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Let's Raise Our (Spending) Caps for Women and Families

It’s the week after Labor Day, and to be honest, it’s one of my least favorite times of year in D.C. Summer vacation is over but it’s still 90 degrees outside, traffic is a nightmare, and Congress is back in town—and everyone on and around Capitol Hill seems to be placing bets on whether we’re just a few weeks away from a government shutdown.  

A shutdown, of course, is what we’ll get if Congress doesn’t pass legislation to keep the government funded when the new fiscal year begins October 1st. And unless that legislation stops the deep budget cuts known as the “sequester” (cuts that were mitigated in FY 2014 and 2015 by the “Ryan-Murray deal”), the sequester will be back and worse than ever in FY 2016. Read more »

Proposed Budget Deal Would Prevent Some Harmful Cuts – But Threatens to Leave Unemployed Workers Out in the Cold

We have a deal – sort of.

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Patty Murray (D-WA) and House Budget Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-WI) – who have been leading a new round of budget negotiations – have announced that they reached agreement on federal government spending levels for the remainder of fiscal year (FY) 2014 as well as FY 2015. Given Congress’s propensity toward last-minute bargains in recent years, you may be a bit surprised that the announcement from Sen. Murray and Rep. Ryan came a couple of days before their self-imposed deadline of December 13, and just over a month before current FY 2014 funding runs out on January 15. But there remains a lot more work to be done to ensure that we don’t face another government shutdown in January – and to make sure low-income women and their families are protected and unemployed workers aren’t left behind.

So what does the deal do? In short:

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The President’s To Do List

I believe that To Do lists are an art form. There’s nothing more beautiful than a list of things you need to get done with every single item crossed off of it. Crossing off an action item gives me such a sense of accomplishment that I usually put things I’ve already done on the list, just to cross them off.

In a major speech yesterday about economic mobility, President Obama shared one of his To Do lists with us. The items on this list are much more important than the ones on my usual lists. These items are the legislative and administrative priorities that will help fix the growing problem of income inequality in the United States.

Before sharing his “roadmap” with us, the President started with a reality check. He was blunt about the fact that our economy has become profoundly unequal and families have become more insecure. He drove home the point that we are living in a country that once promised success for those who worked hard, but is now faced with rapidly rising inequality and decreasing upward mobility in a way that “challenges the essence of who we are as a people.” Each fall NWLC analyzes the poverty data put out by the Census bureau, and those sobering statistics illustrate exactly what the President is talking about. I couldn’t agree more with the President when he said that these trends are bad for families, bad for the economy, bad for social cohesion, and bad for democracy. Read more »

Take Action: Make the Sequester History

The sequester cuts began back in March, and they’ve been wreaking havoc on essential programs for women and families ever since. These automatic across-the-board cuts are hitting low-income women and their families the hardest.

Congress can fix this! Closing tax loopholes will raise the revenue needed to end the sequester and protect programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from the chopping block. That’s why we’re joining forces with other organizations to tell Congress to end the sequester and close corporate tax loopholes.

Together, we can make the sequester history.

Call your members of Congress on Thursday, Dec. 12, and tell them to fix the sequester.

It’s as easy as 1-2-3!

  1. Call the Capitol switchboard at 202-224-3121 and ask to talk to your Senators.
  2. When you get someone on the line say:
    Hi my name is _______________ and I’m a constituent. I would like to urge Senator/Representative _________ to stand up for women and families by
    closing tax loopholes to raise the revenue needed to end the sequester and protect programs like Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid from the chopping block.
  3. Call back to talk to your other Senator and Representative!
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Sequester’s Cold Shoulder: 300,000 Families Cut from Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Winter means ice, snow, and – most depressing – slush. There are few things I hate more than slush. But I do love the holidays, and I appreciate having cold weather as an excuse to stay home and cozy up with a good book.

I’m lucky, though. I have a warm, cozy place to call home. That’s not true for everyone, and with ongoing budget cuts, it will be true for even fewer low-income families this year.

The National Energy Assistance Directors’ Association (NAEDA) reported recently on sequestration’s effects on the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP). LIHEAP supports struggling families by assisting with energy costs, and the program is clearly a critical one as winter months approach. NAEDA describes the history of cuts in recent years, but the headline sums up this year’s impact: Sequester Cuts 300,000 Poor Families from LIHEAP.

