5 Special Ways the Shutdown Impacts Women

We are now two weeks into government shutdown, and I’d like to take a minute to talk about how this impacts women in the United States.  I think the shut down is generally problematic, but is extra problematic if you happen to be female, for several reasons:

1. WIC is not receiving funding

WIC (Women, Infants and Children) is a welfare program that helps to provide supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding, and non-breastfeeding postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five who are found to be at nutritional risk.  Although the program is administered by states and municipalities, it is federally funded-~-which means right now, it isn’t funded at all.  That’s extra problematic, because this is a large contingent of individuals who are badly in need of assistance who can’t access it.

2. Women, and especially women of color, are over-represented in public sector jobs.

There could be any number of reasons for this, but the reality is simple: due to historical legacies of sexism and racism in the private sector, many women, and especially women of color, turn to the public sector for work.  In addition, the public sector is more likely to employ things like affirmative action policies, which accounts for this shift in demographics.  As a result, when furloughs hit, it’s women (and African-Americans) who are disproportionately impacted.  On top of this, because women are already paid less than men, women reliant on their own incomes are impacted even more than men, who are more likely to have been able to save or invest.

3. Head Start is adversely impacted

According to truth-out.org, 11 states didn’t get their grants for Head Start, which means approximately 20,000 children won’t be able to engage with the program while the shutdown remains in effect.  While this is hugely problematic for the children, it is also problematic for their parents, who rely on childcare and educational programs in order to allow them to get to work.  Since Head Start targets a demographic that is already needy and as a result likely engages with forms of labor which are less flexible and offer fewer benefits-~-and a demographic in which women are more likely to be single parents or sole providers-~-it becomes increasingly problematic when women are faced with difficult choices between watching their children and making it to their job.

4. Job Training Programs and TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) are in danger

For those reliant on food stamps or TANF (a population which also disproportionately includes women) the shutdown is taking an even greater toll.  These groups are being left to fend for themselves because Congress missed the deadline to reauthorize those programs.  The programs losing funding include SNAP E&T, which funds not just job training but GED classes, work search and placement programs, and other tools to help those in poverty get a better chance.  This is especially important since there are work requirements for welfare recipients which actually contribute to a cycle of dependency and poverty-~-programs like SNAP E&T attempt to break this cycle, but they can’t without federal funding.

5. Even if we get out of this, women are still going to be in hot water

Even if Congress gets their act together, the reality is this: the economy is going to take a hit as a result of Congress gambling with it, and if we default, we’re going to be in serious trouble.  This is going to impact every kind of market, which disproportionately harms women because they earn less than men and tend to be employed in more flexible and less secure fields than men.  In addition, most first-time single home buyers or entrepreneurs in the US today are women, which means that when interest rates are adversely impacted by government mismanagement of the economy, the result is that women are disproportionately hurt in their ability to receive loans-~-which, to be perfectly frank, many already were because many women don’t have credit, since a large percentage or even all assets are in their husbands’ names.  As a result, it becomes harder for women to get back on their feet and make up for their losses than it is for men, which means that even if we get a budget and the government starts governing again, many women-~-especially poor and minority women-~-will be dealing with the effects of this shutdown for months or even years to come.

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~ by Randi Saunders on October 16, 2013.

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