Elder Index Legislation Passes Overwhelmingly in NJ Assembly

WOO-HOO! Today, the New Jersey Assembly passed, by a vote of 72-1, A3504, a bill requiring the Department of Human Services to produce and update the New Jersey Elder Index; consult the Index in planning and delivering public benefits and services to senior residents; and use it as a planning tool for public resource allocation. Passage of the bill, sponsored by Assemblyman Joseph Lagana and Assemblywomen Pamela Lampitt, Valerie Huttle and Shavonda Sumter, represents a crucial step forward toward sound public policy for seniors in NJ, as the Elder Index provides policy makers accurate data on the economic conditions of older adults. WOW and its partner, NJ Foundation for Aging, testified in support of the legislation last month before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee.

Next step: consideration of companion legislation in the NJ Senate (S2231) introduced by Loretta Weinberg, Majority Leader. The bill is currently in the Senate Health Committee, where it may come up for a vote as early as winter 2015. WOW and NJFA will be pressing for favorable consideration and rapid movement to the Senate floor. Say Yes to Elder Economic Security!

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Women Veterans Are Still Fighting For Economic Security

We celebrate Veteran’s Day by honoring the sacrifices the men and women of our military have made.  Yet it is equally important to honor their service by ensuring that they have routes to economic security when they return from their service.  However, this latter celebration is still not a reality for all veterans.

Recently released US Bureau of Labor Statistics data highlights some significant challenges that women veterans face upon their return.  While the good news is that the overall unemployment rate fell for male and female veterans over the past year, the bad news is that the unemployment rate for Gulf-War era II veterans remained strikingly high. And even more troubling is that within that group the unemployment rate for women is almost double that of male veterans (6.2 percent for men and 11.2 percent for women).

Source: US BLS, 2014

Source: US BLS, 2014

This data is quite alarming.  Younger female veterans are returning from their service only to find themselves without jobs and far from economic security.  This is unacceptable. We need to invest in employment and training programs, along with supportive services, that provide routes for female veterans to transition to career pathways.  One such route is access to nontraditional occupations (NTO)—such as those in the sciences, building trades, and technology. Women continue to be underrepresented in these fields, and these are industries that offer economic opportunities. Women veterans are particularly poised to succeed in these training programs and jobs.  Many of the technical expertises they mastered while in military service could transfer to work in NTO.  In addition, women veterans have also gained important skills navigating a traditionally male workplace, and prepare them for NTO.

So yes, we should celebrate our veterans’ accomplishments today, but tomorrow we need to fight for their economic security on the home front. The new unemployment data—with its clear gender disparities—must be a call to action for all of us to work to ensure that on Veterans Day in 2015 we will have lowered veteran’s unemployment rates and closed the significant gender unemployment rate gap.  The best celebration will be that of true economic security for the women who have sacrificed so much.

 

Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs

Photo Credit: Oregon Department of Veterans Affairs

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Struggling to Get By: Economic Insecurity and LGBT Seniors in Massachusetts

Massachusetts’ seniors face some of the highest living costs in the nation, and do so with incomes that have not kept pace with increases in the costs of basic needs such as housing, health care and food.  These economic challenges are experienced across demographic groups.  In collaboration with the Massachusetts Association of Older Americans (MAOA), our Elder Economic Security state partner, we conducted a series of focus groups with a group of seniors whose experiences are often marginalized—LGBT seniors.   Our new report, Struggling to Get By: Economic Insecurity and LGBT Seniors in Massachusetts, presents a snapshot of lived experiences of this group of seniors “struggling to get by” in the current economic climate, illuminating individuals’ challenges and the ways they make ends meet. In addition we explore perceptions, knowledge and experiences of the potential economic benefits to LGBT couples as a result of Windsor v United States. The end of the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) made previously denied economic protections and responsibilities–including Social Security survivor benefits, family and medical leave, and the ability to pool resources as a family without unfair taxation–available to married same-sex couples.  Finally we conclude with both research and policy recommendations aimed at improving the economic security of LGBT seniors in the state.

