Women’s Political Participation and Representation in the Washington Region

This month, on August 26th, we will celebrate Women’s Equality Day, designated as such by Congress in 1971 to commemorate the 1920 passage of the 19th Amendment to the Constitution, granting women the right to vote.  As we approach the day to celebrate this milestone in women’s history, we see there is both much to celebrate, and much work to be done around women and civic and political engagement.

First, the good news: women are making it out the polls in record numbers. Today, women are actively voting, running for office and creatively using their individual and collective power to bring about social and community change. The Census Bureau reports that since 1996, the number of citizens who have reported voting has increased in every presidential election. As in the country as a whole, in our region women are the majority of voters, and both register and vote at a slightly higher number and proportion than men, particularly in the District of Columbia.

 Chart Voting by sex in Nov 2012

Source: The Women’s Foundation compilation of data from the Bureau of the Census, 2012

In the November 2012 election, slightly under three-quarters of DC women voted (71 percent) in comparison with 64 percent of men. This was more than ten percentage points higher than the national voting rates for women (59 percent) and  about ten percentage points higher for men (54 percent) in that election. Voting in Maryland and Virginia had lower rates than DC, closer to the national average; still, women’s civic participation was higher than men’s.

The same pattern holds for voter registration: Seventy-seven percent of DC women were registered to vote in 2012, in comparison with 72 percent of men, which was also higher than the national rates of 67 percent of women and 63 percent of men. In Virginia, 71 percent of women registered to vote compared to 66 percent in Maryland.

Now for the challenging news: While women may make up the majority of voters, there is a significant under-representation of women in political office. Today, women’s representation at the state and national levels falls short of the 51 percent needed to reflect their proportion in the population. For example, women only make up 18.5 percent of the US Congress: they hold just 99 of 535 full-voting Congressional seats, which is up from 90 in 2010.

The District of Columbia has one non-voting Congressional seat, which has been held by Representative Eleanor Holmes Norton for twelve terms. In Maryland, women hold two of the 10 Congressional seats: Senator Barbara Mikulski and Representative Donna Edwards. Thirty percent of the state legislature is made up of women and Maryland ranks 9th among states for the proportion of women in the state legislature.

Virginia holds 13 Congressional seats, none of which are currently filled by women.

The proportion of women in Virginia’s  state legislature decreased from 19 percent in 2010 to 17 percent in 2014. Virginia ranks 40th among states for the proportion of women in the state legislature. The governors of both Maryland and Virginia are men, and neither state has ever elected a woman governor.

Equal political representation for women at the national, state and local levels is critical as it increases the likelihood that laws and policies will reflect the needs and interests of women and their families. Last year, we hosted a brown bag lunch with Rebecca Sive, author of Every Day is Election Day: A Woman’s Guide to Winning Any Office, from the PTA to the White House, to discuss this important topic. We encourage you to read highlights from the conversation and tweet your thoughts using #UseThe19th.

In the 43 years since Women’s Equality Day was designated, we have made impressive strides in the number of women who turn up at the polls to make their voices heard; however, women still are not sufficiently represented in political office – a place where, more than just having a voice, they have a platform and the power to make critical change for women, their families and the communities in which they live.  We may be celebrating Women’s Equality Day this month, but equality in political office still remains far too aspirational. What can you do to raise your voice and be heard?


Takeaways from the White House Summit on Working Families

obama-working-families-summittYesterday, I had the privilege to attend the White House Summit on Working Families.  The White House hosted the Summit along with the Department of Labor and the Center for American Progress, to highlight and discuss some of the most pressing issues facing workers and families in our 21st century workplaces.

The Women’s Foundation will have a series of blogs on the Summit, but for now, here are my immediate takeaways:

1. Expect to hear more about paid family leave, especially parental leave; fair pay; and early learning. These were several policy areas the President explicitly mentioned in his speech. He also mentioned many more and announced new and greater flexibility for federal workers.

2. Get engaged at the local level.  National change is slow and, as the First Lady encouraged when she spoke to the Summit, we have to be okay with incremental progress of 20%, stacked on another 20%, and so on.  It is this steady – albeit slow – progress that can help us push forward.  On the local level, mayors and governors can enact change much sooner in their cities and states.  Likewise, CEOs can enact change in their own companies, and show others how these policies support workers and improve the bottom line.

