The economy is failing American women.That’s the message multiple speakers conveyed — sometimes through tears — to the House Ways and Means Committee during a hearing Wednesday, decrying what they described as the country’s lack of paid leave, its broken care economy and rising costs. In his opening statement, Chairman Richard Neal, a Democrat from Massachusetts, said that, although the COVID-19 pandemic did not create the circumstances that force many women to juggle their careers, care for loved ones and financial instability, it certainly made all of those things worse.
“We are so burned out, exhausted, overworked, and overtired,” Tori Snyder, a single mother to a 4-year-old boy and small-business owner in Pittsburgh, as well as a member of the advocacy group MomsRising, told the legislators. “We’re struggling even more now because it’s so expensive to feed our children. I hope you will invest in the care and the care infrastructure working families need with paid leave for all, affordable childcare, home and community-based services and coverages that address all of our healthcare needs.” While women’s participation in the labor force is increasing after dropping off earlier in the pandemic, there were still 656,000 fewer women working in May 2022 compared to February 2020, just before COVID-19 hit the U.S., according to the National Women’s Law Center. What’s more, many women who overcame mass school closures, layoffs, and child-care shortages to return to work are left without the same pandemic-era benefits that had once helped them scrape by, since the enhanced child tax credit, a federally mandated paid-leave program, and expanded unemployment benefits have all since expired, despite an increased cost of living.
“‘My daughter is almost 2, and I’d like to put her in daycare. But the dangers of COVID still persist, and everything is so expensive.’”
— Nija Phelps of Milford, Conn.