Cutting Programs for Low-Income People Especially Hurts Women and Their Families
As Congress debates spending priorities and deficit reduction measures, it must protect programs for low-income families and individuals and ensure that deficit reduction does not increase poverty.
This principle has been honored consistently in the major bipartisan deficit reduction packages of recent decades. It is particularly important to women, who are more likely than men to be poor at all stages of their lives because of ongoing employment discrimination and greater responsibilities for unpaid caregiving. As a result, women and their families disproportionately rely on federal programs to protect their health, obtain quality child care and higher education, and help them meet their basic needs during difficult times and as they age.
Women and their families should not bear the brunt of deficit reduction. Increased revenues from those with the greatest ability to pay must be a major part of any deficit reduction plan. Maintaining and strengthening programs like those listed below protects the most vulnerable today and expands opportunity for a stronger shared future.
Women who head families and elderly women are especially reliant on programs for low-income people.
Many low-income assistance programs are designed to improve the lives of poor children – and nearly six in ten of all poor children live in single-mother families. Four in ten single-mother families, and roughly one in two black and Latina single-mother families, were poor in 2011. More than four in five poor single-parent families were headed by women.
Women are over two-thirds of the elderly poor, and more than one in ten women 65 and older was poor in 2011. Elderly women of color and elderly women who live alone are particularly vulnerable: in 2011, roughly one in five black and Latina elderly women was poor and more than one in six elderly women living alone was poor.
Protecting Women’s Health
Medicaid provides health care coverage to low-income individuals who are elderly and live with disabilities, as well as low-income children, parents, and pregnant women. It covers a comprehensive array of services including prenatal care, well-child visits, preventive services like mammograms and pap smears, and long-term care services including nursing home coverage. In 2009, about seven in ten elderly individuals who relied on Medicaid for assistance were women, and about seven in ten non-elderly adult recipients – mostly pregnant women and low-income parents – were women. Nearly 31 million children received healthcare coverage through Medicaid in 2010.
Title X Family Planning Program
The Title X family planning program provides comprehensive family planning and related preventive health services to low-income women. In 2011, the program served over five million people, 92 percent of whom were women.
Maternal and Child Health Block Grant
Providing Supports for Children
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG)
The Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) program helps low-income working families afford child care and supports activities that improve the quality of care for all families. CCDBG served a monthly average of more than 998,000 families with nearly 1.7 million children in FY 2010. Eighty-six percent of the families served by CCDBG were single-parent households.
Head Start and Early Head Start
The Head Start program provides grants to public and private agencies to provide child development services to low-income children and families. The program helps preschool-age children build their reading and arithmetic skills to prepare them for school. The Head Start preschool program served more than 942,000 young children in 2011. Nearly six in ten families served by the program were headed by a single parent.
The Early Head Start program provides child and family development services to low-income pregnant women and families with children under age three. The Early Head Start program served more than 148,800 children under three and more than 16,700 pregnant women nationwide in 2011. Nearly six in ten families served by the program were headed by a single parent.
Child Support Enforcement
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps
The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP)/Food Stamps helps millions of families put food on the table. SNAP served 46.6 million people in 22.3 million households on average each month in FY 2012. In FY 2011, women were 62 percent of nonelderly adult recipients and 66 percent of elderly adult recipients. Additionally, more than half (56 percent) of all SNAP households with children were headed by a single adult, 93 percent of whom were women.
Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) Special Supplemental Nutrition Program
The Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program provides grants to states for supplemental foods, health care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income pregnant, breastfeeding and postpartum women, and to infants and children up to age five. WIC provided nutritious food to more than 8.9 million low-income pregnant women, new mothers, and young children on average each month in FY 2012.The program served almost 890,000 pregnant women; more than 588,000 breastfeeding women; almost 616,000 postpartum women; and 2.1 million infants and over 4.7 million children on average each month in FY 2012.
Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP)
The Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP) provides nutritious food to low-income elderly adults, breastfeeding mothers, and infants. It served an average of 576,800 low-income elderly people each month in FY 2012. CSFP also provided food and formula to an average of 17,600 pregnant and breastfeeding women and young children each month.
National School Meals Programs
The national school meals programs are federally assisted meal programs that exist in more than 100,000 public and non-profit private schools and residential child care facilities. The National School Lunch Program provided nutritious lunches to 31.6 million children each school day in FY 2012, two-thirds of which were served as free or reduced-price meals. The School Breakfast Program served breakfast to more than 12.8 million children each school day in FY 2012, about 84 percent of which were served as free or reduced-price meals. Roughly two-thirds (66 percent) of single-mother families, or over 6.8 million single-mother families, were eligible to receive free or reduced-price meals in 2011.
Child and Adult Care Food Program
Maintaining Income and Work Supports
Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF)
The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) program is a block grant to states to fund cash assistance, work supports, and other services for low-income children and parents. In FY 2012, over 1.75 million families and over 3.1 million children received TANF assistance. In FY 2009, nearly nine in ten (86 percent) adults served by TANF were women.
Unemployment Insurance (UI)
Unemployment insurance (UI) benefits provide temporary income support to jobless workers who have lost employment through no fault of their own and meet other state requirements. During periods of high unemployment, the federal government funds additional weeks of emergency unemployment benefits to supplement state UI benefits. Nationwide, federal and state UI benefits kept 2.3 million people out of poverty in 2011, including 621,000 children and 833,000 women.
Social Security is a social insurance program that protects workers and their families when income is lost due to retirement, disability, or death. It covers nearly all workers and their families, not just those with low income, but is the nation’s most successful anti-poverty program. Social Security is especially important to women’s economic security: for nearly three in ten female beneficiaries 65 and older (29 percent), Social Security is virtually the only source of income. The average Social Security benefit for women 65 and older is modest – about $12,700 per year – but without Social Security, nearly half of women 65 and older would have been poor in 2011.
Supplemental Security Income (SSI)
Expanding Educational Opportunities
The Federal Pell Grant Program provides grants to help low-income students pursue post-secondary education. In 2007-2008, the latest year for which data are available, two-thirds (66 percent) of Pell Grant recipients were women. The program served an estimated 9.4 million students in FY 2011.
Perkins Career and Technical Education Grants
Making Housing More Affordable
The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) provided rental assistance to more than 5.4 million families in FY 2011 through various programs. Section 8 Tenant-Based Rental Assistance (TBRA, also known as the Housing Choice Voucher program) provided core rental assistance to about 2.2 million vulnerable families in FY 2011. In 2011, 82 percent of households served by Section 8 TBRA were headed by women and half of households served were families with children. Low-income elderly people and people with disabilities also receive housing assistance from dedicated HUD programs.
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP)
The Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) helps low-income households meet their energy needs. In FY 2011, an estimated 8.9 million families received LIHEAP assistance. Survey data indicate that in FY 2011, nearly all (89 percent) of households that received LIHEAP assistance had at least one vulnerable household member (someone who was elderly, a child or a person with disabilities).
Technical note: Some data in this fact sheet are preliminary and may be updated after publication.
*Perkins Career and Technical Education Grant data are NWLC calculations based on unpublished Department of Education data.