3. Women everywhere, at all levels, are making sacrifices and choices.  As some women ascend, it is our responsibility to mentor the next generation and set “the tone from the middle” or “the tone from the top” – depending on where we are in our careers – and take it upon ourselves to create workplace cultures and policies that are fair, supportive and productive.

4. These are not just women’s issues.  These are issues for all working people, of all family types, and they can’t be pigeon-holed.  Whether it is a working dad, who wants to care for his infant in the first days of parenthood, or a childless worker that needs to take an elderly parent to a doctor’s appointment, issues like paid leave affect the ability of all working people to provide and care for their families while they earn a living and contribute to the economy.

Stay tuned for more in depth coverage of the Summit from The Women’s Foundation! In the meantime, you can find more information on http://workingfamiliessummit.org or check out the conversation on Twitter using #FamiliesSucceed.

Celebrate Women’s History Month at the National Archives

Record of RightsMany of Washington, DC’s museums proudly display the highlights of American history from Judy Garland’s red slippers to the command module of the Apollo 11 mission to the moon. But a new permanent exhibit at the National Archives not only gives us an in-depth look at our country’s complicated past with civil rights, but also asks us to consider how we can play a part in shaping our nation’s future.

When you first walk into the dimly lit Records of Rights exhibit at the National Archives, your eyes are drawn directly to the centerpiece of the room, the Magna Carta. When visiting for the first time, I was struck by how the weight of such an important document fills the room. From the screens next to the Magna Carta that allow you to explore its history, to a large interactive table where archive goers are encouraged to sift through historical documents and tag them with their reactions, it is clear that this exhibit aims to draw you in. But it is the images on the walls when you first enter that give the impression that perhaps this exhibit will be more than just a parade of historical documents; the entry is lined with what appear to be frames from a painting of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. However, when the viewer changes their perspective the images change with them: they are holograms. Revealed images start to depict things such as African American soldiers, women’s suffragettes, and immigrant laborers.

These are the real focus of the new Records of Rights exhibit, the recently constructed Rubenstein Gallery that aims to “illustrate how Americans throughout our history have debated issues such as citizenship, free speech, voting rights, and equal opportunity.” The exhibit highlights the struggles of three specific sectors of society: immigrant populations, African Americans and women. On my visit, I focused my energies on the section depicting women, called, “Remembering the Ladies,” a title pulled from a quote from First Lady Abigail Adams as she urged her husband, President John Adams, to “remember the ladies” as they drew up a new code of laws for the new United States of America. The exhibit showed the absurdities of laws and practices that were once commonplace and reminded me that the power of one person and one word (a penciled mark-up adding the word “sex” to the Civil Rights Bill of 1964) can alter the course of history.

Considering how moved I was by the exhibit, I was surprised that there could be any opposition to its depiction of civil rights throughout America’s history. Yet, when the gallery first opened, the New York Times ran a rather critical article that suggested that an exhibit discussing America’s tumultuous past with extending liberties justly should not be so prominently featured at the National Archives.  Expressing his criticism, the author, Edward Rothstein, stated, “This is a peculiar way for an institution that is a reflection of the government itself, to see the nature of its origins, the character of its achievements, and the promise of its ideas,” and asked,What is a visiting class of students to think, except that the United States has been uniquely hypocritical and surpassingly unjust?”

However, after seeing it for myself, I believe the Records of Rights exhibit is exactly the kind of frank and unsparing journey that our students need to understand and appreciate how their own rights and liberties have been shaped to this day. This look at our country’s history – and its fraught relationship with implementing the “rights of free men” that Mr. Rothstein extols – shows that the “promise of [this country’s] ideas” has historically only been guaranteed for some – often those writing the ideas – and reminds students that if we forget this truth, we run the risk of repeating it. Facing these tough issues in America’s history is exactly what we want a visiting class of students to do; a trip to the Archives is not meant to be a glamorous whitewashing of our nation’s story, but rather a teaching experience that sparks debate.  If we don’t show these struggles in our National Archives, what students will learn is revisionist history, that the “hard parts” of delivering these rights to our citizens can be brushed under the rug. Taking responsibility for our history is not a sign of weakness, but rather a way to ensure the strength of our nation in the future. Women are teachable

In this day and age we take it for granted that a woman can grow up to become a doctor or business owner, that she can build her own credit and buy her own home (a right the exhibit reminds wasn’t granted until the 1970’s), and that women don’t need to be taught how to use job related equipment by “referring to them like kitchen gadgets” as one booklet in the exhibit urged new managers of women to do (à la this gem). It took the concentrated efforts of thousands of people to see where inequality existed and try to overcome those stereotypes. The honesty of the Records of Rights exhibit is less about how America is imperfect, and more about how America has overcome many obstacles in its journey to form a more perfect union: when faced with a problem, individuals as part of a larger American society, helped push us forward.