Among our findings we found both commonalities and differences between LGBT seniors and other seniors; along with differences within the LGBT senior demographic.  Not surprisingly, economic insecurity exists within the LGBT community; and some of the challenge is not unique to LGBT subpopulation. In our focus groups, LGBT participants identified housing, health care and food costs, along with having inadequate savings, as key barriers to economic security in Massachusetts.  These economic concerns cross many demographic groups in the state.

However participants did express some concerns specific to the LGBT community that exacerbated their economic insecurity, and also raised concerns about aging. Specifically they reported that discrimination against LGBT individuals during their working years (particularly access to promotions) impacted the amount of retirement savings they could accumulate and the Social Security payments they later received. In addition, the prevalent stereotype that members of the LGBT community, and particularly gay men, are rich, impacts their ability to communicate their economic insecurity. They also reported that in regard to the overturning of DOMA, many participants expressed uncertainty about newly available public benefits and how to access them. Other significant concerns were raised about the dignity in the aging process as an LGBT senior.  Participants raised concerns about having to go “back in the closet” if they need to be placed into a nursing home because of perceived homophobia among staff.  Finally, participants also reported they were not as likely to have children (although they did feel future LGBT generations will be more likely to have children); so there is concern about who is going to care for them as they age.

There is much work that needs to be done in order to ensure that LGBT seniors can age in place with economic security and dignity in Massachusetts and throughout the country.  While our research is intended to provide a snapshot of the experiences of LGBT seniors dealing with economic security and insecurity as they age in Massachusetts, we highlighted several issues that demand more in-depth research and other issues that require policy and programmatic change, particularly concerning public benefits and dignity in health care facilities.

You can access the full report on our website:  Struggling to Get By: Economic Insecurity and LGBT Seniors in Massachusetts

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Elder Economic Security Initiative (EESI) on the Move

WOW’s EESI has been on the road lately. In September, Initiative Director Jo Reed was in Boston to speak at the Annual Awards Brunch of its partner, Massachusetts Association of Older Americans. MAOA  Executive Director Chet Jakubiak had gathered top state leaders in aging research, advocacy and service to recognize two outstanding contributors to the field:  Ellen Bruce, retiring Director of the Gerontology Institute at University of Massachusetts Boston–and collaborator with WOW in creating Elder Economic Security StandardTM Index (Elder Index)–and Al Norman, Executive Director of Mass. Home Care, a well-known and effective advocate on behalf of the Commonwealth’s most vulnerable elders. Jo’s remarks focused on the Elder Index as a potent advocacy tool that had been used across the country to promote policy and programs supporting older adults.  She praised MAOA and Mr. Jakubiak for their dedicated efforts, including a successful legislative initiative to establish a MA Elder Economic Security Commission. The Commission has a year to come up with recommendations. 

October brought a visit to Trenton, NJ, when a bill introduced in July 2014 by NJ Assemblyman Joseph A. Lagana came up for consideration before the Assembly Health and Senior Services Committee. The bill, A3504 (companion legislation to S2231, introduced by Senator Loretta Weinberg), requires the Department of Human Services to produce and update the New Jersey Elder Index; consult the Index in planning and delivering public benefits and services to senior residents; and utilize it as a planning tool for public resource allocation. WOW Vice President for Policy and Programs Shawn McMahon, along with Melissa Chalker, Program Manager at New Jersey Foundation for Aging—EESI’s partner in the state—both testified regarding the significant benefits enactment of the bill would bring to NJ seniors. While funding originally included in the bill was amended out before the vote, the committee voted unanimously to move A3504 forward.  Assembly floor action is expected before the end of the year, and the Senate should take up the Weinberg bill early in 2015.  WOW and NJFA will work for enactment next year of a version of the bill that provides resources for producing and updating the NJ Elder Index. 

In mid-October, WOW Senior Scholar Mary Gatta and EESI intern Carla Iannone participated in a meeting of the newly-formed Bergen County, NJ, Anti-Hunger Coalition. They introduced WOW’s Elder Initiative, talked about WOW’s new research project on senior food insecurity in Bergen and Passaic Counties, and discussed the online service provider survey that will soon be conducted to clarify provider concerns. The group helped draft questions that will be refined and included in the survey, which should be in the field by November 1.  

