March is Women’s History Month. Therefore, before we move on to the April 1st State budget deadline, we ask that our elected representatives take some time to reflect on all the accomplishments that women have achieved while still facing many systemic obstacles at home and in the workplace. During the past few months in Albany, New York’s elected leaders have been debating the potential affects of Governor Cuomo’s projected State budget cuts on their constituents. They have been receiving phone calls, letters, and visits from individuals and organizations concerned about their livelihood in the wake of some of the most dramatic cuts to human services proposed in decades. The Human Services Council, through the Who Cares? I Do. Campaign has presented over three thousand signatures from citizens across the State who support the human services sector and want to protect vital programs and services that many may need now more than ever. However, looking at how the budget will impact women specifically may provide a crucial lens into the priorities of the government; such as which industries, programs, and groups it supports during this trying economic period. And maybe more importantly, who is being left out.
New York State legislators represent one of the most diverse populations in the country comprised of people from a wide range of economic, racial, cultural, and ethnic backgrounds and circumstances. Yet, women from almost all groups will be disproportionately affected by cuts to programs and services around the State and New York City. While the number of women receiving higher education and entering the workplace continues to rise steadily each decade, women continue to remain the primary caregivers in our society, especially of children and seniors. And despite greater opportunities, women also continue to enter the “helping professions” such as teaching, nursing, and social work in large numbers. Therefore, cuts to human services programs will have the potential to drastically impact low and middle class women on two major fronts-both at home and in the workplace. For instance, women make up the majority, 80.8%, of homeless adults with families in the shelter system.¹ In 2010, more than 8,000 households signed Advantage leases to leave shelter for permanent housing. There are currently over 15,000 households living in the community who receive the Advantage subsidy. The elimination of these funds means that 15,000 families – many single mothers and their children – will be back in the emergency shelter system or on the streets.
The New York Women’s Foundation, in partnership with the Fiscal Policy Institute, recently released a report titled, A Harder Struggle, Fewer Opportunities: The Impact of the Governor’s Proposed Budget on Women, Children and Families. “This report reveals the disproportionate burden placed on New York City’s women across racial lines in the executive state budget proposal and offers specific recommendations for alternatives.” You can get the full report here: http://www.nywf.org/2011_gender_budget_analysis.html.
And here you can watch an interview with Ana Oliveira, the President and CEO of the Women’s Foundation and Cidra Sebastien from The Brotherhood/Sister Sol on Inside City Hall explain in greater detail how the State’s proposed budget cuts could potentially harm women and families in profound ways: http://www.ny1.com/content/136052/ny1-online–women-s-foundation-discussion-on–inside-city-hall–3-22-11.
“Despite the encouraging and wonderful gains and the changes for women which have occurred in my lifetime, there is still room to advance and to promote correction of the remaining deficiencies and imbalances.”
-Sandra Day O’Connor, the first woman U.S. Supreme Court Justice
Contributed by Stephanie Hakes
Of the Human Services Council of NYC