Durbin, Bustos Hold Roundtable Discussion on Women's Economic Security - Rock Island

[ROCK ISLAND] – U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) and U.S. Representative Cheri Bustos (D-IL-17) held a roundtable discussion with several local women about a range of economic challenges they face today at Skip-a-Long Child Development Services. The discussion looked at how issues such as minimum wage, pay equity, access to child care and health care affect women’s financial stability and success.

“Too many women face financial pressures simply because of outdated policies that limit economic opportunities. We have a problem in this country when women make up half the workforce, but earn far less than half the income.” Durbin said. “About 60 percent of women’s job gains in the economic recovery are in the 10 categories of jobs that pay the lowest wages. It’s clear we need to raise the minimum wage, but we cannot stop there. We need to look at every issue affecting women’s economic security, including access to affordable health and child care. Ensuring that women can succeed will create brighter futures for individuals and families across the entire country.”

“When women succeed, America succeeds. By supporting women and enabling them to pursue their goals, we will not only strengthen working families, but our economy and the middle class,” said Congresswoman Bustos. “Mothers are the primary breadwinners in 40 percent of households today, but report after report still show many ways in which we continue to fail women. That's why I will continue to focus on enacting policies that support women’s success and therefore their families' success."

Durbin and Bustos highlighted four major issues affecting women’s economic futures:

Minimum Wage
Durbin is a cosponsor of the Minimum Wage Fairness Act to increase the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10 per hour in three 95-cent annual increments and index it to inflation annually thereafter. The bill would also gradually raise the minimum wage for tipped workers over a longer period of time, from the current $2.13 per hour to a level that is 70 percent of the regular minimum wage. 2.8 million working single parents would benefit from the increase in the minimum wage, more than 80 percent of whom are women.

Pay Equity
The Equal Pay Act was signed into law almost 50 years ago, but the pay gap between men and women is just as real today as it was then. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, women earn 77 cents for every dollar earned by men. It is even greater for minorities: African American women earn 70 cents; Hispanic women earn 60 cents. Durbin is a cosponsor of the Paycheck Fairness Act, which amends the Equal Pay Act to more strongly discourage gender-based discrimination.

Affordable Child Care
In Illinois, and 30 other states across the country, the average cost of child care is more than college tuition. Without help, some women pay around half of their income for child care. Due to a lack of funding for programs like the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG), 82 percent of eligible children do not receive federal assistance.

First signed into law by President George H.W. Bush in 1990, CCDBG is the primary source of federal funding for child care assistance and serves 1.6 million children every month. CCDBG is a block grant to states, which then helps low-income families pay for quality, affordable child care and after-school programs while parents work, train for work or attend school. In Fiscal Year 2013, Illinois received $200 million in CCDBG and served 52,800 children per month.

In September the House passed the CCDBG reauthorization bill that will allow parents to get the subsidy for at least a year, regardless of changes in income or brief periods of being out of work, as long as their income doesn’t exceed 85 percent of the state’s median income. With this change, parents will not have to turn down a small raise or overtime hours that would bump income up enough to lose the CCDBG subsidy. The Senate is expected to vote on the reauthorization bill in November.

Access to Health Care
The Affordable Care Act improved healthcare access, affordability, and utility for women. Women now have access to contraception, mammograms, and other health screenings free of charge. It expanded Medicaid, and gave low-income women access to comprehensive health insurance. The Health Insurance Marketplace allows women to shop for affordable health care coverage if their employer doesn’t offer it and the Affordable Care Act prevents insurance companies from charging women more simply because of their gender or pre-existing condition.