EESI travelled to the University of Maryland School of Social Work in Baltimore on October 30th to meet with students in Professor Christine Callahan’s course on Financial Stability for Individuals, Families and Communities.  Students were particularly interested in learning about the impact of race, culture and gender on financial issues faced by seniors.  

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Building our OWNE Path to Success

The National Center for Women’s Employment Equity (NCWEE) has had an exciting month. As a newly launched entity at WOW, NCWEE is expanding our work with our Opportunities for Women in Nontraditional Employment (OWNE) Initiative and intense technical assistance with 21 job training sites across the country, engaging national and state level policy makers on issues around women in nontraditional jobs, and working to bring together experts in the fields of recruiting and retaining women in high-skill, high-wage jobs and ending occupational segregation.

On Wednesday, September 17th, NCWEE Director Lauren Sugerman participated in a round table discussion hosted by the Transportation Learning Center (TLC). Lauren was featured on a panel discussing equity provisions for job training and apprenticeship programs in the public transit sector. Lauren contributed her technical assistance expertise in adding a gender lens to the full range of program activities, from recruitment to retention, with an emphasis on the importance of ensuring gender inclusivity and targeting in mentorship programs. WOW looks forward to partnering more with TLC in the near future.

On Friday, September 19th, WOW and National Alliance for Partnerships in Equity convened our sister organizations in a conversation with the Women’s Bureau’s Director, Latifa Lyles. The event featured representatives from DOL’s Office of Civil Rights, Office of Federal Contractor Compliance Programs, Employment and Training Administration, Office of Apprenticeship, and the Secretary’s office. The dialogue focused on the importance of nontraditional jobs and a focus on women being incorporated into DOL’s drafting of regulations for the new Workforce Innovation and Opportunity Act, WIOA, signed in to law earlier this summer.  WOW shared our vision for establishing a DOL commission that would guide and oversee WIOA in relation to redressing occupational segregation in the job training system and encouraged the DOL to set aside resources for providing technical assistance on gender equity. The next week brought NCWEE’s Director, Lauren Sugerman, back to Washington, D.C. from her home in Chicago to present on a panel for the National Dialogue on Career Pathways hosted by three federal agencies, DOL, DOE and HHS. Lauren discussed how road signs along the career pathway system can often discourage women from entering high-wage, high-skilled blue-collar occupations. Her comments are captured in her blog on WOW’s website!

While Lauren presented in DC, NCWEE’s Manager, Katie Onachila, kicked off a fantastic site visit to our partner in our Opportunities for Women in Nontraditional Employment (OWNE) Initiative, Goodwill of North Georgia (GNG). The OWNE initiative is helping GNG ramp up programming to get women into highway construction, building maintenance and transportation warehouse and logistics jobs. Almost 50 women are enrolled and 30 of those women have been hired into nontraditional jobs. One woman called during our training session to report that she had just been hired by a local apartment maintenance company at a starting rate of $14 an hour. We toured their facilities, met their committed and expert staff and some enthusiastic clients, and conducted an interactive training for a lively and engaged group of partners from the workforce system and community agencies on recruiting and assessing women in nontraditional jobs and training programs. WOW facilitated an animated roundtable with a group of employers to explore policy and practices that create opportunities for women to enter and succeed in traditionally male-dominated fields.

We also visited our OWNE partners in Vermont at Vermont works for Women. Lauren participated in strategic planning and an employer roundtable with the organization’s top employer partners in the state. The roundtable covered strategic approaches to hiring, retaining and advancing women, best practices for gender inclusion and sensitivity in employer policies and practices and building cultural and gender competency among existing and new employees. Lauren was also able to participate in Vermont Works for Women’s Women Can Do Conference. This conference brings together over 400 high school girls from around the state to expose them to and engage them around nontraditional careers for women.

Operations Industrialized Centers of America (OICA) is also an OWNE partner, and WOW Senior Scholar Mary Gatta and NCWEE Program Manager Katie Onachila convened a training with four OICA affiliates with whom we’re partnering in our Initiative. The sites included OIC of South Florida, OIC of Asheville, Tri-County OIC, and OIC of Rhode Island. Participants from each of these programs came together at OICA in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania over three days to engaged in detailed strategic planning and resource development to help expand OIC’s already sophisticated job training practices to more deeply incorporate a gender lens.

