Huff Post: Recession Ends and Millions of Women Are Still Trapped in Poverty

By Linda Meric, 9t05 National Executive Director
Originally posted on 10/7/2014 in the Huffington Post

Poverty is a women’s issue. Nearly six in 10 poor adults are women, and more than half of all poor children live in families headed by women. Poverty rates are especially high for single mothers, women of color and elderly women living alone.

After four years of economic growth, low-income families have finally seen a reduction in poverty. Poverty continues to afflict 14.5 percent of Americans, down from 15 percent in 2012. But poverty remains at stubbornly high levels, up from 14.3 percent in 2009, the year the recession officially ended.

The poverty rates for women remained at historically high levels in 2013, according to U.S. Census Bureau data released in September 2014. Women’s poverty rates were once again substantially above the poverty rates for men. More than one in seven women — nearly 18 million — and about one in five children — nearly 14.7 million — lived in poverty in 2013.

In Colorado, there were 68,062 women aged 18-24 with incomes below the poverty level. Women like Crystal Aguilar, who as a single mother only able to find part-time work, is forced to rely on public assistance to survive.

“In the face of stubbornly persistent poverty, Congress has insisted on cutting or eliminating help for the poor,” said Deborah Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs.

September’s Census report shows that when SNAP (food stamps) count in the measurement, 3.7 million people are lifted out of poverty. If Congress hadn’t reduced food stamps, more people would have escaped poverty. Unemployment Insurance prevented poverty for 1.2 million people, but fewer were helped than in the past, in part because Congress let emergency jobless benefits for the long-term unemployed expire.

Every day we allow such deep poverty to persist is a day when barriers to health and success grow harder for women and their families to overcome. Misplaced Congressional priorities are harming millions of women and children and endangering our future.

Women make up less than half of the workforce, but 55 percent of poverty-wage workers. “My situation is not unique,” Aguilar said. “Many other single parents face the same struggles and challenges when raising children and as the sole provider for the home.”

Women and families need higher wages, equal pay, paid sick days and family leave, predictable and flexible schedules, parity for part-time workers and stronger safety net policies including SNAP, TANF and unemployment insurance.

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