March 2, 2009 posted by admin 

Photo Cred: Matt Collins via Society and PoliticsIt is undeniable that we are facing tough economic times.  In January, the unemployment rate registered 7.6% with 11.6 million people lacking jobs.  An additional 7.8 million people are deemed underemployed, that is, working part-time because they cannot find full-time jobs.  And prospects are dimming. According to the Economic Policy Institute , finding a job today is twice as hard as it was when the recession started a year ago.  With the passage of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act [ARRA], however, there is some room for hope. Many of our network members are doing excellent work on the stimulus plan.  The Ms. Foundation held a conference call to discuss the legislative package and how to secure more jobs for women.  The National Women’s Law Center is analyzing the stimulus process and how it affects women and families. Check out their latest breakdown.   In examining the bill, we were particularly struck with provisions regarding small businesses, healthcare, education and, especially, job creation.  Naturally, we had some questions, for example, what other areas are critical for stimulating growth and supporting women and girls, their families and communities? To find the answers, we turned to our experts:

Irasema Garza, President of Legal Momentum said that while the stimulus is a great start more must be done to guarantee economic security for low-income women and families.  Says Garza,

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.

Debra Ness, President of the National Partnership for Women and Families also found that with the stimulus bill came “the bitter with the sweet.” While Debra and the National Partnership celebrate the expansion of unemployment benefits, increased funding for child care, and a provision for health information technology, they were more concerned about what didn’t make it into the bill:

We wanted assurances that the “shovel-ready jobs” this package creates will give women opportunities, and provide a minimum standard of paid sick days that workers could use to recover from illness or care for a sick child.  We didn’t get that. Similarly, the exclusion of a provision to let states expand eligibility for Medicaid family planning services for low-income families was a bitter pill, especially for those of us who hoped we’d seen the end of the days when women’s health issues were marginalized. 

Finally, Heather Boushey, Senior Economist at the Center for American Progress gave a straightforward analysis: “The best thing we can do for women and their families is to get people back to work.”  Considering the monumental job losses we are witnessing, Boushey believes the ARRA was a “down payment on creating jobs in the months to come and laying the foundation for long-term economic growth.”  Boushey recognizes, however, that the stimulus bill will not be enough and posits that work-life balance polices are the long-term investment strategy our economy needs. NCRW couldn’t agree more.  The stimulus bill is a great step forward despite some of its limitations.  We recognize, however, that this is only the first step and know there will be many opportunities in the near future to make our voices heard and to ensure that the needs of women, their families and communities are included in other legislation.  What are your thoughts on the stimulus bill and the next steps needed to repair our economy?  Give us your comments.

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