Will Biden’s Stimulus Bundle Assist Reverse the ‘Shecession’?

– C. Nicole Mason, President and Executive Director of the Institute for Research on Women’s Politics

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President-elect Joseph R. Biden Jr. unveiled a stimulus package on Thursday that has been praised for its size and scope – even by conservative corporations, lobby groups and analysts – and which reconciles the current economic crisis with a historically unique response.

“We haven’t seen such an ambitious economic stimulus plan since the New Deal during the Great Depression,” said C. Nicole Mason, President and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Political Research. “What signals to me is that the new government understands the scale of the problem.”

This economic crisis was clearly different from the previous ones from the start: it was not caused by geopolitical or financial forces and affected women disproportionately.

Much of the jobs that disappeared at the start of the coronavirus pandemic have been filled by women, especially women of the same color who worked in service industries such as hospitality, travel, retail and entertainment.

The downward trend continued through the year: more than 800,000 women left the labor force entirely in September (they were no longer looking for work), and at the end of 2020, when the virus reappeared, 156,000 jobs were lost in December by women, mostly women in color. According to the National Women’s Rights Center, “almost 2.1 million women were less employed in December than in February before the pandemic began.”

So the question, for many, is whether Mr. Biden’s so-called US $ 1.9 trillion rescue plan would help women get back to work and contain the spread of the virus.

According to several economists, advocates and experts, the answer is overwhelmingly yes. The plan digs deep into elements that have traditionally not been a big part of stimulus plans: public health with funds to increase the spread and testing of Covid-19 vaccines and childcare without the experts saying it would be difficult to reverse . called Shecession.

“For six to nine months, progressive academics have been setting their hair on fire and saying, ‘You have to do this and that and that,” said Michael Madowitz, an economist at the left-wing Center for American Progress who studied the effects of the pandemic on parents. ” It seems like a vast majority of these ideas are actually included in this package in some form or another. “

“It’s a refreshing departure because economists often feel like they’re throwing political ideas into void,” he added.

Of course, the proposal is a starting point that will most likely be watered down as it makes its way through Congress.

The recovery package includes several proposals that can help families who are hard to get around: expanding unemployment insurance programs, extending paid leave and continuing an eviction moratorium, all of which would provide extra cushion in the event that people continue to struggle to get back into the country USA return workforce.

One of the main reasons so many women are unemployed during the pandemic is that the burden of home childcare caused by daycare and school closings has often fallen on mothers’ shoulders. The main tenants of Mr Biden’s Plan are specifically designed to address this reality.

The plan is to reopen the schools for kindergartens up to eighth grade within the first 100 days after the new administration. US $ 130 billion is earmarked for these resources – from new ventilation systems to additional classroom programs that can help “lose” study time this year, “underscoring the fact that distance learning can potentially attract many children from families low-income has set back.

The plan also provides around $ 40 billion in childcare. This is a significant increase in funding from the $ 10 billion included in the last stimulus package passed by Congress in December. In Mr. Biden’s plan, more than half the childcare funding – $ 25 billion – would go to bailing out providers who were barely profitable before the pandemic and have been hanging by a thread since then. In a recent survey of more than 5,000 childcare workers across the country by the National Association for the Education of Young Children, about 40 percent said they may have to shut down permanently if government assistance is not available.

Another $ 15 billion would help low-income families afford childcare. The plan would also expand tax credits to help parents cover the cost of looking after children under the age of 13. However, it is still unclear whether this means that parents will not be able to use this benefit until the next year.

Mr. Madowitz of the Center for American Progress said that “daycare deaths in the next nine months would have been a huge cost to the speed of our recovery.” Instead, that short-term investment will pay off for years to come, he added, enabling women to re-enter the workforce earlier and contribute to economic growth and potentially change culture in a country that has never subsidized childcare in this way.

All in all, the proposal is about “children and parents, but also about the teachers and carers and that they have secure jobs,” said Heather Boushey, one of the top economic advisors in the new Biden administration, in a call Journalists on Friday. “The package looks at both sides of that equation.”

The plan also includes raising the minimum wage from $ 7.25 to $ 15 an hour and ending the minimum wage, which would directly affect women, especially black and Hispanic women.

In 2019, 68 percent of minimum wage workers and 66 percent of workers below the minimum wage were women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. In the long run, the increased hourly rate could also help close the gender pay gap, especially in the worst-paid jobs, Madowitz said.

But the studies on this are mixed; Some, like this 2018 study by the Irish Economic and Social Research Institute, found that increasing the minimum wage actually closed the pay gap for the low-paid, while others saw no change.

Regardless, this proposal is likely to face more opposition from moderates and conservatives in Congress.

In addition, raising the minimum wage does not necessarily increase job security issues, noted Ms. Mason of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. Many of the first jobs cut during the pandemic were minimum wage jobs. Research by the Impartial Congressional Budget Office also suggests that 1.3 million workers who would otherwise be employed would be unemployed if the minimum wage rose to $ 15 an hour as companies adjust payrolls.

“We still have some work to do to make sure these jobs are quality jobs,” added Ms. Mason.

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