Friday, July 23, 2010

White House Backs Paycheck Fairness Act

This week, Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) and other women’s organizations met with Vice President Biden and other Administration officials about the importance of equal pay to the economic security of women and their families. Additionally, the White House hosted a call on Women and the Economy to reinforce the importance of passing the Paycheck Fairness Act (S. 182 / H.R. 12) and to share steps the Administration is taking to help with work-family balance. The Paycheck Fairness Act has already passed in the House and the President and Vice President urged the Senate to pass the bill before the August recess. The legislation once made law will equip women to advocate for fair pay in the workforce without fear of retaliation.

WOW joins with the Administration in urging the Senate to pass this legislation. For too long, women have been paid less for equal work, inhibiting many of them to make ends meet and care for their families. This aggregate affect of earning less in the workforce year after year, in combination with many women leaving the workforce intermittently for caregiving responsibilities, means women, on average, earn $413,000 less than men over a 40-year career. Depending upon where you live the number can fluctuate tremendously. According to the Center for American Progress, the wage gap for a college-educated woman in Virginia is more than $1 million over a 40-year career.

Consequently, in retirement women receive less Social Security benefits and must stretch their limited income farther in late life. As the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index) shows, Social Security is not enough to make it in retirement. The Paycheck Fairness Act supports women in their working years to allow them a better chance at a secure retirement.

A calendar of events, starting in mid-August, is available to help you advocate for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act. Let’s work together to make sure women finally receive equal pay for equal work!

-Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Friday, July 16, 2010

MinnEESI Update

The Minnesota Women’s Consortium, the state lead of the Minnesota Elder Economic Security Initiative (MinnEESI), has been busy these past few months planning a forum on the economic security of older women in the state. This week all of their hard work came to fruition and the Minnesota Women’s Consortium co-hosted the forum with the Office on the Economic Status of Women (OESW). Advocates and experts in aging from across the St. Paul area participated in a morning discussion on the findings of a new OESW report.

Findings from the report include:

• Among retired workers, monthly benefits averaged just $1,001 for women.
• Over half of U.S. women workers age 65 and over earned less than $35,000 in 2007. Just one-third of their male counterparts earned less than $35,000.
• According to the Minnesota Elder Index, median income for older women is just $12,691.

For more information about the event and the findings, read the full report and press release. You can also listen to the audio version of the forum.

- Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Friday, July 9, 2010

WOW Remembers Dr. Robert Butler

Wider Opportunities for Women (WOW) recognizes the life and accomplishments of Dr. Robert Butler who passed away this week at the age of 83.

In the world of aging, few people made their mark like Dr. Butler. Throughout his adult life he advocated on behalf of all elders and educated the public on the many facets of aging and why he regarded it as a positive thing.

Most notably, Dr. Butler coined the term “ageism” to describe the discrimination of elders. Additionally, he led a critical study on aging, which concluded that aging is not the cause of elder-prone health issues, such as Alzheimer’s disease, but simply a risk factor. He also helped develop one of the first gerontology institutes at the college level and established the National Institute on Aging.

Dr. Butler’s efforts are a reminder of the importance of elder advocates and the continued study of elders’ physical and mental health and economic well-being. The Elder Economic Security Initiative and its tool the Elder Index aim to provide elders and their families with the information they need to be economically secure and age in place with dignity. The work of Dr. Butler will continue to influence how our organization and those around the world work to provide elders with a better way of life.

-Alisha Howell
Communications & Program Coordinator
Elder Economic Security Initiative

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

CLASS Act is a Good First Step

Panelists at the 2010 National Dialogue on Long Term Care discussed the challenges associated with the rapidly growing older population, including the skyrocketing costs of long-term care, Medicare and Medicaid. This issue is of great importance because the population 85 years and older is growing at 3% rate, while the general population only grows at a rate of 1%. And those age 85 and older are more likely to need long-term care services and supports.

This event highlighted the problems associated with elders in poor health; however, in reality, millions of elders, even those in good health, struggle to make ends meet. According to national averages of the Elder Economic Security Standard™ Index (Elder Index), developed by Wider Opportunities for Women and the Gerontology Institute at the University of Massachusetts Boston, a single woman renter requires about $20,000 annually for basic needs, not including the cost of long-term care. In fact, long-term care costs can double or even triple what an elder needs to age in place, according to the Elder Index. In Michigan, for example, adding a low level of home and community-based long-term care for one person costs an extra $7,100 on average per year. The highest level of care can add up to $43,600 to living costs.

On the policy front, the staggering cost of long-term care has been addressed, in part, by the CLASS. Act, signed into law earlier this year as part of health care reform. The provisions of CLASS will establish a voluntary long-term care insurance system that today’s workers can pay into for their future long-term care needs.

While the passage of CLASS is an important step forward, there’s still much that needs to be done as the program is put into practice. First, to be successful, employers need to offer the benefit and actively educate their employees about the importance of staying enrolled. Second, employees must recognize how the CLASS benefit can help them afford long-term care services and supports. The Elder Index provides a useful tool for educating both of these audiences about the staggering cost of home and community-based long-term care. The Elder Index makes clear why programs, like CLASS, must be available to help disabled workers and elders afford long-term care.

- Kelly Stellrecht
Field & Program Associate
Elder Economic Security Initiative