ECONOMIC RECOVERY ACT FORUM: Child Care and Green Jobs Key to Women’s Lasting Economic Security

By Sara K. Gould*

Linda Basch: How has ARRA impacted our economy from a local, community, or individual/family perspective?

Sara Gould: ARRA has provided a crucial injection of support to states during the worst of our nation’s current economic crisis. Take child care, for example: several states have used the funding to prevent budget cuts; some have reduced waiting lists for subsidized child care; and others have worked to improve the quality of child-care delivery.

That said, a lack of transparency and accountability has prevented grassroots organizations from accessing ARRA funding and assessing the extent to which it has alleviated economic insecurity in their communities. States have had considerable leeway in choosing which funds to accept and which reforms to implement; as a result, billions of dollars have yet to reach those most in need, especially low-income people, people of color and women.

Moving forward, we can do better. In addition to improving transparency and accountability, there should be a greater role for grassroots organizations who know best how to stabilize local communities. We should also bolster support for grassroots policy advocacy. It’s not enough to keep existing programs afloat; we need to continue to transform policies to make them work better for more people, well into the future.

Low-income families -- who often live in economic crisis even when the larger economy is doing better -- don’t just need access to affordable, quality child care now, they will always need it. In fact, they suffer tremendously from our inability as a nation to transform child-care access from an individual problem to a collective one that must be addressed through public policy.

Linda Basch: What additional measures are needed to ensure a more inclusive and vigorous recovery that leads to sustainable growth?

Sarah Gould: Our next opportunity to address the priorities and solutions of those who always bear the brunt of economic crisis -- low-income people, people of color, and women, especially women who head households -- is through a comprehensive, sufficiently financed, jobs bill. Thus far, with price tags of $85 billion and $154 billion respectively, the Senate and House bills have a long way to go.

As one example, the Ms. Foundation for Women, together with our grantees, has been advocating, first in the allocation of ARRA funds, and now in the creation of a jobs bill, for equitable access to green jobs for women. Green jobs -- like those in construction -- are often more likely than other sectors to offer a living wage, benefits and, because this is a new and rapidly expanding field, long-term economic security. As such, there must be a deliberate effort to ensure that women -- who currently represent less than 3 percent of workers in the building trades, and nearly 70 percent of low-wage workers nationwide -- have access to training and placement in quality, green jobs. And this must not be a token effort; women should be thoroughly incorporated into this evolving industry so that they and generations to come will be well-positioned to ensure lasting economic security -- for themselves, their families and communities, and our country.

*Sara K. Gould, a leading expert on women’s economic security, is President and CEO of the Ms. Foundation for Women. The Ms. Foundation builds women’s collective power to address the root causes of injustice and ignite policy and culture change on behalf of women, families and communities throughout the U.S.

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