Proposed Budget Cuts Target Programs Women Rely On
We talk about it all the time—we need to do more to invest in women and families.
The wage gap? Still exists.
The wealth gap? Huge and crushing.
Housing wait lists are long, tax credits give too little help to too few, too many people are going without health insurance, and we still don’t have paid family leave or affordable, accessible child care.
The last thing we need right now? For Congress to slash our budget and make everything for everyone—but especially women—so much worse!
On April 26, 2023, the House passed a bill with steep federal budget cuts. If these cuts or anything like them are enacted, it would unquestionably increase poverty and hardship.
Let us be crystal clear here:
Negotiating steep budget cuts would mean negotiating away women’s ability to live safe and healthy lives.
Because if this budget proposal goes through, it would mean catastrophic cuts to the social safety net— hitting women, particularly women of color, the hardest.
Just a few examples:
- 1.2 million pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding women and their children would be stripped of nutrition assistance through cuts to the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program.
- 1 million children in work-eligible families would be at risk of losing income assistance through cuts to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF).
- 100,000 children would lose access to child care and 200,000 children would lose access to Head Start.
- 640,000 families would lose access to rental assistance and more than 430,000 families with low incomes would face eviction.
And on top of that, deep cuts to federal spending would slow the entire economy down and risk sending us into a recession.
In addition to these already devastating cuts, the bill targets programs people need for the absolute basics. Medicaid, SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), and TANF (cash aid and other income supports) help people with the lowest incomes get health care and food, but this proposal would kick people off those programs if they can’t comply with additional bureaucratic requirements. These are cruel policies that have been shown to make people sicker and hungrier, while doing nothing to promote employment.
We know women would be disproportionately hurt by both these overall cuts and by losing access to benefits because of burdensome reporting requirements:
- In 2021, a full 75% of the households receiving HUD rental assistance were headed by women, as were about two-thirds of the recipients of ERAP emergency rental assistance (as of September 2022).*
- Women disproportionately take on care responsibilities, so taking away child care hurts their ability to stay employed.
- Women are the majority of adult Medicaid users, and the program covers services including birth control, maternity care, prescription drugs, and more that address many of women’s major health needs throughout their lives.
- From October 2019 to February 2020, women were over 63% of adult SNAP users, and 92% of the SNAP-using households with children headed by a single adult (from June 2020 through September 2020).*
- In 2021, women were more than 85% of the adults served by TANF. And in that same year, over 62% of those pregnant, post-partum, and breastfeeding women receiving nutrition assistance through WIC were women of color.*
As a bonus, the bill would use the money saved from kicking people in poverty out of assistance to protect wealthy people who aren’t paying the taxes they owe. Proposed cuts to IRS enforcement would make it easier for the wealthiest to avoid taxes, losing the government an estimated $114 billion over ten years as it can’t collect the taxes they owe.
And of course, no cuts are expected to our country’s defense budget, which is already larger than the next 10 countries… combined.
These are the wrong priorities. We’ve seen it play out the same way countless times—cut taxes on the wealthy, watch the tax revenue coming into the government drop, and then complain we “can’t afford” vital programs that women, families, and all of us rely on, when it’s the tax cuts that drive the shortfall.
Rather than fail the same, embarrassing way again and again; here’s what we should do instead:
Congress should raise the debt ceiling without delay or precondition. Then they should get to the business of raising revenues from the wealthy and corporations and invest in the care economy to support women, LGBTQ+ people, families, and all of us.
*Statistics based on NWLC’s analysis “By the Numbers.”