Coronavirus Stimulus Bill Doesn’t Address Many Problems Women Face

Supermajority Education Fund

March 30, 2020

Congress officially passed a $2 trillion stimulus bill that will support the U.S. during the coronavirus pandemic on Friday. The bill was introduced on Monday by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) to counter the GOP’s original $1.8 trillion proposed bill and includes cash assistance, food assistance, and protection against evictions and foreclosures.

The coronavirus has hit communities in every state of the U.S., put millions of people out of work, and has been largely affecting black and latino workers, per USA Today. It has also disproportionately affected women, as they are two-thirds of minimum wage workers.

“Women of color are disproportionately impacted by COVID-19,” Toni Van Pelt, president of the National Organization for Women, told Supermajority News — a claim a recent Rewire News report backs up. “Many are part-time or hourly workers without access to paid sick leave or affordable medical care,” she said. 

The bill temporarily expands eligibility for unemployment benefits, which is particularly crucial given that many women may “have to leave their positions to take care of sick children or family members, as women are the primary caretakers in many families,” according to Van Pelt. But the bill does not address child care even though, according to research from the Kaiser Family Foundation (KFF), women are ten times more likely to stay at home with children than men, and according to data from KFF, fathers agree that mothers are the leaders of their children’s healthcare needs. As Time magazine noted, this means that the 40 million children in the U.S. who are in pre-K through grade 8, and more who are in daycares and private schools, are now learning from home, and mothers likely find themselves disproportionately responsible for their care.

The bill also gives the Small Business Administration the ability to exclude Planned Parenthood affiliates from benefits under its small business loan program and attaches a new Hyde Amendment provision, which further hinders low-income people from obtaining abortions. These blows to reproductive rights come in the wake of Ohio, Mississippi, and Texas banning all “nonessential” abortion procedures in the midst of this pandemic. 

Advocates have also spoken out about the bill’s inadequate provisions for election assistance and reform efforts, like extending online registration, expanding early voting opportunities, and expanding vote-by-mail programs, which are critical to ensuring fair and safe elections in the midst of this crisis.

The bill does, however, include $45 million for family violence prevention services, which is crucial, Van Pelt noted, for people experiencing domestic violence who are forced to stay at home because of quarantining and social distancing measures. About one in four women experience intimate partner violence, and Black women experience domestic violence at a 33 percent higher rate than white women, according to statistics from the Women of Color Network. Despite that aid, shelters and domestic violence nonprofits still “need critical funding to meet increased demand and to ensure women are kept safe during this pandemic,” Van Pelt said.