Rothstein also lamented that in the exhibit, “we aren’t being asked to think: We are being drilled, unrelentingly, in injustice,” and later, “The exhibition notes that Americans have “debated issues” like these, but there is no debate — only compassion opposing intolerance.” Yet, I believe the Records of Rights exhibit does an exceptional job of showing us how Americans have debated these issues; only because of our privilege of hindsight can we look back and see that the rights we fought for were really just “compassion opposing intolerance.” For instance, a letter from Alice H. Wadsworth, the female President of the National Association Opposed to Woman Suffrage, to U.S. House of Representatives member Charles E. Fuller, states that giving women the right to vote would be “an endorsement of nagging as a national policy.” Other documents in the exhibit also depict how the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) was opposed by key woman suffragists for fear it would wipe away gains made through gender specific labor legislation. Eleanor Roosevelt opposed the ERA. The Record of Rights’ nuanced and comprehensive portrayal of our history reminds us that there were multiple sides to these issues, and these debates were very real for our citizens, even among women. In many ways, it is exactly the job of The Archives, as our nation’s keeper of historical records, to show us the totality of this debate.

wartime cartoon childcareMoreover, this exhibit reveals that some of the struggles of bygone eras are struggles we still face today. For instance, I couldn’t help but note that political cartoons from the 1940s joked about the lack of childcare for women in the workforce during the wartime effort, a very real issue that we are still working to address today. In many cases, we still haven’t learned from our past.

When leaving the exhibit, I felt equal parts exhilarated and sobered. We as a nation have come together to recognize and right injustice time and time again, something that propels us forward and makes us stronger. But there are many things we still need to improve, and reminding ourselves of this is the only way we will know that we have the ability to change things. The exhibit highlighted individuals  – whether it be a woman writing the state railway commission asking for a chance to work for a living wage, or famous suffragists calling for the 19th Amendment to be passed; these remind us that no matter who or where we are, we can play a role in changing history.

When Data Tells a Local Woman’s Story

CFED asset scorecard coverWorking in the nonprofit sector and philanthropy, it helps to be a bit of a data nerd.  Increasingly, tracking, crunching, and assessing data is not just a “nice to do” but a “must do.”  At The Women’s Foundation, we work hard to make sure we’re investing in strategies that are data-driven and evidence-based.

For those who are not data nerds, it helps when data tells a real story of a woman’s life.  That’s why I do a happy dance when CFED launches its annual “Assets & Opportunity” scorecard.  The scorecard is user-friendly and includes data beyond financial assets, such as education, health and jobs.

So, what does the 2014 scorecard tell us about the lives of women and families in the Washington region[i]?  Here are a few things that struck a chord for me:

  • DC and Maryland have stronger asset building policies, and stronger outcomes for families.  Virginia has weaker policies, and weaker outcomes for families.  For example, DC and Maryland have eliminated “asset tests” for SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or food stamps) that discourage recipients from building the savings that could otherwise help them move toward self-sufficiency.
  • Maryland has the highest adoption of asset building policies in the US – but it’s still only 60% of what could be adopted.
  • DC has the worst ratio of homeownership rates in the US, comparing the rate between two-parent (67.7%) and one-parent households (29.2%).  This, to me, says a lot about the financial status of one-parent households in the District, and the importance of investing in asset building for the low-income women we aim to serve.

When the scorecard comes out, I also always look at the “liquid asset poverty rate.”  It’s a jargon-y term for the savings on hand (cash and other accounts that can be liquidated quickly) to help individuals and families in the event of a crisis, like a job loss or medical emergency.  What I’m always shocked to think about is that these assets are what allow someone to “subsist at the poverty level for three months in the absence of income.”  We’re talking about the ability to simply subsist at poverty levels, which is awfully close to slipping below, and is certainly not enough to get by in our region.

