The Current Economic Crisis and the Impact on Women and Girls
March 25 Public Hearing on the Impact of the Economic Crisis on Women and Girls
In response to a groundswell of community interest, the Commission on the Status of Women held a hearing entitled The Current Economic Crisis: Impact and Recommendations for San Francisco's Women and Girls on March 25, 2009. Over 75 women from the community participated in the hearing, including representatives from the Office of Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi, the California Commission on the Status of Women, the Women's Foundation of California, the San Francisco Business Times, and community-based agencies in the fields of workforce development, economic security, and anti-violence against women. The Department continues to gather information in order to release a report on these findings, but some clear themes emerged from the hearing.
The Economic Crisis and the Road to Economic Recovery
Families headed by single women are most vulnerable to economic hardship. Women represent a disproportionate number of low-wage workers, earn $.78 on the dollar compared to men, and are more likely to use the public services that are being cut. Yet women also hold the key to economic recovery. The speakers at the hearing agreed that by investing in low-income women, the City can both support families and jumpstart the economy. Many of the speakers focused their recommendations on two key areas: targeting women for training and hiring for new jobs created by the stimulus fund and strengthening the public safety net for low income and no income families.
Highlights from testimony included:
- Systems should be in place to ensure that women will get a share of the construction and trade jobs created by the stimulus package. Since much of the stimulus money is dedicated to major public works, projects guidelines, workforce training programs, and targeted outreach would be excellent ways to ensure that women also benefit from these initiatives.
- Women-owned businesses provide a powerful engine for generating local dollars that will stimulate the economy.
- Subsidized child care and increased childcare slots are essential supports for working parents, particularly single parents, 80% of whom are mothers. Without these resources, it will be difficult for women to take advantage of jobs created by the economic stimulus package.
- Service providers addressing domestic violence and sexual assault report a marked increase in need while simultaneously facing cuts in resources.
The Department would like to propose the following actions to help women in this economic crisis:
- Strictly enforce the Recovery Act requirement that not less than 10% of transportation infrastructure funding be expended with women-owned and minority-owned businesses.
- Include more women in workforce development programs. Currently women represent less than 10% of the workforce in the construction and trade sectors. This is an important opportunity to train women in non-traditional sectors. Workforce development programs should be partially evaluated on the basis of the racial and gender diversity of participants.
- Develop and sustain women-owned and small businesses. This can be achieved by expanding microloans for small businesses, renewing the first-time leaseholder grant program for shop space, and support community-based programs that train women entrepreneurs.
- Direct stimulus money aimed at childcare to expand the total number of childcare spots in the City, rather than solely provide vouchers to parents to use for the limited spots that are currently available.
- Address the reality that direct service providers, while facing significant budget reductions are at the same time seeing significant increases in demand for services. Identify opportunities to use fiscal stimulus dollars to strengthen safety net services such as those provided to women survivors of violence.
- Launch a publicity campaign to inform San Franciscans of federal tax credits and increased benefits is a low-cost and effective way for the City to stimulate the local economy by bringing millions of dollars in and help struggling families access assistance that is already available to them. The federal stimulus bill, for example, expands the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit for low and moderate income families, creates a new American Opportunity tax credit for education, and subsidizes healthcare premium payments for the newly unemployed who sign-up for continued coverage under the COBRA program.
Taking the Next Steps
As a follow-up to the March 25 Hearing, the Commission invited several key City departments to testify at the April 22 Commission Meeting about how they will use Stimulus Act funds to support women.
1. Office of Economic and Workforce Development (external link)
2. SF Works (external link)
3. Department of Public Works (external link)
4. Municipal Transportation Authority (external link)
5. Housing Authority (external link)
6. Human Rights Commission (external link)
The Commission will continue to address this issue in the coming months to ensure the needs of women are addressed through the Stimulus funding.