WomenStake: A Great Resource for Women

Do you read Womenstake.org, the blog of the National Women’s Law Center? It’s a wealth of information on everything from childcare to equal employment opportunities in the workplace to healthcare and every other subject you can think of that’s important to women (and my secret source for many of our tweets). It’s a wonderful resource and you can find them on Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and you can subscribe to their wonderful newsletter, as I do. I’ve been reading the latest newsletter this afternoon and decided it was time to share it with our readers so I’ve cut and pasted it below. I think after you read it, you’ll become a WomenStake fan too.

Here are this week’s posts from the National Women’s Law Center’s blog. To stay up-to-date, we invite you to visit our blog regularly at http://www.womenstake.org.

>> Op-Ed Makes Great Case for Fair Pay (9/17/2010)
>> Without the Safety Net, Today’s Poverty News Would Be Worse (9/16/2010)
>> The Health Insurance Numbers are Bleak, But the Outlook is Good (9/16/2010)
>> Women’s Poverty Soared in 2009 (9/16/2010)
>> No Change in the Wage Gap (9/16/2010)
>> Sen. McConnell Has a Plan: Give Millionaires Tax Breaks Over $100,000 but Leave 30 Percent of Single Mothers Behind (9/16/2010)
>> The White House Has It Right: When Students Play Sports, Everyone Wins (9/15/2010)
>> Social Security: It’s Not Just Your Grandmother’s Retirement (9/14/2010)
>> They’re baaaack! (9/14/2010)
>> NWLC Urges Effective Protection Against Retaliation (9/14/2010)
>> An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Time for Us to Reject Efforts to Eliminate Prevention Funding in the New Health Care Law (9/14/2010)
>> Six Months into the New Health Care Law Brings Life to New Provisions (9/13/2010)

Op-Ed Makes Great Case for Fair Pay (9/17/2010)

Have you read Valerie Jarrett’s op-ed on the Paycheck Fairness Act in today’s Washington Post? If you haven’t had a chance yet, you should, because it is right on the mark—passing the Paycheck Fairness Act is a matter of survival for the many families who depend on women’s paychecks to make ends meet.

Yesterday the Census released its annual data on earnings—and despite some earlier media predictions to the contrary, there was once again no improvement in the wage gap. Women make only 77 cents for every dollar a man makes, which not only sacrifices women’s equality but also puts in jeopardy the basic survival of women and their families. The Paycheck Fairness Act would deter wage discrimination by closing loopholes in the Equal Pay Act that have undermined its effectiveness and by barring retaliation against workers who disclose their wages to one another.

Valerie Jarrett’s op-ed also rightly points out that the time to act is now. The Senate must act quickly to pass this bill, and the time between now and the next recess is running out. Call your Senators today at 1-877-667-6650. Tell them that it’s time for them to take a stand and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act, because women and families depend on fair pay.

Without the Safety Net, Today’s Poverty News Would Be Worse (9/16/2010)

Today’s news about poverty is grim. But without the safety net, it would have been a lot worse, data from the Census Bureau also show.

Social Security is responsible for the one bright spot in today’s poverty numbers—the decline in poverty among people 65 and older. Without income from Social Security, 20.5 million additional Americans would be poor. It’s no surprise that most of those kept out of poverty by Social Security—14 million of them—are ages 65 and older. But 5.4 million of those kept out of poverty are adults ages 18 to 64, and 1.1 million are children under 18—people who benefit from the life and disability insurance protections Social Security provides in addition to retirement benefits.

With the rise in unemployment in 2009, poverty increased for children and adults under 65. But thanks to unemployment insurance benefits, which were enhanced and extended under the Recovery Act, 3.3 million Americans were lifted out of poverty, including 1 million children under 18.

The value of Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits (SNAP, formerly food stamps) is not counted as income under the current poverty measure, which only counts cash income before taxes. However, if SNAP benefits had been counted, 3.6 million fewer Americans, including 1.7 million children, 1.7 million adults ages 18 to 64, and 200,000 adults 65 and older would fall below the poverty line.