  • In Virginia, 51.8% of single female-headed households live in liquid asset poverty.
    If it’s a two-parent household, this rate drops to 27.5%.
  • In Maryland, 48.4% of single female-headed households live in liquid asset poverty.
    If it’s a two-parent household, this rate drops to 21.4%.

These numbers are consistent – or in some cases even lower – than national rates, but they are nevertheless striking.  If half of female-headed households are living in liquid asset poverty – meaning they don’t have the savings to cover three months of basic expenses, let alone the savings to plan for the future – then we have a lot of work to do.

I encourage you to dig deep into the data.  Find out how it speaks to you.

Lauren Stillwell is a program officer at Washington Area Women’s Foundation.

[i] Washington Area Women’s Foundation’s geographic focus includes the District of Columbia; Montgomery County and Prince George’s Counties in Maryland; Arlington and Fairfax Counties, and the city of Alexandria, in Virginia.  Based on available scorecard information, this post broadly discusses state-level information for Maryland and Virginia. There was insufficient data available in many cases for the District.

The Year in Review: Top Legislation Impacting Women in 2013

It seems that women have been the center of many policy debates this year, both nationally and locally. We’ve been keeping an eye on important legislation affecting women and their families in 2013 and have put together a list of the top bills, policies and legislation of the year, plus a few to keep tabs on in 2014:

1. Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) cuts:

In November of this year, automatic cuts to SNAP took effect as the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA) expired. The cuts amounted to $29 a month for a family of three and reduced SNAP benefits to an average of less than $1.40 per person per meal in 2014.

Keep an eye on this in 2014: Additional cuts could be coming in 2014. Cuts to SNAP are included in the Farm Bill, but the number varies depending on version. Though the conference committee tasked with reconciling the House and Senate versions of the bill won’t have an agreement by the end of 2013, it is likely the bill will pass in some form in early 2014.

2. Violence Against Women Reauthorization Act of 2013:

This bill was signed into law in March and expands protections for victims of domestic abuse and sexual assault. Among other things, it helps create a national prevention hotline, funds shelters, facilitates the prosecution of perpetrators, provides a temporary visa and pathway to legalization for undocumented immigrants who are the victims of domestic abuse and greatly expands the housing rights of domestic violence survivors.

3. Raising the minimum wage to $11.50/hr in DC, Montgomery County and Prince George’s County:

Just in time to make our 2013 roundup, these three local governments all passed bills to raise the minimum wage in their respective jurisdictions. This is a huge step and very important for our region, but as the Foundation’s President Nicky Goren wrote in her Huffington Post article earlier this month, this increase is just a start. Still, there has been a lot of activism around raising the minimum wage lately, including President Obama supporting a bill to raise the federal minimum wage. We’ll be watching this issue in the new year.

4. Long-term unemployment insurance runs out December 28:

Recent statistics show that women are roughly 45% of the long-term unemployed. Right now, the length of time a person can collect unemployment benefits varies significantly by state, but it can be as long as 73 weeks in some places. Come December 28, 2013, 26 weeks will be the maximum length a person will be able to collect the benefit. At that time, anyone who has been on unemployment longer than 26 weeks will be completely cut-off (that number will likely be 1.3 million Americans). The Urban Institute has created a great resource for learning more about this important issue, here.

5. Sequester and Shutdown:

2013 saw both The Sequester and The Shutdown, with the Washington region being heavily impacted by both. The Sequester caused cuts to social services, furloughs for government workers, and serious hits to the Head Start program. The Shutdown nearly crippled the Head Start program altogether in November and caused many local non-profits and families to struggle as they went without funding and paychecks for 16 days. Sequestration has been devastating for housing assistance programs, causing significant shortfalls in housing vouchers for low-income families.

6. Affordable Care Act came online:

Though the rollout has had its issues, the Affordable Care Act officially came online this past year, and the implications for women and their families are huge. Already, almost 1.5 million people have enrolled in Medicaid or the Children’s Health Insurance Program according to the federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services. All the women and children included in that figure will get free preventative care such as mammograms, screenings for cervical cancer and other services, along with coverage for other medical issues at reasonable prices and no co-pay for most birth control.

