Colorado students who attend lower-income schools may receive free access to tampons and other menstrual products if a Democrat-backed bill makes it through the legislature.

SB21-255 is similar to a bill introduced last year that fell by the wayside because of COVID-19. This year, Democratic sponsors hope to allocate $100,000 for the program, which is twice the amount as before.

The bill passed the Senate Education Committee on Thursday by an 4-2 vote and is headed to the Senate Appropriations Committee.

Students first approached Arvada Democratic Rep. Brianna Titone at the end of 2019 about the issue of “period poverty.” Julia Trujillo, a former Arvada West High School student, had formed a club there that raised money for a dispenser for menstrual products and to pay for a one-year supply.

But it was an arduous process, Trujillo said, and she wanted to make sure all students have access to a basic necessity. She added it’s a reflection of the way society views periods, even though half of the population needs menstrual products.

Although some schools in the state provide these products already for free, students often have to go and request them from the nurse’s office, Titone said. And it’s not an option in every school.

If the bill passes, any Title I school in Colorado (that is, it has 50% or more of students who are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunch) would be able to apply for grant funding from the Colorado Department of Education. The money would go to distributing tampons, pads and pantiliners regardless of gender identity, or for installation and maintenance of easily accessible machines.

Advocates say it will benefit school attendance, especially because some students who cannot afford these products may stay home when they have their periods or use replacement products that are not as hygienic.

“It’s healthier to have proper products and not have to resort to makeshift alternatives, which can be harmful,” Titone said. “But it’s really just telling the students, ‘we care about you. This shouldn’t be something that stigmatizes you. And we want you to feel comfortable here in school.’”

Sen. Faith Winter, a Westminster Democrat who is a co-sponsor of the bill, also said it’s important to discuss an issue that makes people uncomfortable but shouldn’t be any different than talking about deodorant or toothbrushes.