Low-income women have been invisible in budget deliberations thus far – yet they will be injured disproportionately by cuts to income programs like Social Security and TANF, as well by cuts to Medicaid, Medicare and Food Stamps.
Despite the prolonged recession, income assistance to low-income families has shriveled over the past decade, providing help to less than 40% of families who meet TANF criteria and to an even smaller fraction (27%) of all families in actual need. For those who do receive benefits, the cash value has eroded so badly that TANF cash assistance does not bring a family up to the poverty line in any state.
For low-income women and families who have fallen through the shredded TANF safety net, Food Stamps are a lifeline. But the Budget passed by the House in April slashes Food Stamps by 20% and caps spending. This would reduce the availability of Food Stamps to less than 40% of families who are eligible to receive it.
Efforts to weaken and roll back Social Security put low-income older women – especially older single women – at similar risk of economic insecurity. After a lifetime of low and unequal wages, half of all older women rely on Social Security for at least 80% of their incomes. For older single women – divorced, widowed, and never-married – the poverty rate is 20%. Without Social Security, the poverty rate would be even higher. Without Social Security, some 58 percent of all women over age 75 would be living in poverty.
The economic precariousness of life in a shredded safety net needs to be a core consideration in deliberations to reduce the deficit. Women need to be at the table and in the conversation to foreground and challenge budget decisions that will make low-income women even more economically vulnerable .