Illinois budget impasse hurts women most

Submitted on Sat, 01/02/2016 - 17:00

Rockford Register Star

by: League of Women Voters of Greater Rockford

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The Responsible Budget Coalition recently released a must-read report detailing the impact of the budget impasse on women. The analysis, titled "State leaders are failing women by failing to pass a responsible budget," reports:

“Women are disproportionately harmed by the failure of leaders to make passing a budget — one that chooses revenue over cuts to vital services — our state’s No. 1 priority.

"Women make far less than men for the very same work and caregiving responsibilities are far more likely to fall on their shoulders. Continued delay in enacting a budget creates immediate and lasting consequences for women. There are also serious consequences for women over the medium and long term if lawmakers fail to raise sustainable revenues. If unpaid bills continue to pile up, services such as breast and cervical cancer screenings, energy assistance and K-12 education could also be at risk in the not too distant future.”

Why are women more affected by the budget impasse?

— Illinois is not providing any funding for MAP grants or colleges and universities, which profoundly impacts women. Fifty-four percent of all undergraduates and 62 percent (more than 80,000 women) of MAP grant recipients are women, who will no longer be able to afford college. Research has shown that women with college degrees earn substantially more throughout their lifetimes. Women earn 78 cents on the dollar to what men earn for the same work, making education even more important in earning capability. Fewer college graduates mean our mothers, daughters and sisters earn less and our local communities and economy suffer.

— The budget impasse is costing women jobs. Seven in 10 workers employed in Illinois’ nonprofit sector are women and many of these organizations receive state dollars. An October survey by the United Way of 500 organizations that receive state funding found 22 percent have been forced to lay off staff.

— Economic opportunity has also disappeared for thousands of women in Illinois due to cuts to the Child Care Assistance Program. Seventy-eight percent of families using CCAP are female-headed, single-parent households. Without affordable child care, it’s impossible for many of those women to work. CCAP cuts put in place by the Rauner Administration in July remain in place for 10,000 children. In just one week last month, a local provider in Belvidere reported having to turn away two families seeking child care.

— An estimated 66 percent of unpaid caregivers are female. One-third care for two or more people. Without a doubt, cuts to services for children, seniors and those with disabilities will fall upon the shoulders of unpaid or undercompensated female caregivers.

— 60 percent of seniors experiencing food insecurity, meaning they don’t have enough to eat or don’t know where their next meals will come from, are female. Funding to Meals on Wheels has been stopped, placing at risk the 6.5 million meals delivered each year. Many programs throughout the state have already been drastically cut back.

— Sexual assault services have been defunded, leaving women in Rockford on waiting lists for services.

— Homelessness among women has risen and poverty is sure to rise as well. Fifty-five percent of Illinoisans living in poverty are women and 90 percent of service providers to the homeless have already cut or will implement service reductions. Locally, Rockford MELD has eliminated a program and reduced the number of families they serve.

Women and their families have enough to worry about without the added anxiety of a budget impasse and harmful cuts, imperiling middle- and lower-income families. The future will be bleak for them unless the governor and lawmakers pass a budget that chooses revenue to pay Illinois’ bills and support the services on which women depend.

The League is a nonpartisan organization that works to promote good government. Membership in the League is open to men and women age 18 and older. For further information about League membership, programs and news, visit lwvgr.org and like us on Facebook.