As the “Mancession” gives way to the “He-covery”, women are calling for their fair share. President Obama’s jobs bill offers a plan to get Americans back to work, allocating funds ranging from payroll tax cuts to those for school revitalization. The White House estimates that 280,000 teacher layoffs will be avoided. Women represent 78% of pre-K through 12th grade teachers and this will provide vital relief. Furthermore, the extension of unemployment benefits will alleviate the economic woes of some of the 2.6 million women receiving this financial lifeline. 77.9 million women in the workforce will see greater take-home pay as the payroll tax cut is extended. These components will help our nation’s women as we get back to work. The bill goes even further though, notably helping those women who have severely suffered— the young and the long-term unemployed.
The overall youth unemployment rate is 25.4 percent. 22.6 percent of women between ages 16 and 19 are unemployed. The numbers are even worse if you isolate African-American unemployment with 46.5 percent of African-American youth unemployed. This staggering number has consequences for our society as a whole as reflected in the most recent American poverty rates. The American Jobs Act does try to address this; $2 billion will be set aside for youth subsidized employment and an additional $1.5 billion will be allocated to help provide year-long and summer jobs for unemployed youth. Those who dropped out of high school or lack basic skills will be given priority in these programs. Some of these opportunities will even include childcare so that young mothers can have a fighting chance to gain skills and a link to the workplace. This is a problem that needs to be addressed if women of all ages (and men too) are to experience real recovery.
But it’s not just the young who are critically suffering. Laurie-Ellen Shumaker, a 59 year-old lawyer who was laid off in early 2009 told her story to the Huffington Post, saying she has applied for over 1,000 jobs in the past year and a half. She likened getting an interview to “seeking unicorns.” Laurie-Ellen is just one of the 2.8 million women who have been unemployed for over 6 months. The American Jobs Act tries to mitigate this by extending unemployment benefits and offering tax-credits of up to $4,000 to employers who hire someone who has been out of work for over 6 months. It goes even farther though, specifically setting up legislation that makes it illegal to discriminate against the unemployed. Employers would not be permitted to arbitrarily reject applicants who are currently unemployed nor could they post job requirements that bar the unemployed from applying. If the American Jobs Act becomes law, unemployed workers will have the legal protections that they deserve and Laurie-Ellen and the other 2.8 million women will have an important safeguard.
The American Jobs Act can help women who are unemployed. It offers assistance to our teachers, those in the public sector, non-profit organizations, those receiving unemployment benefits, and many others. On top of all that, it doesn’t ignore those women who have been ignored for far too long.