ECONOMIC STIMULUS FORUM: A Great Start-- But Low-Income Women and Families Need Economic Security
February 25, 2009 posted by admin From Legal Momentum’s perspective, the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act will do a great deal of good for women and families in the crisis. While we applaud a number of provisions in the bill, we are very concerned that yet more must be done to guarantee that women, and low-income women in particular, have access to good jobs on the one hand, and on the other, that our national safety net is strong enough to protect those who find themselves out of work and out of resources. In terms of jobs, women can take some comfort in ARRA’s provisions to shore up jobs in the traditionally women-dominated fields of health care, child care and education. However, many of the women employed in these industries are barely scraping by in low-wage jobs as home health care and child care providers. While these jobs offer a paycheck, they do not translate into economic security. Like the millions of other women who comprise the majority of the nation’s low-wage workforce, these women need access to jobs that will raise them out of poverty and offer a path to stability and prosperity.
Through ARRA, approximately $150 billion in federal funding is pouring into the traditionally male-dominated fields of infrastructure, construction, and green energy projects. Additional funding should be set aside to train women and girls for these opportunities, and state and federal agencies should call upon contractors to adopt voluntary goals of 25 percent women’s participation in tax-payer funded projects. Construction remains the only field where women, despite their relatively small numbers, have achieved almost perfect wage parity with their colleagues. At least in the near-term, however, we must recognize that there are simply not enough jobs to go around and strengthen our social safety net programs to account for that reality. While ARRA extended unemployment insurance and increased funding for nutritional assistance, low-income families who are surviving on the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) – 90 percent of which are headed by women—remain at serious risk. With no jobs in sight, many are in danger of falling off the assistance rolls simply because they have reached the life-time limit for assistance. The federal government should suspend the TANF time limits for the duration of the crisis, and states should follow suit; likewise funding should be directed towards training, education, and child care for TANF recipients so that they are best equipped to get and maintain jobs when they become available. ARRA’s provisions for unemployment, health care, and food assistance will undoubtedly help women, children and men through the crisis. However, for the nation’s most vulnerable population to have a fighting chance, future legislation must see that women have access to jobs that pay, and when those jobs aren’t available, that there is a reinforced social safety net in place that catches families who are at the end of their alternatives. --Irasema Garza, President, Legal Momentum The post is part of a forum. LINKS: Debra Ness: The Bitter with the Sweet Heather Boushey: Let's Get People Back to Work! Round-Up