NCWEE was also featured on a Women’s Bureau webinar on women in construction. Director Lauren Sugerman addressed the over 1,000 attendees along with representatives from the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, National Women’s Law Center, and Oregon Tradeswomen, Inc. The panelists described barriers women face to entry into skilled trades construction jobs and strategies to increase women’s access to and success in these fields. WOW shared practical suggestions for women’s recruitment, preparatory training, placement and retention from our Pink-to-Green toolkit. We also described how customized technical assistance for the workforce development system, community based organizations and industry partners can help to change the policy and practices that contribute to patterns of occupational segregation that still persist construction industry.

In addition to our current work, NCWEE is also thrilled to be partnering with the Building and Construction Trades Department of the AFL-CIO on a project with the Clinton Global Initiative. The project will create opportunity hubs for employment in the construction industry. Focusing on preparing 125 young adults in DC, Northern VA, and MD, the project builds on the Clinton Global Initiative and the Building Trades and Construction Department’s commitment to expand opportunities in apprenticeship–specifically opportunities for women.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Building Capacity: The Economic Security for Survivors (ESS) Project in Action

This fall was full of product releases, travel and trainings, as well as some exciting news. On September 13th the ESS Project received a three-year technical assistance grant from the US Department of Justice, Office on Violence Against Women to continue to provide training and technical assistance to OVW grantees serving survivors of intimate partner violence, sexual assault and stalking around the issues of safety, economic security and sustainability of employment. We are thrilled by OVW’s commitment to addressing survivor economic security and are eager to build on the work we have already done across the country.

ESS recently introduced its two new tools for advocates, the Victim Advocate’s Guide to Safety and Economic Security for Victims of Violence Against Women and the Economic and Employment Advocacy E-Course. The Victim Advocate’s Guide offers practical recommendations that all advocates can use to reduce economic barriers to safety and justice, restore independence and foster collaboration across systems. Informed by WOW’s expertise in strengthening workforce development for women, the new e-course provides community-based advocates and case managers with a blueprint to help survivors rebuild their lives through career and economic counseling designed to empower survivors with options. The course also contains a number of handouts and worksheets that can easily be used in client services. Both these tools served as the foundation for trainings held with key stakeholders throughout the fall.

In September, Sarah and Malore met with the grantees of the Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services and the Longmont Ending (Domestic) Violence Initiative in Colorado to explore the intersections of intimate partner and sexual violence and economic security to provide a new framework to better respond to survivors. Using this economic lens, they explored the various tools that the criminal justice system and community service providers already have to address the economic insecurity many survivors face as a result of economic abuse and the cost of violence, such as securing economic relief through protection orders or providing employment support services.

On September 19th, Sarah joined other advocates and leaders at the White House where President Obama and Vice President Biden announced their newest efforts to combat sexual assault on campus. The “It’s On Us” campaign seeks to prevent sexual violence on campuses by engaging bystanders and making the case that every member of the community has a role to play in creating safer campuses where intellectual growth is accessible to every student.

At the end of September Malore and project consultant Robin Thompson participated in the Nebraska State Patrol’s annual conference where they led two workshops detailing how law enforcement can work independently and in collaboration with other justice and community sectors to address the economic dynamics of abuse and pursue economic justice. They shared best practices to integrating economic considerations into the existing activities of dispatchers, first responders and investigators with a goal of increasing survivor safety and offender accountability.

IMG_1469

Building on previous work in Oregon, Sarah and Malore returned to Portland in October to meet with direct service program directors at the Crime Victim Services Division’s Directors’ Day meeting. They were joined by the Jackson County Sexual Assault Response Team and the Attorney General’s Sexual Assault Taskforce who shared ways their work has changed to address economic security since the team’s last visit in early 2013. The Oregon Coalition Against Domestic and Sexual Violence also shared the work of its member organizations towards promoting economic independence. Both the Victim Advocates Guide and the new curriculum were then introduced and shared as free tools to support advocates and case managers’ capacity to support the criminal justice systems and enhance economic support services. The meeting also served as a launching point for ongoing technical assistance to incorporate economic security into the criminal justice system response and community support services across the state over the next three years.

