One state lawmaker introduced legislation that would provide Californians a financial incentive to donate blood shortly after the American Red Cross declared the nation's first blood emergency in history.
Assemblymember Freddie Rodriguez introduced Assembly Bill 1709 on Wednesday, which would provide a $500 net tax credit for those who donate blood four or more times in a calendar year. According to a news release from Rodriguez’s office, the bill would also encourage California’s Office of Emergency Services to partner with the private sector and offer other incentives to help relieve the crisis.
“It is alarming that California has reached crisis level in its blood supply, a position no one in an emergency should have to face,” Rodriguez said in the release. “The solution is simple; those who can donate blood, should. The impact of a blood donation right now is immense, and Californians can do something positive for our health care workers and those who are sick or injured.”
The bill comes after the American Red Cross declared its first-ever nationwide blood crisis in early January. The organization said they now face the worst blood shortage in over a decade.
Rodriguez announced his solidarity with a group of lawmakers, including Sen. Alex Padilla, who has called on the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to eliminate its policy that bars gay and bisexual men from donating blood unless they are abstinent for three months. He noted that the American Red Cross and dozens of LGBTQ+ organizations are on board to end its donor eligibility restrictions based on sexual orientation.
The American Red Cross supplies roughly 40 percent of the nation's blood supply and recently said it has only met one-quarter of the need. Several factors contribute to the shortage, including canceled donation drives and staffing limitations.
According to a statement released by the American Red Cross, it has experienced a 10 percent decline in the number of people donating blood since the beginning of the pandemic. It continues to experience various pandemic-driven issues, including ongoing blood drive cancellations and staffing limitations.
January marks National Blood Donor Month, where blood donation awareness is spread in a time where seasonal colds and the flu are on the rise, and dropping donations even further. According to the statement, the American Red Cross has experienced low donor turnout ever since the delta variant began spreading in August, and that trend continues as the Omicron variant takes over.
“Every community in America needs blood daily. At a time when many businesses and organizations across the country are experiencing pandemic challenges – the Red Cross is no different. And while we are all learning how to live in this new environment, how we spend our time, where we work, how we give back, how we make a difference in the lives of others – donating blood must continue to be part of it,” said Dr. Pampee Young, chief medical officer of the Red Cross.
The American Red Cross urges individuals to donate blood to combat this shortage. Those who would like to learn more about blood donations, eligibility, and appointments can visit RedCrossBlood.org and sandiegobloodbank.org. Those who prefer to call can dial 1-800-RED-CROSS or reach the San Diego Blood Bank at (619) 400-8251.