To watch in the coming year:

1. Immigration Reform:

This bill didn’t make it through Congress this year, but the implications of comprehensive immigration reform for families could be huge. It is estimated that there are between 11 and 20 million undocumented immigrants in America, many of them living away from families for years or decades. Many undocumented immigrants forgo public assistance they could legally obtain for fear they will be deported. There is a lot of momentum for this bill, and we’ll be watching what happens in 2014.

2. Strong Start for America’s Children Act:

On November 13, the Strong Start for America’s Children Act was introduced in the House and Senate. This legislation would provide universal access to high-quality pre-kindergarten for low-income children and expand child care for infants and toddlers through a federal-state partnership.  This bill has bipartisan support and would be a huge early care and education win if it passes. A summary on the bill from the National Women’s Law Center is here.

 3. The Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act (the FAMILY Act):

This bill was introduced in December of this year. While the Family and Medical Leave Act of 1993 (widely known as FMLA) currently requires employers to provide leave for qualified medical and family reasons, it only requires unpaid leave. The new bill that has been introduced would provide federal family leave insurance that would provide workers with up to 12 weeks of partial income for qualified leave. This is certainly something that could be a huge boost for women and their families, and we’ll be watching it closely in 2014.

Was this review helpful? Did we miss something? Let us know in the comments section!

Washington Area Women’s Foundation Weekly

In this week’s roundup of news affecting women and girls in our community: We wonder what Dr. King might say about the high rate of poverty among women and girls in the DC area.  The top five findings of 2011 from the Institute of Women’s Policy Research.  The impact of Pre-K on the achievement gap.  Is it time for a poverty revolution?  Plus, a young, aspiring scientist is headed for a national competition as her family deals with homelessness.

— Ahead of the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, Women’s Foundation President Nicky Goren visits the MLK Memorial and reflects on what Dr. King would think about more than 200,000 women and girls living in poverty in the DC region.

— The Women’s Foundation is inviting supporters to join us and volunteer at A Wider Circle on MLK Day.  Click here for details.

— The Institute for Women’s Policy Research (IWPR) — a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner — has posted a list of their top five findings of 2011. Topics on the list include how women have fared during the economic recovery, the unmet child care needs of student parents and how much paid sick days would save taxpayers.

East of the River Magazine explores the innovative work of AppleTree Early Learning Public Charter School.  The article also takes a look at the impact a quality Pre-K education can have on the achievement gap.  AppleTree is a Women’s Foundation Grantee Partner.

— “In the fight against poverty, it’s time for a revolution,” David Bornstein writes in a commentary on The New York Times website. Bornstein calls for re-defining poverty, restructuring how social services are handled, and focusing on collaborative, long-term solutions.

— Here’s your feel great story of the week: a 17-year-old Long Island high school student whose family had to move into a homeless shelter a year ago is a semifinalist in the Intel Science Talent Search competition.  Samantha Garvey says she doesn’t have the best home life, but she hopes that she made her parents proud by being one of just 300 students nationwide to participate in the semifinals of the competition.  You can watch her story here:

Restaurant Weak? New Report Highlights Low Wages, Discrimination, Health Risks in Local Restaurant Industry

kitchen door summitCoalition Releases New Report Highlighting Low Wages, Discrimination, Health Risks, and Opportunity for Improvement in DC’s Growing Restaurant Industry

The DC restaurant scene has received increasing praise in national food circles due to innovative restaurants opening weekly (even through the recession) and a growing cadre of local celebrity chefs.  Unfortunately, most restaurant employers have not shared this love with their workers. Gender discrimination remains pervasive and tends to affect minority workers at a higher rate.

A new report from the DC Restaurant Industry Coalition (which includes Women’s Foundation Grantee Partners Restaurant Opportunities Center of DC and the DC Employment Justice Center, as well as DC Jobs with Justice, ) takes a look at the wages and working conditions of DC restaurant workers.   It was released on Valentine’s Day at a breakfast summit at Eatonville Restaurant.  The report, based on a study of nearly 600 restaurant workers and employers, was completed by the Coalition last year.  It illustrates the pervasive low wages and discrimination in the mostly non-unionized restaurant industry.  The report also highlights the success of responsible employers, and suggests policy improvements to increase the health of the industry for everyone involved.