In Fiscal Year 2013, 300,000 families were dropped from the program, as LIHEAP dealt with a $155 million reduction in funding. Read more »

What You Need to Know About the Budget Deal

Late Wednesday night, the House passed – and President Obama signed – a budget deal hammered out by the Senate to end the federal government shutdown and raise the debt ceiling, narrowly avoiding the threat of default. (The Treasury Department estimated that the U.S. would come perilously close to running out of cash to pay its bills by Thursday.) Here’s what the bill does:

  1. It suspends the debt ceiling through February 7, 2014. The Treasury Department can borrow additional funds through February 7 to ensure that the U.S. meets its obligations, and Treasury may employ “extraordinary measures” to pay the nation’s bills for a while after that date. But the debt ceiling will need to be raised or suspended again later in 2014.
  2. It ends the shutdown and funds the federal government through January 15, 2014. Hundreds of thousands of federal workers are now back on the job, museums and monuments have reopened, and federal programs are resuming normal operations. The bill provides back pay for furloughed workers and reimbursement for states that covered costs during the shutdown that are normally assumed by the federal government. But the 16-day shutdown needlessly cost billions of dollars, weakened the economy and the creditworthiness of the United States, and hurt low-income families who rely on government programs.
  3. It leaves the health care law intact – but keeps the sequester, too. The bill does not contain any of the major concessions that House Republican leadership sought to delay or defund provisions of the health care law (“Obamacare”). But the Senate did agree to maintain FY 2013 spending levels through January 15, which means the sequester – which has cut billions of dollars from programs that women and their families depend on and undermined the economic recovery – will continue. Under the bill, government funding levels for the first few months of FY 2014 will be much closer to the House-passed budget plan than to the Senate’s own FY 2014 budget.
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How the Shutdown Is Hurting Low-Income Families

We’re on Day 4 of the first federal government shutdown in 17 years. Here in D.C., the subway and the streets are noticeably emptier without thousands of federal workers on the job. And while a few might be enjoying their time off to take advantage of the shutdown-themed happy hours around town, most are worried about the financial consequences of a prolonged shutdown for themselves and their families (especially since many have already faced pay freezes and furloughs thanks to the sequester and other budget cuts).

But it’s not just the 800,000 furloughed federal workers who are affected by the shutdown. Some federal contractors won’t get paid, either – including workers making close to minimum wage who are unlikely to have much in the way of savings to fall back on. And low-income families who depend on federally funded programs are suffering, too. For example:

Stop Tax Haven Abuse—Another Way to Fight Poverty and Inequality

It’s been a roller coaster week, and it’s not over yet. Disappointing news from the Census Bureau that we didn’t make progress reducing poverty or the wage gap last year. Exciting news from the Department of Labor about a new rule that brings home care workers one giant step closer to fair pay. The threat that the House will vote later today to slash vital SNAP (Food Stamp) benefits for millions of Americans and vote tomorrow to extend the sequester for several more months. The sequester vote will include yet another effort to defund the Affordable Care Act.

But even in Congress, there are some encouraging developments. Yesterday, several Members of Congress turned out for a special game of Chutes and Ladders (with hula hoops!) to show their support for investing in early learning. And today, Senator Carl Levin (D-MI) and cosponsors Senators Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), Mark Begich (D-AK) and Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) introduced the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act to close offshore tax loopholes. Read more »

Will Congress Pay as Much Attention to Children as Airplanes?

Congress recently acted with uncharacteristic speed to undo the cuts to air traffic controllers implemented as part of the “sequester” (the across-the-board federal budget cuts), before flying home to their districts for a weeklong break. While making sure that the cuts did not cause them delays at the airport, they ignored the cuts that are affecting vulnerable women and children across the country. These include cuts to a range of crucial supports for families such as child care assistance and Head Start.

The National’s Women’s Law Center’s new fact sheet describes the importance of child care assistance in helping parents afford the care they need to work and support their families, and ensure their children are in safe, reliable care that fosters their learning and growth. Congress should be investing more in child care assistance, not chipping away at the help there is through arbitrary budget cuts. Read more »

Women’s Employment Update: February brings good news but there’s a long road ahead

Today’s release of February jobs data brought pretty good news – 236,000 jobs added to the economy and the overall unemployment rate dropped slightly to 7.7 percent. Unfortunately we still have a long way to go.

Here are the highlights from today’s NWLC analysis:

  • The overall story in February was good, but women only gained one-third of the jobs added last month. The economy added 236,000 jobs between January and February, only 80,000 of which went to women.
  • Public sector losses continued in February. Both women and men lost public sector jobs in February, bringing the total number of public sector jobs lost over the recovery to 462,000 for women and 280,000 for men.
  •  Unemployment rates fell for adult women and men, but still remain unacceptably high. Adult women’s and men’s unemployment rates fell in February – to 7.0 percent and 7.1 percent, respectively. While these rates are an improvement since the recession began in December 2007, they still aren’t very good when put in historical context: apart from this recession, adult women have not seen unemployment rates above 7 percent in nearly 30 years – for men it is over 20.