The policy fields are "flooded" with hundreds of bills being introduced at the state and national levels every day. Even for professional advocacy organizations like ours, it's incredibly difficult to keep track and make sense of all of them. We wanted to share just a few of the bills that have been introduced at the federal level directed at improving the health, safety and economic security of women in our country.
H.R. 1516: Healthy Families Act: requires certain employers, who employ 15 or more employees for each working day during 20 or more workweeks a year, to permit each employee to earn at least 1 hour of paid sick time for every 30 hours worked.
H.R. 315 Improving Access to Maternity Care Act: requires the Health Resources and Services Administration (HRSA) to collect data to better place maternity health care professionals in existing primary care health professional shortage areas.
H.R. 972: Menstrual Equality for All Act: includes five provisions to help different populations of women and girls better access menstrual hygiene items.
H.R.1143: Hygiene Assistance for Families of Infants and Toddlers Act: would address diaper need in the United States by creating a demonstration program for distributing diapers to eligible families. States will have flexibility in developing and implementing their program. These demonstrations will reveal the best ways to help eligible families access diapers for their young children.
H.R.459: Trafficking Survivors Relief Act: takes critical steps to eliminate the barriers that criminal arrests and convictions create for trafficking survivors. The Act also puts in place a comprehensive system to ensure that trafficking survivors – both sex and labor, adults and children – are able to clear their federal criminal records so that they can leave their trafficking experience behind them.
H.R. 909: The Pet and Women Safety (PAWS) Act: will help bridge the gap between the tremendous need for services for domestic violence survivors with pets and the ability of agencies to meet those needs.
H.R.1276: Closing the Meal Gap Act: increases the minimum SNAP benefit and requires benefits to be calculated using a low-cost food plan. The Department of Agriculture (USDA) must determine the requirements for the low-cost food plan, which is the diet required to feed a family of four.
H.R. 1322 Women's Health Protection Act: would protect a woman's right to safe and legal abortion by stopping restrictive regulations and laws intended to curtail reproductive health services for women.
S.689 - Invest in Women's Health Act of 2017: legislation to provide women with more preventive and life-saving cancer screenings at safety net clinics like Planned Parenthood. This bill would help reduce health disparities by placing an emphasis on populations most at risk, including low-income women and women of color.
If any of these bills appeal to you and you'd like your Congressional representative and Senators, be sure speak out and contact them asking them to support any of all of the legislative proposals.
Our partners at the Wisconsin Council on Children & Families has done a wonderful job analyzing, tracking and organizing the information to better understand the current proposal and has put together these helpful summaries:
We hope once you've had a chance to learn what changes are included in the budget, that you'll choose to attend one of these upcoming State Budget Hearings in communities across the state:
Based on our previous post, you already know that the GOP plan to replace the ACA is a disaster for women and families. Between preventing women from using Medicaid coverage at Planned Parenthood and prohibiting private marketplaces from covering abortion, women stand to lose the most with the American Health Care Act.
But with a House vote scheduled today and amendments being made by the moment, here are the most important new things for you to be aware of as you advocate again the ACA repeal and the GOP plan:
Make a call now to your Congressional Representative and tell them to vote NO on the AHCA!
Following the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) score which predicted it would cause more than 24 million Americans to lose health coverage over the next decade, WAWH and other women’s health advocacy groups from around the country are urging Congressional leaders to reject the proposed American Health Care Act.
Women live in poverty at higher rates than men, earn less in full-time jobs and are less likely to have employer-sponsored insurance in their own names, the groups noted. This is especially true for women of color. For women, the Affordable Care Act (ACA) subsidies for purchase of private insurance and the expansion of Medicaid coverage have provided not only health benefits, but also much greater financial independence and stability.
By contrast, the repeal bill would:
The bill uses these deep cuts to the health care of vulnerable women and their families in order to fund tax cuts for the very wealthy, the women’s groups said. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the bill provides an average $7 million tax cut to each of the 400 richest households in America.
We strongly urge the House to reject this and any other bill that would roll back the coverage gains made by women under the ACA.