But these important elements of the safety net are threatened, along with other key supports for vulnerable families:

* The enhanced unemployment insurance benefits that helped keep millions out of poverty last year expire at the end of November, although unemployment is sure to still be above 9 percent.
* Congress has already cut nearly $12 billion from enhanced SNAP benefits, and additional cuts were approved by the Senate, ironically, to help pay for its child nutrition bill.
* The President’s Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform is considering cuts to Social Security benefits.
* Funding for child care assistance and child support enforcement will be cut next year, unless Congress acts.

Yet some members of Congress want to spend billions to cut taxes for millionaires, and votes could occur as early as next week.

If you don’t think those are the right priorities, you can Click here to call your Senators.

The Health Insurance Numbers are Bleak, But the Outlook is Good (9/16/2010)

Today, the U.S. Census Bureau released new health insurance data, which show a staggering increase in the number of uninsured women in the U.S.—In 2009, nearly 20 percent of women ages 18-64 lacked coverage (we exclude women 65 and over from our estimates, since nearly all are covered by the federal Medicare program). That’s one in five women without health insurance! The numbers have never looked so bad.

The increase in uninsurance is attributed to a significant decline in private insurance, particularly job-based coverage. This is no surprise, given the number of families that experienced unemployment in 2009—in many cases, losing a job also means losing health insurance benefits. Last year, over 6.5 million fewer people had job-based coverage. The proportion of women ages 18-64 with this type of insurance fell from 64 percent to 61 percent from 2008 to 2009. Public health insurance programs, like Medicaid, provided a safety-net for many women (an additional 1.2 million women had public health insurance in 2009); without these critical programs, women’s uninsured rates would be considerably worse.

These numbers are dismal for sure, but things will only get better from here. Relief has already come for some women, and is on the way for millions more. The new health care law (the Affordable Care Act or ACA) promises to dramatically reduce the number of uninsured women in the coming years. For example, tens of thousands of uninsured women with pre-existing conditions will gain coverage over the next three years through new “Pre-Existing Condition Insurance Plans” that are already available in every state. Starting next week, dependents will be able to remain on their parents’ insurance until age 26—an estimated 650,000 uninsured young people are expected to gain coverage this way in 2011. And these are only the most immediate changes. By 2014, when all of the law’s provisions go into effect, nearly all women without coverage will have access to Medicaid or new federal tax credits that make health insurance more affordable. According to an estimate by the Congressional Budget Office, 32 million Americans will have secured health insurance coverage by 2019.

Women’s Poverty Soared in 2009 (9/16/2010)

The Census Bureau just released poverty data for 2009. As you might have guessed, it’s not a pretty picture: the overall poverty rate rose to 14.3 percent in the second full year of the recession, up from 13.2 percent in 2008. But here’s what the Census didn’t talk about during its press conference this morning:

* Poverty among women—already much higher than poverty among men—climbed to 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest rate in 15 years and the largest single year increase since 1980. A 13.9 percent poverty rate means 16.4 million women were living in poverty in 2009, 1.2 million more than in 2008 (when the women’s poverty rate was 13 percent). And more than 40 percent of these women (almost 7 million) lived in extreme poverty, with incomes less than half of the federal poverty level.
* Poverty rates were even higher for women of color—24.6 percent for African-American women, and 23.8 percent for Latinas.
* But wait, it gets worse: the poverty rate for single moms rose to 38.5 percent (up from 37.2 percent in 2008).
* The child poverty rate already high at 19 percent in 2008—jumped to 20.7 percent last year, meaning more than one in five children was living in poverty. More than half of poor children lived in female-headed families in 2009.

More to come as we continue to analyze the new Census data. And check out NWLC’s other posts on what happened to health insurance coverage and the wage gap!

No Change in the Wage Gap (9/16/2010)

This morning the U.S. Census released its annual data on income and poverty. We expect to see a number of sobering statistics in the data, and you’ll receive updates throughout the day as we wade through all the data. But one thing is clear—women on average still make 23 cents less for every dollar earned by a man. In other words, in this down economy, women and their families remain shortchanged by an unfair wage gap. Help us spread the word that this discrimination persists—check out our new video about the wage gap and share it with your friends!

Time is running out. The Senate has a short window to make a difference and pass the Paycheck Fairness Act. Call your Senator today at 1-877-667-6650, and say that women and their families can do better than a 23 percent discount on their wages.

Sen. McConnell Has a Plan: Give Millionaires Tax Breaks Over $100,000 but Leave 30 Percent of Single Mothers Behind (9/16/2010)

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) introduced a tax bill this week to extend all of the Bush-era tax cuts, including those that benefit only the highest-income taxpayers, and permanently reduce the estate tax for the heirs of multimillionaires. But McConnell’s bill would not extend recent improvements in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that also expire at the end of this year.

NWLC’s analysis finds that under the McConnell bill, millions of low-and moderate-income working families would lose $11.6 billion in tax credits next year:

* 12.9 million taxpayers would lose $8.4 billion from the Child Tax Credit;
* 11.7 million taxpayers would lose $3.2 billion from the EITC and
* Over 30 percent of single mothers would get nothing.

We also calculated how the McConnell bill would affect women and their families in many states . In Kentucky, for example, Senator McConnell’s home state, 36 percent of single mothers would be left behind, and low- and moderate-income taxpayers would lose nearly $206 million in tax credits.

On the other hand, McConnell’s bill would give millionaires average tax breaks of over $100,000 next year—and that doesn’t even count the benefits from reducing taxes on the very wealthiest estates.

We think the McConnell plan is insulting to women, unfair to working families, and bad for the economy. If you agree, Please click here to call your Senators—and tell everyone you know to call, too.

Tell your Senators to pass tax cuts for the middle class and working families, and let the tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent expire on schedule. Tell them we need the $700 billion we’d save to create jobs, protect essential services, and begin to bring the deficit under control.

We hope you’ll let your members of Congress know you expect them to stand up for working families, not millionaires.

The White House Has It Right: When Students Play Sports, Everyone Wins (9/15/2010)

This week President Obama honored NCAA champion student athletes and their teams during a reception at the White House. A look at the list of women’s teams at the event—ranging from fencing to ice hockey to water polo—is a good reminder of how far we’ve come since 1972, when Title IX first required schools to create equal opportunities for women to participate in education. But we still have a long way to go.

Before Title IX, fewer than 32,000 women took part in college sports; today more than 170,000 participate on competitive teams. Opportunities have similarly expanded in high schools, where 3.1 million girls now compete in sports compared to 295,000 in 1972. These opportunities to play sports in school are relatively new, but they are still not equal to those provided to men. In Division I, for example, schools provide women with only 44 percent of the opportunities to play intercollegiate sports, even though they make up 53 percent of students. Moreover, these schools spend nearly two athletics dollars on men’s sports for every dollar they spend on women’s, and they spend less than one-third of their recruiting dollars on female athletes.

Many high schools also provide woefully inadequate opportunities for young women to play and unequal benefits to their teams, ranging from subpar fields to unequal scheduling opportunities and publicity for girls’ games. Parents in one Alabama county, for example, recently filed a lawsuit because their daughters receive less coaching time and inferior facilities to practice and compete as compared to boys. They say the girls’ softball field has no scoreboard, concession area, press box, or modern plumbing, while the boys’ baseball field provides all such amenities.

Schools’ denial of equal athletic opportunities to female students means that a lot of young women are missing out on tremendous health, education and professional benefits. Female athletes, for example, have a lower risk of developing heart disease, breast cancer, osteoporosis, and many other health problems. They are also less likely to smoke cigarettes, use drugs, and engage in sexual activity than young women who do not participate in sports. Academically, young women who play sports are more likely to graduate from high school, have higher grades, and receive higher scores on standardized tests than their non-athlete peers. And a study earlier this year using state-level data concluded that an increase in female sports participation leads to an increase in women’s labor force participation down the road.

Today’s student athletes and their contributions are indeed a cause for celebration, but let’s not forget all the others who could benefit from the chance to compete.

Social Security: It’s Not Just Your Grandmother’s Retirement (9/14/2010)

This past weekend (September 12) was Grandparents’ Day: a good time to reflect on the fact that Social Security serves all generations.

It’s common knowledge that Social Security benefits offer essential support for older Americans. Social Security is the primary source of income for most Americans over 65 (especially women). Without Social Security, 45 percent of Americans over 65 would be poor.

But Social Security benefits more than just retired workers. In fact, Social Security’s impact is felt across all generations. About 3.2 million children under 18 receive Social Security benefits based on the contributions of a parent who is deceased, disabled or retired. For families with young children, Social Security serves as a life and disability insurance policy—replacing employment income in the event of a parent’s death or inability to work. Today, about 2.6 million grandparents are the primary caregivers for their grandchildren. The Social Security benefits received by minor children who are raised by their grandparents provide much-needed income to those households.

And Social Security benefits provide important support for many adults who have not yet reached retirement age. Workers who become disabled—more than 8 million benefit recipients—rely on Social Security benefits to replace employment income. Over 900,000 severely disabled adult children of workers receive Social Security benefits as well, based on a parent’s contributions to Social Security. Not to mention the fact that younger generations benefit from Social Security’s support of older Americans, which lessens the financial responsibilities adult children may face in supporting their parents—and therefore allows adult children to better plan for their own retirement.

What’s more, Social Security is an important retirement benefit not only for current retirees and those who plan to retire in the near future, but also for younger generations of workers. The reports of Social Security’s demise are greatly exaggerated. According to the most recent annual report by the Social Security Trustees (released in August 2010), Social Security has sufficient funds to pay 100 percent of promised benefits until 2037. And after that, Social Security isn’t broke. Payroll taxes coming into Social Security will cover 75 percent of promised benefits to 2084. And with modest changes, we can ensure that Social Security benefits will be there in full when younger workers are ready to retire. That’s especially important in light of recent widespread losses to private retirement account balances.

Social Security is an intergenerational compact that we’ve kept for 75 years. We should continue to keep Social Security working for all generations.

They’re baaaack! (9/14/2010)

I’ve lived in Washington for about a decade now, and over time, I’ve gotten used to its rhythms—January excitement over snow days when Bob Ryan predicts more than two inches; October chitchat about where we’re spending vacation days, on our own time, to help out in key races; April complaints about lobby days and a certain retiring Member of Congress who holds the key to our appropriations hearts. But nothing compares to the end-of-summer ritual when Members of Congress return to Washington at the end of August recess.

Yes, it’s true. This week marks the end of August recess and the beginning of the end of the 111th Congress. With election season already in high gear, Members of Congress are planning to leave town in early October or possibly late September, so they can go back to their states and Districts to campaign. That means that we have just a few weeks to get Congress to take action on some key priorities for women. So, what are we fighting for? And what do we expect to see happen?

Passing the Paycheck Fairness Act
Today, women make just 77 cents for every dollar a man makes — that’s an average of $10,622 in lost wages every year. For many women and their families, ending the wage gap would buy a year’s supply of groceries, three months of child care, and six months of health insurance. The Paycheck Fairness Act would give women new tools to challenge pay discrimination in the workplace and help to address the wage gap. It’s already passed the House and we are hearing that the Senate may—may—take it up in September. Time is running out. This one is critical.

Stopping the Johanns Amendment
The first bill up in the Senate next week is the Small Business Jobs Act, and one of the first votes will be on an amendment offered by Senator Johanns to repeal a part of the Affordable Care Act. The details are complicated—you can get more information here—but the bottom line is this: the Johanns Amendment is the opening salvo in the “death by a thousand cuts” strategy we’ll be seeing again and again from health reform opponents. It has to stop here.

Letting the Bush Tax Cuts for Wealthiest Expire, Extending Tax Benefits for Struggling Families
The Bush-era tax cuts and recent improvements in tax credits for lower-income families are set to expire at the end of the year, and President Obama recently reaffirmed his plan to deal with them. Our take? Obama’s plan—to let tax cuts for the wealthiest two percent of Americans expire while extending tax cuts for middle- and lower-income families—is the right approach. We’ll be looking to moderate Members on both sides of the aisle to do what’s right—for women and their families, the economy, and the deficit—this fall.

Investing in Child Care and Head Start
Congress still has to pass appropriations bills to fund the government for the fiscal year that starts October 1. We’ve won approval in the House and Senate appropriations processes for much-needed increases in child care, Head Start and Early Head Start, and other early learning initiatives, but we haven’t crossed the finish line yet.

Preventing Cuts to the Safety Net
Unless Congress takes action, funding for child support enforcement, a program that serves over 17 million children, and the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) Emergency Fund will be cut this fall. A bill to prevent cuts to child support enforcement has bipartisan support in the Senate, and both Republican and Democratic governors have praised the effectiveness of the TANF emergency fund in creating jobs—so we’re cautiously optimistic.

Confirming Goodwin Liu
Professor Goodwin Liu is President Obama’s nominee to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. He is exceptionally qualified, has a brilliant legal mind, and has a demonstrated commitment to public service. He would increase the diversity of the federal bench and has bipartisan support—from the infamous Ken Starr, among others, for those of you old enough to remember the late 1990s. But, despite the fact that the seat he is up for has been designated a “judicial emergency,” Professor Liu’s nomination had been pending for months. We’re doing everything we can to get the Senate to confirm Professor Liu. It’s time to end the nomination shenanigans.

Lifting the Ban on Abortion Care at Military Facilities
Before leaving town, the Senate Armed Services Committee approved a Department of Defense authorization bill that included an amendment offered by Senator Burris to lift the ban on women using their own, private funds to pay for abortion care at military facilities. The House-passed bill left this discriminatory policy in place. We’ll be fighting to protect the Burris Amendment on the Senate floor and during House-Senate negotiations and make sure that military women have the same access to abortion care as women here at home. You’ll probably hear more about Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell than you will about the Burris Amendment, but be sure to keep this one on your radar.

These are the key issues we’re watching—and fighting for—to help women and their families. But remember: everyone in Washington is scrambling to get their “must-do’s” done in the next four weeks, too. It’s crunch time, my friends. So check back regularly for how it’s going and what you can do to make a difference.

NWLC Urges Effective Protection Against Retaliation (9/14/2010)

The National Women’s Law Center has just filed an amicus brief, joined by 26 other groups, in a case entitled Thompson v. North American Stainless in support of broad protection against retaliation in the workplace. In Thompson, which will be argued in early December, the Court will decide whether an employer can get away with firing the fiancé of an employee because the employee complained about discrimination. Miriam Regalado was a quality control engineer at a stainless steel manufacturing plant in Kentucky and one of only a few women who worked in the technical department. She complained that her supervisors openly disrespected her because of her sex, leading her subordinates to disrespect her. Three weeks after her employer received notice that she had filed a sex discrimination complaint with the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, her fiancé, Eric Thompson, who was also an engineer at the plant, was fired. Thompson sued to challenge his firing under Title VII of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, which bars discrimination and retaliation by employers, arguing that he was fired because of Regalado’s discrimination complaint. But the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit held that he had no right to bring the case, and dismissed it.

Social science research shows the continuing prevalence of sex discrimination, especially against women like Miriam Regalado who work in male-dominated fields, and the well-founded fear of retaliation that deters these women from complaining when they suffer discrimination. As the Center’s brief explains, complaints of discrimination from a woman in a traditionally male occupation only heightens her visibility as an outsider who is perceived as disrupting the workplace culture. If the decision below is not reversed and employees who are harmed by retaliation cannot file suit, employers will be emboldened to retaliate against a worker’s close associates, further discouraging efforts to end discrimination.

In the past few years, the Supreme Court has issued plaintiff-friendly decisions in retaliation cases. In Title VII cases, it has adopted broad definitions of what kind of action by an employer constitutes retaliation, and what kind of conduct by an employee constitutes opposition to discrimination that is protected under Title VII’s anti-retaliation provision. But, as shown by the Thompson case, employers are creative in inventing new ways to retaliate, and the lower courts keep helping them. Let’s hope that the Supreme Court stays the course and does not allow the weakening of Title VII’s protection against retaliation.

