Monday, June 28, 2010

More than 1 Million No Longer Receive Unemployment Insurance

Although the current unemployment rate still hovers at around ten percent, the Senate last week failed to end debate and pass a measure to extend unemployment insurance (UI) and other workforce development provisions on behalf of the millions of Americans still out of work. Though economists predict the U.S. is moving toward recovery, the job market has yet to pick up steam and recreate or reinstate jobs that were lost in one of the worst recessions our country has ever faced.

This week, over 1 million people will stop receiving benefits and millions more are on the verge of stopped payments unless the extender’s bill is passed by the Senate and signed by the President. These benefits help stimulate the economy by providing $2.15 in economic growth for every dollar in spent benefits.

UI is not only a source of income for the laid-off worker, but also a source of income for their families. Many families rely on this income to pay bills and purchase food. Some use the funds to take care of the basic needs of an elder relative. The increase of unemployment among older workers, age 65 and older, has also increased dramatically – by 235% between January 2000 and December 2009 according to the AARP Policy Institute.

Regardless of what exactly the funds are used for, they serve the purpose of allowing Americans to stay afloat while searching for employment. Halting these benefits will unfortunately cause many unemployed workers to drift into poverty or fall into debt. Neither of these options is a good one for the individual nor the country as whole.

Call your Senator and let them know why extending UI benefits helps the economy of your community and the country as a whole. You can see how your Senator voted here.

-Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Friday, June 25, 2010

WOW is Hiring

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) is currently accepting applications for 4 new positions within the organization. Please see links to each job description below.

Monday, June 21, 2010

Doomsday for Social Security isn't the Truth

The Urban Institute is holding a series of forums this summer on Social Security, including one last week called “The Future of Social Security: Solvency, Adequacy & Equity, and Work” (Click here for information on the July forum). Panelists, including Virginia P. Reno, advisory board member for the Elder Economic Security Initiative, discussed how changes in demographics will affect the Social Security system.

The media and some politicians often use overreaching phrases like “crisis” and “going bankrupt” when referring to Social Security. This misinformation does nothing to further the debate and instead leads to a grave misunderstanding about a popular program. Seventy-five percent of Americans say it is critical to preserve Social Security -- even if it means paying higher taxes.

The truth is that Social Security is one of the most successful social programs ever created. Social Security payments have helped millions of elders stay out of poverty. In fact, about 1 in 10 elders is considered poor. Without Social Security payments, the number of elders relying only on retirement savings would increase significantly and almost half of our nation’s seniors would live below the federal poverty level.

Some argue that Social Security is the cause of our nation’s budget deficit and that its benefits represent too much of our nation’s gross domestic product (GDP). Currently, however, Social Security benefits are just 4.9% of GDP. In 2035, Social Security will be about 5.8-6.1% GDP and will remain at that level for 75 years after that.

This increase is a reality, but this isn’t the first time a federal program has shifted the division of GDP in this country. When Baby Boomers were children, the share of GDP spent on public schools rose by 2.8% between 1950 and 1975. Now that this generation is retiring a shift in the GDP spent on Social Security makes sense.

So, instead of finding ways to scare people into thinking Social Security is disappearing, we must figure out how to plan for the GDP increase, preserve benefits for elders and fulfill the promise of Social Security for future generations.

- Kelly Stellrecht
  Field & Program Associate
  Elder Economic Security Initiative

More information on Social Security can be found at the National Academy of Social Insurance (NASI).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Exposing Elder Abuse

This week Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) commemorates the 5th Annual World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. This is the first year the federal government acknowledged the day with an event co-sponsored by the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of Justice. The event featured officials from each department who spoke on the importance of the issue and what is happening in their respective divisions to combat elder abuse.

Financial abuse is especially detrimental to an elder’s ability to make ends meet. Elders unwillingly and unknowingly lose their assets through deceitful tactics by family members, friends, and scam artists. The advocacy group Consumer Action estimates that seniors age 60 and older represent almost 30 percent of fraud victims, though they are only 15 percent of the U.S. population.

Steps are being taken on the federal level to alleviate elder abuse, whether financial, physical, or emotional. The Elder Justice Act, made law through health reform passed earlier this year, provides funds over a four year period to support the Long-term Care Ombudsman Program, adult protective services, and also the creation of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council. The Council will collect information and make recommendations on the collaborative efforts between federal, state, and local agencies on elder abuse cases.

The passage of these provisions is an important step toward eradicating elder abuse. The unfortunate reality, however, is that many elder abuse cases go unreported.

If you suspect elder abuse in your community, please contact your local adult protective services agency.

-Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

WOW's Blog Day A Success!