During WAWH’s 8th Annual Wisconsin Women’s Health Advocacy Summit, state Rep. Sondy Pope and state Sen. Janis Ringhand unveiled the "Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act." WAWH was proud to work with the bill authors and many different advocacy organizations during this exciting event that provided a great window into policy advocacy in action for our Summit participants.
WAWH has worked closely with our close ally, 9to5 Wisconsin, on promoting state paid family and medical leave legislation the past two years. We were honored to be joined by many other great allies to support paid leave, including End Domestic Abuse Wisconsin, the Wisconsin Coalition Against Sexual Assault, Planned Parenthood Advocates of Wisconsin, the YWCA Madison, Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice, and the Interfaith Coalition for Worker Justice of South Central Wisconsin.
Paid leave has become a prominent economic justice issue that has received much attention recently because it is widely viewed as an area where the United States is woefully behind the rest of the world -- so much so that both major presidential candidates supported some type of paid leave policies during the 2016 campaign. Sadly, the U.S. is one of only three countries that does not guarantee workers any form of paid leave.
The Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act is modeled on several successful paid family and medical leave programs that have been implemented in other states, including California, New Jersey, Rhode Island, New York, and Washington, D.C. These models include creating a public insurance program that provides workers with paid family or medical leave in case they need to take time off work because of their own serious health condition, to care for a sick family member, or to care for a newborn baby.
Nationally, only 12 percent of workers have paid family leave through their employers and fewer than 40 percent have personal medical leave through an employer-provided short-term disability program. As a result, workers who take needed time off often face a significant loss of income.
This burden falls disproportionately on women workers, who make up nearly half of the workforce but are still far more likely than men to care for children or other family members who are sick. Even though both the federal and Wisconsin Family Medical Leave Acts (FMLA's) do provide important protections to some workers, a significant portion of the workforce is not eligible for these protections and both FMLA's only provide for unpaid time off, which is not financially possible for many employees.
Because of these shortcomings of the state and federal FMLA's, we need the Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act to ensure that employees can take the time off they need to care for themselves and their families.
If you'd like to learn more about paid family and medical leave, visit WAWH's Policy Prescription page on economic security issues (you'll have to scroll down the page a bit to get to paid leave).
If you would like to speak out in favor of the Wisconsin Paid Family and Medical Leave Act, you can click here to contact your state legislators to urge them to sponsor the bill or click here to submit a supportive letter to the editor to your local newspaper.
Once the legislation is introduced, we will create a more detailed page on our website "Policy Watch" page to provide more background information regarding the status of the bill along with other informational materials.
It’s a fact of life that women in the U.S. are more vulnerable than men when it comes to financial insecurity. You’ve likely heard statistics that demonstrate how women are paid less for the same work, promoted less often in the same positions and ultimately retire with less in savings.
What you don’t hear often enough is how financial literacy—knowing how to manage your own money and understanding larger financial systems—is instrumental in determining if and when women will change this reality.
Just as physical fitness builds your strength and confidence, financial fitness gives you the smarts to make the most of your earnings and the self-reliance to avoid bad relationships and detrimental money habits. Your monetary needs and circumstances, not unlike your physical needs, also change as you age. Below is a roadmap for women to navigate a lifespan of financial health.
CASH & CONTROL:
Yes, the wage gap has significantly narrowed since the 1970s. But make no mistake about it: Women still earn an average of 20 percent less than men in the same positions. When young women enter the workforce aware of the factors that contribute to this disparity, they can head them off from the start.
1) Know what you’re worth and ask for it
When starting out, be acutely aware that younger women earn closer to 90 percent of the salaries of their male counterparts. It’s only after women turn 35 that their comparative earnings begin to fall, in part because men are more likely to find themselves in leadership roles. When starting out, seek out early promotions and other opportunities to keep you climbing at a swift pace. Salary negotiation workshops can help women gain the essential skills to advocate for themselves that they may conventionally lack. And career-specific leadership and professional organizations will provide you with a lifetime of support and resources. Participating in work-related workshops and conferences can be an investment in your long-term earning potential.