At the February 14th summit, D.C. hostess Katherine Jiménez described the gender segregation in hiring practices.  “They like young girls to be in the front…. The position traditionally for females is greeter, people who take care of the reservations….  I know some men who have applied for this position, because they like working with people and doing something other than working in the back of the house or being servers. [Management] would accept the application but not hire the person. There [are] no male greeters.” On the other hand servers, one of the highest paid positions in the restaurant, “[of about] 30 servers, three are female; it is very male-dominated.”

After accepting the hostess position, Jiménez was informed that during the 6-8 hour shift, she “must wear high heels [of] a specific style and height….  [In the job description, this detail] wasn’t there.”  She addressed with management the discomfort of this uniform requirement and the fact that it is a sexist practice.  The manager told her: “I don’t think it’s sexist, because if you were a man you wouldn’t have this job.”

Gender discrimination was also a part of the promotion opportunities and professional development policies of the restaurant.  Jiménez requested more training in order to learn more about wine and menu knowledge and in the hopes of being promoted to a server. “I asked [the manager]if I could apply to be a server.  Learn more about the food, learn more about wines.  He sat down with me and he told me he didn’t see me doing something like that.”

It is time to translate the country’s respect for restaurants into fair labor conditions for restaurant workers. Improving jobs will lead to better food, happier consumers, and more stable businesses.  As you enjoy a meal with family and friends, remember your fellow workers in the kitchen and dining room who make this act possible.

Please click here to learn more and read the report from the DC Restaurant Industry Coalition.

Nikki Lewis is a coordinator at Restaurant Opportunities Centers United-DC.

Hunger Is on the Rise While Food and Nutrition Programs Are Not Fully Utilized

One in eight households in the District of Columbia struggled with hunger during the 2006-2008 period according to new data from the U.S. Department of Agriculture[1].  Nationally, more than 49.1 million people lived in households that were food insecure– the federal government’s term for being hungry or at risk of hunger[2] in 2008 – up from 36.2 million in 2007.

Although hunger touches all types of people and households, the USDA report shows that food insecurity is especially prevalent among households with children headed by a single mother.  Nationally, single mothers experience hunger at substantially higher rates than the national average (37.2% versus 14.6%).  Further, the prevalence of very low food security is also much higher for these households than the national average (13.3% versus 5.7%).  

Research[3] has shown that even a temporary increase in food insecurity can have a long-lasting and serious impact on the well-being and health of families and communities.   Hungry children are more likely to miss school and struggle academically and are at greater risk of developmental deficiencies.  Adults who struggle with hunger cannot concentrate, are less productive, and are at greater risk of illness and chronic disease.

Fortunately, federal nutrition programs such as the Food Stamp Program, free school breakfast and lunch, and WIC (women, infants, and children) are proven, readily-available solutions to combat hunger for these single-mother families and all hungry people in the District.  These programs not only reduce food insecurity and hunger, but also improve nutrition, health, economic security, early childhood development, school achievement, and overall well-being. 

Furthermore, the federal nutrition programs are, by and large, 100 percent federally-funded and, as entitlements (except WIC), are not subject to spending caps or limits on the number of participants.  They are limited only by shortfalls by public agencies, schools, and nonprofits in using them.  Federal nutrition program participation can grow to meet growing need when the economy gets worse.  Indeed, as District unemployment rose from seven percent in July 2008 to 10.6 percent in July 2009, food stamp participation rose by nearly 18 percent (from 90,840 participants to 107,176 participants).  The Food Stamp Program brought with it approximately $14 million in 100 percent federally-funded benefits just in the month of July 2009.

To increase support for hungry women and children, and to support all D.C. families, the District should do a better job in fully utilizing these federal nutrition programs. While the city should be commended for recent improvements, such as passing the Food Stamp Expansion Act of 2009 which boosts benefits and expands eligibility for the program, there is still much work to be done.  For example, for every 100 children that eat free or reduced-price school lunch, only 50 also participate in the School Breakfast Program. D.C. could help more low-income children start the day with a healthy morning meal by getting more schools to offer breakfast in the classroom, a strategy that’s proven to boost participation.  Additionally, continuing to increase participation in the Food Stamp Program by fully implementing policies that passed with the Food Stamp Expansion Act, such as categorical eligibility[4] and Heat and Eat[5], will also help get much-needed resources in the hands of families struggling with hunger.

D.C. Hunger Solutions’ “Get the Food Guide” is available to help women learn about nutrition resources. Contact Katie Vinopal (kvinopal@dchunger.org) if you would like a copy.