Interested in learning more about ESS project trainings and resources? Contact Sarah Gonzalez Bocinski, Director, Economic Security for Survivors Project at sbocinski@wowonline.org.

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

All I Want is A Job – Our Labor Market and the Search for Economic Security

Welcome to the re-employment seminar; you are all required to be in this seminar because the unemployment office thinks you will have a really hard time finding a job in this economy.”

Imagine hearing those words right after you were laid off in one of the US’s deepest recessions.  Well that is exactly what WOW’s Senior Scholar, Mary Gatta, heard when she went undercover as an unemployed worker in an American Jobs Center (formerly known as One Stop Centers) at the height of the recent recession. Mary chronicles her experiences as an undercover waitress and adjunct professor in her new book, All I Want is A Job: Unemployed Women Navigating the Public Workforce System, released this summer by Stanford University Press.

In the past week Mary has been on the road listening to job seekers and workforce professional’s in the field, and sharing the findings of her book. She spoke to Rutgers University sociology faculty and students; along with jobseekers at the Jersey Shore at a Jobs Help Center at the Middletown Township Public Library. She then headed up the New Jersey Turnpike to the New Jersey Institute of Technology to speak at an UpskillNJ career fair—a program that offers specialized information technology and science training to unemployed professionals and veterans in New Jersey to help them upgrade their skills to compete jobs. And then continued on 95 North to Jobs for the Future to meet with workforce officials, career services professionals, and researchers. Both audiences —job seekers and workforce development professionals—while at different points in their work lives–expressed concern for their futures. As the job market may be improving, there is a general anxiety not only that there are just not enough jobs, but that the jobs that are available do not offer pathways to economic security.

And the worries that workers expressed to Mary at her New Jersey talks this week, are backed up by the data. Although we are officially no longer in a recession, many American workers and their families are struggling to secure employment, and especially jobs that offer opportunities for economic security.  Paul Krugman’s recent New York Times piece paints a stark picture for workers today, who continue to find themselves out of work.There are still almost 3 million Americans who have been out of work for more than six months, which is the usual maximum duration of unemployment insurance. This is a number that is three times the pre-recession total. And coupled with long-term unemployment is that the extended benefits have been eliminated — and in some states the length of benefits has been cut even further. And in this economic recovery, men continue to outpace women in job gains—with the unemployment rate falling half as quickly for women as for men.

And as Mary stresses in her book–  our labor market is changing.  In fact, the backstory has been that the employment gains during the recovery have been highest in low-wage occupations. Jobs such as retail sales, food preparation, waiters and waitresses, and personal and home care aides grew 2.7 times as fast as mid-wage and higher-wage occupations. Overall, employment has grown by 8.7 percent in low-wage occupations compared with only 6.6 percent in high-wage occupations, and mid-wage occupations have actually fallen by 7.3 percent. This uneven jobs recovery means that the “good job” deficit is greater than it was during the early 2000s.

Further, the proliferation of low-wage work is compounded by decades of wage stagnation. Over thirty years, the median wage for households has remained nearly the same. Indeed, the past decade actually saw a decrease in the inflation-adjusted average income for households as available wages and compensation for most workers remains far below what would be expected given productivity gains and what families require to keep up with increases in the cost of health care, housing, and education.

So if the jobs that are projected to grow are low quality jobs, there needs to be a concerted effort to improve these jobs. Workforce development policy is certainly an important and critical part of this response, but for it to be an effective policy it cannot exist on its own. For this to occur, there needs to be collaboration between both private sector changes and public sector supports. For example, we need to highlight high-road management practices—practices that engage front-line workers in problem-solving and decision-making and provide them with the training and skills to do this well—to improve the quality of service jobs and the quality of services provided. And workers need benefits and supports as they to move toward economic security. The absence of comprehensive social insurance or governmental protections results in a vastly unequal labor market, in which workers who fill low-wage jobs face many compounding issues. Millions of Americans who work full-time cannot pay their basic living expenses, let alone have enough money to make investments in their future. These harsh realities demonstrate the need for reinforcing and expanding the safety net for working families facing hard times and supporting programs and policies that contribute to moving families to economic security.

 

WOW's Senior Scholar Mary Gatta speaking to an audience of students and job seekers.  Photo: The Daily Targum, Rutgers University

WOW’s Senior Scholar Mary Gatta speaking to an audience of students and job seekers. Photo: The Daily Targum, Rutgers University

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

I’m “Not on the Menu”: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry

Living off tips not only contributes to high levels of economic insecurity for workers and their families; it also makes all workers, and in particular women, vulnerable to a great deal of inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers, and management. In collaboration with the Restaurant Opportunities Center, Forward Together, and several other organizations, Wider Opportunities for Women today released the report The Glass Floor: Sexual Harassment in the Restaurant Industry.  This report dramatically details how sexual harassment is endemic to the restaurant industry.  One of the most powerful findings is that the tipping structure – where workers are paid a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour—creates an environment and a dynamic that actually fosters sexual harassment as part of the work environment.

Surveying workers throughout the country, it is staggering to learn that two-thirds of female workers and over half of male workers had experienced some form of sexual harassment from management; nearly 80% of women and 70% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment from co-workers; and nearly 80% of women and 55% of men experienced some form of sexual harassment from customers.  And ALL restaurant workers in states that have a sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour, report higher rates of sexual harassment, than workers in states that pay a higher minimum wage.

Why is the tipping structure so important to this? Since restaurant workers living off tips are forced to rely on customers for their income rather than their employer, these workers must often tolerate inappropriate behavior from customers, co-workers, and management. Not surprisingly then, the restaurant industry is the single largest source of sexual harassment claims in the U.S.  While seven percent of American women work in the restaurant industry, more than a third of all sexual harassment claims to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) come from the restaurant industry. What is even more disturbing is that the high levels of complaints to the EEOC may actually underreport the industry’s rate of sexual harassment. Restaurant  workers reported that sexual  harassment is “kitchen talk,” a “normalized” part of the work environment.  And many restaurant workers are reluctant to publicly acknowledge  their experiences with sexual harassment.  This is the everyday work life for the 11 million restaurant workers in the United States.

Close to 20 years ago, when I conducted my own ethnographic research on restaurant workers, tipped workers earned the same sub-minimum wage of $2.13 an hour that workers today are paid.  And the restaurant workers I spoke with, almost two decades ago, talked about the ways that sexual harassment and sexual behaviors were institutionalized into the work environment.  So despite the passing of 20 years, some things have just remained the same. Tipped workers continue to remain vulnerable—both in terms of their economic security and the prevalence of sexual harassment–in America’s restaurants.  Isn’t it about time we do something about this?  Not only is it time to raise the minimum wage and eliminate the tipped sub-minimum wage so that workers can earn enough to support themselves and their families, but we need to improve the working conditions for the people who serve our food and mix our drinks.

roc

 

 

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Hunger Action Month: September 2014

September is Hunger Action Month, and New Jersey’s advocates and legislators have been garnering attention to the plight of the state’s seniors.

According to the National Foundation to End Senior Hunger’s report, The State of Senior Hunger in America 2012, “the fraction of seniors under the threat of hunger increased nearly 30% from 2007-2012.” Unfortunately, the impact of food insecurity among seniors is sometimes downplayed or forgotten. One in six people in the US, including 8.8 million seniors, experience hunger. The effects of food insecurity can contribute to diminished health in older adults and lead to a reduction in their quality of life. Hunger Action Month is an opportunity to shine a spotlight on food insecurity issues facing our seniors and take action to combat hunger in the community.

Not long ago (winter 2013) we witnessed a contentious Congressional debate over reauthorization of the Farm Bill, leading to a significant reduction in the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) budget. A federal budget sequester further reduced SNAP spending. Subsequently, some states (Michigan, New Jersey and Wisconsin) have elected to decline monies from the federal government that would have qualified beneficiaries to receive additional food stamps. These actions have been debilitating for many low-income families and seniors who rely on this assistance for basic nutritional support.