2) Beware the “pink tax”
Recent research by The New York City Department of Consumer Affairs revealed what many of us have sensed all along; products marketed specifically to women are oftentimes more expensive than similar products for men. Known as the “pink tax,” the 8 to 13 percent mark-up on things such as toiletries and clothing would strain anyone’s salary. Take responsibility for yourself when it comes to spending wisely and choose products that are priced fairly.
3) Budget from the beginning
Budgeting is essential to financial health. Young professionals learn quickly that any salary—no matter what its size—can feel like not enough. Just like any habit, however, living paycheck-to-paycheck is a behavior you can change. Now is the time to learn how to avoid debt and start a savings plan. SafetyNet™ offers a free Budgeting 101 ebook that provides simple explanations and a free budgeting Excel spreadsheet to ensure you will enjoy the benefits of your salary today and tomorrow.
MONEY & MARRIAGE:
Whether or not you choose to have children or even make your union official, entering into a long-term relationship requires that you integrate your finances in some way. But shared financial values don’t automatically follow, which can strain relationships. New research from Experian warns that too many couples commit to one another without a basic understanding of the other’s financial reality—and pay for that ignorance in the long run with arguments and even divorce.
4) Choose love, not security
Especially concerning is the fact that a significant proportion of women who return to abusive relationships cite their inability to deal with their finances as a major contributing factor. Often the abuser has complete control over the family finances, and women feel unable to take care of themselves or their children.
Financially independent women are able to make better decisions about their partners. They enjoy freedom to search out healthier and happier relationships or choose to be single while remaining financially stable.
5) Speak up, speak often
Communication is key to creating harmony between couples and their cash. The downloadable workbook Equal from the Start prompts couples to talk about money before they move in together. And the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau offers good conversation starters for couples looking to buy a home.
6) Know the cost of caregiving
As professionals join the Sandwich Generation, women are more likely than men to adopt caregiving roles, whether for children or parents or both. As a result, women spend comparatively more time out of the workforce. Yet, even after parents return to work, working fathers continue to earn more than working mothers. That’s in part because employers perceive mothers as less committed to their work and fathers eager to serve as the family’s breadwinner. If you envision yourself as a caregiver, you will need to compensate for lost wages. Factor this into your savings plan from the start.
FINANCES & YOUR FUTURE:
Financial insecurity is stressful at any age, but at the end of your life it can be devastating. Women take a double hit when it comes to their retirement years. Because they earn lower salaries and spend more time out of the workforce throughout their lives, they reap less in social security payments. At the same time, women are likely to live longer than men.
7) Invest more
Like it or not, women must invest more and earlier into their retirement accounts. A recent Vanguard study reveals that men’s retirement account balances are on average 50 percent larger than those of women, even though women are 11 percent more likely to contribute to a workplace retirement plans in the first place. It may feel unfair to devote more of your already-smaller earnings to your sunset years but, with more years to enjoy your time off, the security will pay for itself.
8) Spend less
Retirement brings an entirely new set of financial parameters. Some costs naturally wane—work clothes, commute costs and sometimes even mortgage payments. But other needs—healthcare comes to mind—take a front seat. If you don’t financially prepare for your retirement years, it could mean not being able to afford prescriptions or procedures that could improve your quality of life or even save your life. AARP offers seniors myriad suggestions for curbing their costs. Here are just a few tips to start: stay abreast of changing Medicare policies, take advantage of senior discounts and use your extra time to seek out bargains and deals.
There’s no better time than the present!
Whatever stage in life they are in, women need to make time to learn about personal finances and take the necessary steps to secure a financially healthy future for themselves and their families.
Guest Blogger: Roshni Chowdhry
The Affordable Care Act (ACA) is the greatest advance for women’s health in a generation. Attempts to repeal the ACA not only put women’s access to health
care in dire jeopardy, but threaten their economic security as well. Repealing the ACA risks going back to a time when women struggled to find affordable health coverage in the individual market, were routinely charged more than men for health insurance and often found that health coverage did not cover their essential health care needs.
Thanks to the National Partnership for Women & Families, here are just some of the many ways women stand to lose and lose big if the GOP repeals the ACA: