A new study by the Washington Budget and Policy Center concludesthat state budget cuts have had "an especially severe impact on women" in Washington State. The report cites the usual culprits: The fact that state government cuts have disproportionately targeted jobs held by women; the fact that women are at much greater risk of poverty than men; the fact that the state has cut funding for reproductive health programs, threatening the health of pregnant women and children; and the fact that cuts have also targeted programs assisting victims of domestic violence and sexual assault, who are predominantly women.
(Update: SEIU 775 points out that their report on home health care workers, also released today, notes that 85 percent of home health care workers are women---and about half of all home health care workers in Washington State leave their jobs every year, which isn't surprising, given that the average pay for a home health care worker is between $10 and $11 an hour).
Of about $10 billion in cuts so far, 93 percent have been to education, human services, and health programs. Those jobs, unsurprisingly, are mostly held by women: 72 percent of workers in education, health, and social services are women. As private-sector jobs have rebounded, public-sector jobs have continued to be cut.
Additionally, women in Washington State are more vulnerable to poverty, because they tend to make less than men and because they tend to be responsible for taking care of children, which limits how much and whether women are able to work outside the home. For single women with children, the poverty rate in Washington State is 37 percent.
Even as women have lost their jobs, the programs that serve them have faced massive cuts. Temporary Assistance to Needy Families now funds just 27 percent of the average family's basic needs, compared to 63 percent 30 years ago. Last year, the state cut off assistance to more than 17,000 families, and plans to cut off TANF access to 2,000 more families this year.
Meanwhile, cuts to family planning programs and maternal and child health services have eliminated care for tens of thousands of women. And the state is proposing a 20 percent cut to domestic violence programs, even as the demand for domestic violence services and shelter is increasing.
It's a grim picture. What's the solution? According to WBPC, it's for legislators to adopt a budget that includes revenues to avoid more devastating cuts that impact not just women and children but all poor Washingtonians who rely on state services or work for the state. (Side note: I know it's not PC to say in this "government jobs are bad" era, but it sure would be nice to hear a politician propose a stimulus package that didn't focus entirely on jobs in private sector industries dominated by men.) Unfortunately, at a time when Republican state legislators are signing pledges promising to vote against any tax increases, those revenues seem unlikely to materialize.