaper reimbursements of up to $30 a month for some participants in the state’s welfare-to-work program known as CalWORKs, won funding for “diaper banks” across the state and this week gained Gov. Gavin Newsom’s support for her proposal to do away with the state sales tax on diapers.

It certainly hasn’t hurt the cause that her political influence grew along the way and she became chair of the powerful Assembly Appropriations Committee.

Gonzalez has helped to make the term “diaper need” increasingly familiar. The effects of not being able to afford diapers are many, but to her, it all comes down to one thing.

“You cannot go to work if you don’t have diapers,” she said.

Child care operators generally require parents to provide diapers to care for babies.

Helping people gain access to jobs and improving conditions of employment are at the core of Gonzalez’s legislative agenda. A former labor leader, Gonzalez has pursued hotly contested legislation to expand paid leave, increase worker protections and require companies to make independent contractors employees -- which would give the workers certain rights and benefits.

“To me, they’re all connected to this idea that we value work,” Gonzalez said.