Last month, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) hosted its second annual blog day, "America's Budget Matters (So Does Yours)". People from across the country blogged about fiscal responsibility on the federal and state levels and shared their personal insight on budget matters.

Thanks to the blogs and comments of so many we are pleased to report our blog event as a greater success than the inaugural event!

Now featured on the Budget Matters website is the Budget Matters Digest, a summary of event highlights. We encourage you to check it out.

Until next year...happy blogging!

Friday, June 11, 2010

The Women's Bureau Turns 90!

This week, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) celebrates the 90-year history of the Department of Labor Women’s Bureau. Since its establishment in 1920 the Women’s Bureau has advocated for the economic security of working women and their families. WOW is privileged to work with and is currently funded by the Women’s Bureau in two key projects advancing employment opportunities for women: the Women’s Apprenticeships in Non-Traditional Occupations (WANTO) program and the Green Jobs for Women Initiative.

WANTO funding allows WOW to provide technical assistance to employers and unions who place women in apprenticeships that are in non-traditional occupations, such as construction and carpentry. As we know, women are segregated into occupations that do not always provide self-sustaining wages, such as construction, which few women choose as a career path. In fact, according the Department of Labor, in 2008 one-half of all working women were clustered into just 25 occupations. The WANTO program is a vital component to the success of women who decide to enter non-traditional industries.

Additionally, WOW, in collaboration with Public Policy Associates, Inc., is developing, “A Woman’s Guide to Green Jobs” report to provide women in the workforce with information on professional development and training opportunities in the green jobs sector and on hiring needs and challenges in the current economy. Content for the guide was collected through a series of roundtable discussions hosted by the Women’s Bureau at various sites nationwide.

WOW is just one of the many organizations that have benefited from the establishment of the Women’s Bureau, not to mention the millions of women who profited from its advocacy efforts around the Fair Labor Standards and Equal Pay Acts. In the years to come, we look forward to working with the Women’s Bureau in its continual efforts to ensure economic security for women.

-Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Mind the Gap --- All the Way to Retirement!

Through the early 1960s, it was common practice for employers to segregate job listings for men and women. In many cases, identical ads were run for each gender – but with a lower pay rate for the job targeting women.

That is, until 1963, when it became illegal to pay women lower wages for the same job through passage of the Equal Pay Act under President Kennedy.

While women have made measurable progress in the workplace since passage of the Act, a severe gap persists. In 1963, women earned 59% of what men took home. Forty seven years later, women now earn 77% of their male counterparts. The loss of 23 cents on the dollar translates to a pay gap of over $10,600 between the median annual earnings of men and women. Over a lifetime of work, this translates to a loss of at least $700,000.

Loss in income not only affects women and their families during working years, but also in retirement because women contribute less to Social Security and other retirement plans when they are paid less. In 2008, the average Social Security retirement benefit for women was 24% less than the average benefit for men.

Equal pay would benefit society as a whole. Studies have found that if women in the workforce earned the same amount as men, family incomes would increase by $4,000 a year and the poverty rate would be cut in half.

The only way the wage gap will be alleviated is to address it head on and acknowledge that it is a problem. Today, as we recognize the anniversary of the Equal Pay Act, we must look at what can be done to bridge the gap. Women have made tremendous progress over the last 47 years, but more can and should be done, such as passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (H.R. 12 / S. 182). This Act would strengthen provisions in the Equal Pay Act and create incentives for employers to follow the law. It has already passed in the House last year and has over 40 cosponsors in the Senate.

It’s time for the Senate and President Obama to make this legislation a priority – pass the bill, make it law and close the gap.

- Kelly Stellrecht
  Field & Program Associate
  Elder Economic Security Initiative

More information on the wage gap can be found at the National Women’s Law Center and the American Association of University Women.

Monday, June 7, 2010

West Virginia Launch!

Last week, the Elder Economic Security Initiative™ officially launched in West Virginia at a press event at the state capitol in Charleston!

Our state partner, the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy hosted the event in collaboration with the West Virginia Long Term Care Partnership, the Gerontology Institute at UMASS-Boston, and WOW. Speakers discussed the importance of the Initiative to the citizens of West Virginia and explained the county level data of the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index.

After the press event, our state partner conducted a webinar to discuss the findings of the Elder Index with media outside the Charleston area. The webinar also featured Stacy Sanders from WOW and our research partner Alison Gottlieb from the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston.

Radio and newspaper outlets featured the Initiative last week, including the Charleston Gazette and West Virginia National Public Radio.

Congratulations to the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy and the West Virginia Long Term Care Partnership on a successful day of events!

West Virginia Reports:

West Virginia Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index

Elders Living the Edge: When Basic Needs Exceed Income in West Virginia