New Report Shows Safety Net Failing America’s Women, Workers and Families

Member Organization: 
Legal Momentum

Leading poverty experts propose bold plan to rescue families and repair nation’s emergency measures

Washington, DC (December 7, 2009) -Eleven of the nation’s leading experts on poverty have proposed a $400 billion emergency relief plan to create and save jobs for millions of Americans while also offering adequate resources to vital safety net programs. The national study, Battered by the Storm: How Safety Net is Failing Americans and How to Fix It, concludes that the economic crisis is still on the rise for millions of Americans, while at the same time the social safety net is failing to support many of them. It offers one of the boldest, most comprehensive plans to combat poverty and unemployment — beginning now.

“Our last lines of defense against family poverty are failing, completely. In order to guarantee a real economic recovery, Congress must act swiftly to invest in the most valuable resource we have in America — its families and its future,” said Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum, the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund.
 
The study’s authors include: Peter Edelman, Georgetown University law professor; Barbara Ehrenreich, author of Nickel and Dimed; John Cavanagh, author of 12 books on the economy; Deepak Bhargava, a leader on grassroots community organizing for social change; and Timothy Casey, senior staff attorney at Legal Momentum. Battered by the Storm was produced jointly by the Institute for Policy Studies, the Center for Community Change, Jobs with Justice, and Legal Momentum

"To end the joblessness epidemic in this country, we need a massive jolt of public jobs, of aid to states and cities, and of finance for vital safety net programs," says John Cavanagh, Director of the Washington-based
Institute for Policy Studies.
 
Among the study’s key findings:
  • Levels of long-term unemployment, underemployment and discouraged workers are reaching historic levels;
  • The percentage of poor children receiving temporary assistance under TANF (the main federal “welfare” program) has fallen from 62% in 1995 to 22% in 2008;
  • TANF benefits are far from sufficient to support the families that depend on them: 2008 assistance payments averaged only 29% of the money needed to bring families up to the official poverty line;
  • Even while labor force participation of mothers has increased, the supply of affordable child care has lagged behind, creating a significant barrier to employment for many, especially single mothers; and
  • Roughly 57% of unemployed people are receiving unemployment compensation; for those receiving benefits, amounts are less than half of wages, and many are losing work-related health benefits.
The social safety net has eroded over the past 30 years, failing millions of Americans. Short-term fixes such as the Recovery Act are rescuing only a small percentage of those who need help. "Our neighborhoods are being ravaged by collapsing incomes, the effects of which can be seen in the continuing loss of homes, rising hunger, and longer lines at food banks,” said Deepak Bhargava, executive director, the Center for Community Change. “A public jobs program can get people working while making us more competitive and build skills that will have a lasting impact in our communities.”
 
The study’s authors recommend an immediate, bold, comprehensive emergency relief package, including:
  • $40 billion public jobs program to create one million new jobs;
  • $270 billion to cover state and local deficits, which could sustain vital funding for critical safety net programs and could save the jobs of millions of workers;
  • Just over $100 billion for the expansion of programs that provide income or income equivalents to help people weather the storm: Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), unemployment insurance, and food stamps; and
  • New policies to address the housing foreclosure crisis.
The authors also recommend a longer-term strategy to end the scourge of poverty in our nation and to help all people achieve a living income, without regard to race, religion or gender.
 
 
Founded in 1970, Legal Momentum the Women’s Legal Defense and Education Fund, is dedicated to advancing the rights and personal and economic security of all women and girls.

 

 

For more than four decades, the Institute for Policy Studies has transformed ideas into action for peace, justice, and the environment. It is a progressive multi-issue think tank. www.ips-dc.org