Among many Americans, especially lower-income women and families, hopes are high for the economic stimulus and recovery package, which now feels long-anticipated in the run-up to President Obama and the 111th Congress’ transition to power.
In the swirl of rumors and speculation that bind new expectations for modern economic stimulation with social recovery reminiscent of FDR’s New Deal, many advocates for women and families have been weighing in heavily and hoping to affect the economic policies that are currently being considered in Washington.
This week, predictions were rampant in the mainstream political discourse about what the outcomes of the House debate on the economy would look like, and whether or not the resulting legislation would make the everyday needs of women visible again.
Today, the US House of Representatives passed an economic stimulus and recovery package, which carries with it a total cost of $819 billion dollars. Although the recovery package now makes its way to the Senate, critics of the package have mounted strong opposition, and the provisions currently contained in the bill, which relate mostly to new and increased spending, are likely to be modified in the Senate.
As the current package stands however, it creates new opportunities within the areas of employment, social services, healthcare, education, and workforce development for middle and lower-income women and families to better navigate the current economic crisis and stagnant job market. The package expands benefits and eligibility for unemployment insurance programs, and increases aid to states in order to help government agencies modernize their unemployment rules and cover more people in need on the state level.
These changes to unemployment will address the current inequities in the unemployment insurance system, which does not take into account the needs of individuals who work part-time, particularly women, in order to care for family members and children.
The package also expands the Medicaid program, and dedicates new funding which will help meet the needs of individuals and families who have lost their jobs, those who experience gaps in coverage, and those who cannot afford healthcare in the private market. While preserving access to healthcare for individuals currently covered under the program, the package also creates an increased two-year funding stream to states, in order to allow state Medicaid programs to provide more comprehensive services to recipients, many of whom are the most vulnerable in our society.
Increased funding is also expected for family planning clinics that serve lower income women.
While the future of the economic stimulus and recovery package is still uncertain, and the political and ideological battle in the Congress will continue to be fought over the spending and tightening of funds, the future of many women and families, and the fabric of many communities, will be shaped and determined by the economic policies that emerge from this historic debate.
Will women and families become visible again and get a “new deal” with the provisions contained in this legislation? Check back with Making Social Change a Reality as we find out more…
Written by Emily J. Kronenberger, Policy Analyst at the Alliance for the Betterment of Citizens with Disabilities and founder of New Wave Grrrl, a health information and resource sharing blog for women. Emily is a volunteer blogger with the Literacy ‘n’ Poverty Project, serves on the Board of Trustees at the Alice Paul Institute and volunteers as the Director of Policy Initiatives at the Younger Women’s Task Force of New Jersey.