Against this background, some elected officials have worked to call attention to the struggle SNAP recipients face. Recently, 18 New Jersey legislators decided to join the state’s Greater MetroWest Food Stamp Challenge to raise awareness and encourage a bi-partisan solution to this issue. The challenge ran from September 8 – 14 and was designed to present each participant with an opportunity to learn what it is like to live on the average daily food stamp benefit. According to a report in New Jersey Jewish News, Senator Lesniak (D) lasted half a day and “busted” his budget to buy coffee. Assemblywoman Munoz (R) learned how challenging it can be to shop—she considered buying a rotisserie chicken which was less expensive than raw chicken but realized that SNAP rules preclude the purchase of “hot food and any food sold for on-premises consumption” and therefore she could not choose the more financially feasible option. The Assemblywoman reportedly said, “We have to get that rule changed.”

Although September is designated as Hunger Action Month by Feeding America, senior food insecurity occurs throughout the year. In January 2014, WOW partner New Jersey Foundation for Aging (NJFA) aired a 30-minute interview with a local food advocate and food bank service provider on its cable television program, Aging Insights. The interview focused on food and nutrition benefits for seniors. NJFA Program Manager Melissa Chalker and her guests addressed issues such as lengthy wait times between being approved for SNAP and actually receiving benefits, along with good nutrition and healthy eating.

WOW’s research suggests that, other than through housing subsidies, the largest decreases in senior economic insecurity can be achieved through participation in SNAP, congregate meals and other nutrition assistance programs. Currently, WOW is working under a grant from The Henry and Marilyn Taub Foundation to identify local and non-local causes of senior food insecurity in New Jersey’s Bergen and Passaic Counties. WOW will convene local partners and service providers to identify changes needed in both policy and practice, as well as potential additional advocacy efforts.

As we approach the end of Hunger Action Month, WOW joins friends and allies across the country in reminding everyone to keep the nation focused on reducing hunger, and to use the hashtag #getSNAP to tweet about the Hunger Action Month campaign.

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail

Addressing Sexual Assault on Campus is a Matter of Gender Equity

Education is an important tool to achieving economic security. Eighty percent of college graduates with a four-year degree are economically secure. Yet this important opportunity is often accompanied by a troubling reality for women – 28.5% of college women reported an attempted or completed sexual assault before or since entering college.

The prevalence of sexual violence on campuses creates a hostile environment for female students, which undermines their ability to take advantage of the same educational opportunities as male students. The impacts of sexual assault can have life-long repercussions on the lives of survivors. This is exacerbated when colleges and universities fail to prevent and appropriately handle cases of sexual assault.

As a result of sexual assault, survivors are often faced with high healthcare costs including care for physical trauma, reproductive health care (if accessible at all) and counseling. Emotional trauma, fear of running into the person who raped them, and/or threats from their rapist result in diminished academic performance. Ultimately survivors may drop out of school, leaving them with debt and poor employment prospects. One study found that the lifetime cost of rape is $145,000 due to health costs, legal fees and lost wages. More information on the economic impacts of sexual violence facing college-aged women can be found in a 2013 brief released by the Economic Security for Survivors Project.

Addressing the prevalence of sexual assault among college aged women is a matter of gender equity. Women who are assaulted face life-long barriers to recovery and economic security. 

Last Friday, WOW joined dozens of advocates and leaders in the movement to combat violence against women in the East Wing of the White House where President Obama and Vice President Biden announced a new campaign to address sexual assault on campus as part of continued efforts in response to recent findings from the “Not Alone” report. The new campaign, “It’s On Us”, seeks to prevent sexual violence on campuses by engaging bystanders and making the case that every member of the community has a role to play in creating safer campuses where intellectual growth is accessible to every student. “It’s On Us” asks that everyone be a part of the solution by pledging to (1) recognize that non-consensual sex is sexual assault, (2)  identify situations in which sexual assault may occur, (3) intervene in situations where consent has not or cannot be given, and (4) create an environment in which sexual assault is unacceptable and survivors are supported.

We are glad to see that the administration is committed to ensuring the safety and equality of opportunity for women. We hope you join us in signing the pledge and becoming part of the solution. #ItsOnUs

facebooktwittergoogle_plusredditpinterestlinkedinmail