A letter from our CEO
Dear Women Employed,

Just two weeks ago, I was looking ahead to a month full of Women’s History Month conversations, convenings, and events. I was in the throes of fundraising for our annual signature event, The Working Lunch. I was packing for a trip to South Africa which was supposed to kick off this past Saturday. I was attending staff meetings and chatting with my colleagues in our physical office. My daughter was at college, looking forward to finishing out the spring semester of her Junior year and preparing for her Maymester in Peru.

To say the world has changed would be a massive understatement. I know the world has changed for you, too. Like me, you’re probably wondering what you can do to make a difference. Looking for a way to support the front-line heroes who are risking their own safety and keeping society running in the face of crisis.

At Women Employed, we have always advocated for those front-line workers, amplifying their value to our citizenry. Right now, we must go further, work harder, speak louder, and act more purposefully to ensure every working person is protected and supported through this crisis. And, you are integral to that.

You are used to getting WE-Zine from us once a month, filled with updates on our work and actions you can take. With so much at stake, we know we can’t be ‘business as usual.’

So for now, we’ll be sending you weekly communications with updates on laws and policies we are fighting for, key things you can do to make an impact, and personal messages from Women Employed staff who are fighting for you and for all working people. Below, you can read about where we are focusing our resources right now, and what actions we are ensuring elected leaders take to support working people and families.

In times like these, we come together. We support each other. And at Women Employed, we double down on our mission to pursue equity for all. 
Cherita Ellens, CEO
Our Priorities in the Midst of COVID-19
Women Employed is working to ensure that our policy makers and leaders take bold and decisive action in response to this public health and economic crisis to mitigate the damage and put us in the best position to emerge as strong and stable as possible. Since our inception, our focus has been on the economic stability and security of working women and their families, particularly those in low-paid sectors where women, and particularly women of color, are overrepresented. In many ways, working women are especially vulnerable in this moment, faced with an impossible choice between taking care of their families and working, having no work because their sector has rapidly shut down, or in a position where their work puts them at the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic. None of us are immune from the impact, but some of us—those who can least afford it—are in the direct path of this crisis.

Women Employed has doubled-down in this critical moment, working with our partners to advance relief that actually reaches workers, convening higher education advocates to ensure that students’ needs are front of mind, coordinating efforts and activating solutions with national coalitions, and meeting with legislators to ensure that responses to this crisis are aimed at those in greatest need. We are calling on our elected leaders in Congress as well as at the state and local levels to:

Protect the immediate health and financial wellbeing of workers and their families, especially those on the frontlines, by:

  • Enacting emergency paid leave for workers, including paid and unpaid caregivers, as well as moving to pass permanent paid leave bills already on the table in Congress and in Illinois.
  • Ensuring ample and adequate health and safety equipment and protections for all frontline workers, including healthcare workers.
  • Providing necessary, flexible emergency funding to states to meet the urgent child care related needs of parents, children, providers, and educators to ensure their health, safety, security, and sustainability.

Ensure that we prioritize financial assistance reaching workers and small businesses directly and expediently – rather than going to big corporations - by:
      
  • Providing targeted support and relief to vulnerable populations, including domestic workers, college students, service sector employees, frontline workers, undocumented workers, immigrants, and others.
  • Directing cash assistance to families who need it most so that they can make ends meet
  • Increasing eligibility and funding for, and reducing or eliminating work and education requirements for, public benefits to address basic needs.
  • Strengthening and expanding social insurance programs such as Medicaid.
  • Providing immediate financial assistance such as grants that allow small businesses to stay open by covering immediate business expenses and keeping employees paid; keeping in mind that loans are not a feasible option for most small businesses and could hurt them more in the long-run.
  • Ensuring that once legislation is passed, the systems that deliver assistance are able to get help to people quickly, efficiently, and easily – without unnecessary delays, paperwork, or extra hoops to jump through.

Strengthen the social safety net to allow for families and the economy to recover as quickly as possible by:

  • Strengthening unemployment insurance to reach more workers, provide higher levels of income replacement, and have a longer duration.
  • Providing sustaining financial assistance for child care centers, family child care homes, and the early childhood workforce so they can survive economically, remain in business, and reopen afterwards.
  • Ensuring student borrowers don't go further into debt by allowing student loan borrowers to go into forbearance, defer payment on student loans without penalty, cancel a portion of debt, or have their debt be discharged through bankruptcy, as is available for other kinds of debt.
  • Reverse rules that limit access to public benefits through stringent work or training requirements, denial based on immigration status, or other efforts to limit or deny eligibility.
  • Provide grants for community colleges and workforce education and training providers to re-establish operations and respond to enhanced need after the public health emergency ends

The people on the frontlines—from grocery store clerks to nursing assistants—are doing critical work, work that has historically been undervalued. These are the workers who have been called unskilled laborers, when they are in fact unsung heroes. We are in a pivotal moment of being able to make a permanent shift in how we value their work, as critical to our society, our collective health and wellbeing. Women Employed is fighting for them, and for all of the people who have been left behind in our economy and exposed in this crisis. You can learn more about the solutions we are advocating for by visiting womenemployed.org .

Please join us in ensuring our elected officials act with the bold and decisive leadership this pandemic requires. Your gift ensures that we are able to continue to lead, convene, listen, and advocate so that no one is left behind now, or in the future.

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