 [1] http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err83/

[2] http://www.ers.usda.gov/Briefing/FoodSecurity/measurement.htm or http://www.frac.org/html/hunger_in_the_us/hunger_index.html

[3] http://www.frac.org/html/hunger_in_the_us/health.html

[4] http://www.dchunger.org/pdf/DC-cat-elfinal3.pdf

[5] http://www.dchunger.org/pdf/heat_and_eat_feb2009.pdf

D.C. Government Slashes Funding for Some of the City's Most Vulnerable Women

Days after the District made the shocking announcement that $20 million had been cut from the homeless services budget for the 2010 fiscal year, advocates and organizations that provide shelter for the homeless are still reeling. One of The Women’s Foundation grantee partners is reaching out for help – as winter approaches and the organizations that assist the homeless face a crisis.

Calvary Women’s Services was notified Monday, September 28, by The Community Partnership for the Prevention of Homelessness (TCP) that contract funding for Calvary would be cut by nearly $75,000 beginning October 1st.  These funds support safe housing and other services for 150 homeless women each year.  TCP is an independent, non-profit corporation that coordinates DC’s Continuum of Care homeless services.

Calvary is one of many social service providers notified of cuts to their existing contracts. Emergency, transitional and supported permanent housing programs were all targeted as the city attempted to close an ever-widening budget gap.  The impact of these cuts on the overall homeless services system is going to be severe, with some housing programs reducing their services and others likely closing programs. 

Although these cuts may provide some immediate relief to the city’s budget problems, the real impact of the cuts will be felt by those in need of safe housing and support services.  Women who have already lost their jobs in this economic crisis will have fewer services and housing options available to them. These cuts will make women who are already at-risk much more likely to end up living on the streets or in unsafe situations.

The women who come to programs like Calvary are survivors of violence, women struggling with mental illness, and women working to overcome addictions.  At Calvary we make sure they have access to all of the services they need to address these challenges – in addition to providing a safe place to live.

We know that programs like ours work.  Every five days a woman moves out of Calvary and into her own home.

We have always relied on the support of both public funding and private donations to make our programs possible.  In the past, supporters have helped us close gaps like this one, and I am hopeful that the community will step up once again.  But I am also concerned that this gap may be too wide for our generous donors to close.

The coming months will be challenging ones for organizations like Calvary, as we try to find ways to continue to provide women in this community with critical, life changing services.  More so, they will be challenging months for women who need services like ours, as they face closed doors and reduced services at programs across the city.

 You can make a difference.  Support Calvary – or another agency facing these cuts – today. 

 Volunteer, donate or learn more at www.calvaryservices.org.

Kris Thompson is the Executive Director of Calvary Women’s Services, recognized as a 2009 Leadership Awardee by The Women’s Foundation.  Learn more about them on their Web site or on Facebook.

Stepping Stones Research Update – June 2009

As part of our ongoing commitment – in partnership with The Urban Institute – to providing information and resources related to the goals of Stepping Stones, please find below a summary of recent research on issues of economic security and financial independence for women and their families. This research is summarized and complied for The Women’s Foundation by Liza Getsinger of The Urban Institute, NeighborhoodInfo DC.  

Financial Education and Wealth Creation News

The Urban Institute provides statistics on the work effort, earnings, health care access and other characteristics of low-income families. (Abstract) (Full Text)

 Jobs and Business Ownership News

The Brookings Institution investigates the accessibility of middle-wage jobs — good paying jobs for the less-educated workers — for those without bachelor’s degrees in 204 metropolitan areas. (Abstract) (Full Text)

Child Care and Early Education

The National Institute for Early Education Research examines the journeys of six states — Florida, Georgia, Oklahoma, Illinois, New York, and West Virginia — in achieving a plan for preschool for all. (Intro) (Full Text)

Health and Safety News

The Urban Institute explores the unique experiences of women exiting prison, focusing on a representative sample of 142 women who were released from Texas prisons and state jails in 2005 and returned to Houston communities. (Intro) (Full Text)

Other News and Research

The Urban Institute provides comprehensive data indicators and analysis on the state of older youth (age 12-24) in the District and examines  the role of area nonprofits that work with young people, their families, and neighborhoods. (Abstract) (Full Text)