The American Recovery and Reinvestment
Act, passed by Congress last week and signed by the President Tuesday,
provides substantial economic help to women and families. Although it
does not include all that we would have wanted, it represents a major
re-ordering of priorities in funding – not only for health care, but
also for many other programs upon which women and their families depend.
Although we are disappointed
that an important family planning provision to expand coverage was not
in the final bill, the Act will help preserve access to vital health
care services by helping prevent cuts in Medicaid – a program that
serves more than 20 million adult women – and by providing funds for
other health programs, including:
- $87 billion over
two years in increased federal support for Medicaid (which includes
family planning for those eligible for comprehensive coverage) – protecting access to health
care at a time when states are seeing increased demand for services
while facing declining revenues.
- A 65 percent COBRA
premium subsidy, available for nine months, to help workers who lost
jobs after September 2008 buy health insurance coverage under their
former employer’s plan.
- $500 million for
services provided at community health centers and $1.5 billion for construction,
renovation and equipment, and for the acquisition of health information
In addition to health care,
the bill invests in education, child care, and Head Start – building
human capital and creating jobs for teachers, health care workers, and
early childhood educators, many of whom are women. For example, it includes
$2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and $2.1 billion
for Head Start and Early Head Start.
The bill provides funding to
enforce important worker protections for women and for others, including
civil rights laws. It helps eliminate barriers that disqualify many
women from claiming unemployment benefits, in addition to extending
and expanding unemployment compensation benefits.
The bill strengthens the safety
net for women, their families, and others most in need by increasing
direct assistance for low-income individuals, the majority of whom are
women and children – including nutrition assistance and income supports
– and by expanding tax provisions that help low-income families.
We commend President Obama
and Congressional leaders for moving quickly on the economic recovery
bill. But passing this provision is just the first step even for this
Recovery Act. The Act must be implemented, and implemented effectively.
Now, let’s get to work!
For a more detailed summary
of how the provisions agreed to in conference will help women and families,