Statement of Eleanor Smeal
The Feminist Majority urges the rapid approval of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009. This economic stimulus package creates jobs in professions such as education, healthcare, and other human services where women are a large majority of the workforce as well as physical infrastructure construction where men are a large majority. It also has considerable outlays of funds for early childhood development, head start, and child care ($4.6 billion), public housing ($5 billion), special education ($13 billion), higher education financing (Pell Grants increase of $15.6 billion and Student Loan Limit Increases of $2,000.), and public transportation ($9 billion). All of these programs are of significant importance to women. Moreover, there is substantial fiscal aid to states for providing safety net programs or family economic stability programs such as the expansion of supplemental nutrition assistance including food stamp programs ($20 billion) and expansion of Medicaid.
Women’s organizations have been working with the Obama/Biden transition/administration and Congress to ensure the inclusion in the economic stimulus package of rebuilding the human infrastructure as well as the physical infrastructure of our nation and of gender equity in the saving and creating of jobs.
For our nation to recover, women’s economic survival must be considered on par with men’s economic survival. Women are today not only virtually half the workforce, but some 40% of adult women support themselves and/or their families without a male partner. For women with male partners, a majority of their families are dependent on their income to remain out of poverty.
Because it is necessary to build a nationwide consensus, there are some aspects of the plan we do not favor such as the massive tax cuts, nearly $50 billion to businesses. But, since it is necessary at this time of crisis to have both Democratic and Republican support, compromise is necessary.
Women’s organizations have urged and the Obama/Biden transition/administration has presented a job impact analysis for the plan prepared by Christina Romer, Chair – Nominee – Designate, Council of Economic Advisors and Jared Bernstein, Office of the Vice-President. The Administration should be applauded for providing this gender impact analysis. The analysis shows that of the approximately 3.7 million jobs created by the economic stimulus, some 1.5 million or an estimated 42%, are expected to go to women. We urge that as the money is being spent, there is continuous gender impact analysis and adjustments as needed. Of concern is that a significant portion of jobs that women will gain are in areas that pay lower than average wages whereas wages in construction jobs where men dominate are paid above average. Another concern is the sectors of the economy, such as the retail trade, which have a higher portion of women’s workers, will benefit from the stimulus package only indirectly.