An Apple a Day Keeps the Doctor Away: Time for Us to Reject Efforts to Eliminate Prevention Funding in the New Health Care Law (9/14/2010)

Here they go again. Since some Members of Congress were unable to stop the new health care law from being passed in March, they are coming up with all kinds of creative ways to prevent it from being effective even if it harms women and their families.

Their first effort is holding the essential Small Business Jobs Act (H.R. 5297) hostage. This bill is vital for America’s small businesses to get back on their feet and thrive in these tough economic times. However, some Senators have decided to use it as a means to undermine and attack the new health care law.

Don’t let some Senators use an important bill for small businesses as a vehicle to undermine prevention funding in the new health care law. Contact your Members of Congress immediately and tell them to pass the Small Business Jobs Act without compromising the new health care law.

Tuesday, the Senate is expected to vote on an amendment offered by Senator Johanns (S.A. 4596) that would repeal a provision of the new health care law designed to reduce noncompliance with tax laws. To pay for the $17 billion cost of eliminating this provision, the Johanns amendment would undermine key provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including eliminating funding for the Prevention and Public Health Trust Fund until 2018.

What does eliminating prevention funding in the new health care law mean? If the amendment offered by Senator Johanns were enacted, it would eliminate funding for key prevention programs. The Prevention Fund will help support vital programs that focus on keeping people healthy, instead of simply caring for people when they get sick. This includes programs on wellness, prevention research, health screenings and immunizations. Already, funds have been announced by HHS to support programs such as obesity prevention and tobacco cessation, developing state and local capacity to prevent, detect and respond to infectious disease outbreaks, and support for state and community prevention initiatives. Just Monday, HHS announced new grants totaling $16.8 million to train public health workers at 27 Public Health Training Centers.

If Members of Congress wanted to modify the current tax provision they are worried about, an amendment by Senator Bill Nelson (S.A. 4595) offers a better approach. Senator Nelson’s amendment would help small businesses with the 1099 requirement, without undermining key provisions of the health care law.

We can’t let Members of Congress use underhanded tactics to harm laws they don’t agree with. Prevention funding is critical to the new health care law and essential for the health and well-being of women and their families. We need you to contact your Members of Congress today and tell them to reject Senator Johann’s amendment.

To learn more about why the Johanns amendment is harmful, please check out our latest fact sheet.

Six Months into the New Health Care Law Brings Life to New Provisions (9/13/2010)

Over the past few months, we’ve discussed how the new health care law make insurance more attainable for women helps women through all stages of their lives, and the other improvements for women’s lives it makes. September 23, 2010 marks an especially important time in the life of the new law, when a host of new provisions comes into effect.

The provisions, listed below, are only the first of many improvements the law brings. Further changes to the law will come in the next several years.

* Rescissions (i.e. the practice of cancelling health insurance coverage after a person becomes ill) will be banned except in limited circumstances of fraud or intentional misrepresentation. Applies to all plans.
* Preventive health care services covered without cost-sharing, including screenings for women to be recommended by the Health Resources and Services Administration. Applies to all new plans; does not apply to existing health plans.
* Lifetime limits on benefits banned. Applies to all plans.
* Annual limits on benefits “restricted,” as determined by the Secretary of Health and Human Services. Applies to all plans except existing individual health plans.
* Dependent coverage for young adult children extended to age 26. Applies to all plans. For existing group plans only, coverage is limited until 2014 to adult children who do not have an offer of employer-sponsored insurance.
* Pre-existing condition exclusions banned for children. Applies to all plans except existing individual health plans.
* Insurers must allow direct access to OB/GYNs (i.e. no referrals necessary). Applies to all new plans; does not apply to existing health plans.

Many organizations around the country will be marking the anniversary with events, and we’ll keep you informed as the date gets closer. We’ll also be marking the anniversary with new fact sheets about what the new health care law means for particular groups of women.

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