December 01, 2008

By Pat Reuss, Policy Analyst for NOW

As national leaders hurry to address the current economic crisis and “rescue” irresponsible banks, insurance and mortgage companies, there has been little recognition that this economic downturn is likely to have a particularly devastating impact on poor families, mostly women and children.

The rising unemployment could push between 7 and 10 million workers into poverty according to a report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities released November 24, 2008. In 2007, 12.5% of the population, or over 37 million people, lived below the poverty line and the Center warns that number could increase to up to 47 million.

NOW endorses the Center’s recommendations for a temporary increase in food stamp benefits, additional rental assistance through the housing voucher program, expanded and improved TANF contingency fund, expanded and extended unemployment benefits, and significant fiscal relief to states. But this list is incomplete.

For the women and children who make up the human component of our nation’s crumbling infrastructure, policies will also have to address the need for massive subsidized childcare as parents attempt to cobble together several jobs at odd hours. Any program to help the unemployed get jobs must recognize that women face wage discrimination and a wage gap that short circuits their ability to rise out of poverty at any significant rate. And as working families go in and out of the workforce and in and out of coverage for health care, there needs to be a seamless bridge of health insurance for these millions of workers and their children. Our tax dollars should go to help them from “failing” as surely as it goes to Citicorp or General Motors.