It’s time to help women get back to work

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Recently, we saw with dismay Senator Joe Manchin withdraw his support for President Joe Biden’s Build Back Better plan, a landmark and popular bill that would, among other things, reduce child care costs for working families and increase wages for childcare. workers. These policies could dramatically improve the lives of millions of Americans, especially women.

The pandemic has had an incredibly disproportionate effect on women. Since the start of the pandemic, nearly two million women have stopped working; over 300,000 left in September alone. Black women have particularly high unemployment rates.

We have repeatedly supported the state’s efforts to tackle this female exodus, such as Governor Tom Wolf’s American Rescue Plan Act (ARP) grants for child care providers and bills. to improve our child care facilities and curriculum and train new staff, establish a paid family leave and improve pay equity. Now, with Washington at a standstill, we must reiterate and amplify our call to action at the state level.

It is high time the Republican majority in Harrisburg release some of the more than $ 5 billion federal ARP it has held hostage and address the litany of factors that are forcing women out of the workforce and keep them from coming back. When we support women, we help families prosper and we prepare our economy for success.

“When we support women, we help families prosper and we prepare our economy to succeed. “

Maria Collett and Amanda Cappelletti

It makes sense that helping women helps families and the economy. But we don’t need to rely on intuition to support our argument: According to some estimates, gender gaps in the workplace cost economies 15% of their GDP, and bring more women into the market. of labor could add billions of billions to US GDP within a decade.

When we speak to women who have left the workforce, it is clear that their decisions were not driven by laziness or inflated unemployment checks. On the contrary, these workers often felt compelled to quit due to many factors, including the lack of affordable childcare, the hope that they would handle most of the caregiving responsibilities and a labor market. which undervalues ​​the work of care.

“Care work” includes paid or unpaid care, such as looking after children, caring for a sick person, or cooking and cleaning. Women represent nearly 70% of servers, nearly 80% of health workers in direct contact with patients, and 93% of educators. And although the pandemic has exacerbated them, the issues related to working women and care work are not new.

We have already helped women return to the workforce: During World War II, the government began subsidizing daycare centers to help recruit women to wartime jobs. And currently, members of the military, air force, navy and marine corps are offered childcare assistance. Why shouldn’t we make this model of work and care universal?

READ MORE: Women and low-wage workers have borne the brunt of the pandemic

As lawmakers, we must come up with a policy that fills in the gaps that existed long before the pandemic. We can start by investing in women and programs that will support a sustainable recovery in our economy, such as President Biden’s Build Back Better program. In the meantime, there is a lot of work to be done at the state level. While neighboring states use their federal ARP allocations to invest in the urgent needs of their residents, Republicans in Pennsylvania have set aside billions of our ARP dollars for a “rainy day.” Look around, it’s raining.

State Senate Democrats introduced a plan earlier this year that proposed using $ 2.47 billion of Pennsylvania’s nearly $ 7 billion ARP fund for child care, aid business, education, vocational training and workforce development. This would include an injection of $ 300 million into our crumbling child care infrastructure.

We have the resources we need to make transformative change for women and families in Pennsylvania, but we need our majority colleagues to sit down at the table.

When we support women, we activate a chain reaction of benefits that touches every part of our community and country. It’s not just the right thing to do, it’s the smart and necessary thing to do. Women need a living wage. Women need quality, affordable child care. Women need our support now.

We do not have time to lose.

Maria Collett represents the 12th District, covering parts of Bucks and Montgomery counties. Amanda Cappelletti represents the 17th District in Montgomery and Delaware counties.

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