Horizon, Host: Ted Simons

March 2, 2010


Host: Ted Simons

Women’s Safety, Health and Economic Security


  • The economic recession and state budget cuts may be having a disproportionately negative impact on women. Leading advocates for women talk about how the current economic climate is threatening the safety, health and economic security of Arizona women. Guests include: Allie Bones, of the Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence; Jodi Liggett, Arizona Foundation for Women; and Marie Sullivan of Arizona Women’s Education and Employment.
Guests:
  • Allie Bones - Arizona Coalition Against Domestic Violence
  • Jodi Liggett - Arizona Foundation for Women
  • Marie Sullivan - Arizona Women's Education and Employment
Category: Business/Economy

View Transcript
Ted Simons:
Joining me now are three women who spoke at the rally. They all represent groups that are part of the "she counts" coalition. Jodi Liggett is director of research and public policy for the Arizona foundation for women. Allie Bones is director of the Arizona coalition against domestic violence and Marie Sullivan, CEO of Arizona women's education and employment. Thank you all for joining us tonight on "Horizon."

Allie Bones:
Thank you.

Ted Simons:
Pay inequities, we've heard the Lilly Ledbetter story. They're still there, aren't they?

Jodi Liggett:
They're still there. Less so in Arizona, but overall, but we face particular pay inequities, particularly for African American women in Arizona and Hispanic women. They make much less than the average and then the average white male so we've got a big problem with fair pay.

Ted Simons:
Marie, why does this still exist? The history is there, the knowledge, the laws, what's going on?

Marie Sullivan:
Women take time off from work to have babies and care for older parents and interested in higher education and each time they step out of the workforce, they're going to lose ground with keeping pace with their male counterpart.

Ted Simons:
Obviously, we talked about budget cuts, but affecting women's program, I'm hearing affecting women disproportionately here?

Allie Bones:
Absolutely, I think where programs are cut, its women who are in vulnerable situations. Where they're taking care of their kids and trying to access cash assistance or childcare or domestic violence centers.

Ted Simons:
It seems in tough economic times, domestic violence programs take on a special nature.

Allie Bones:
Absolutely. What we're seeing in this downturn in the economy, is domestic violence is increasing in severity. What D.V. shelters are seeing, women coming in with far more severe circumstances that need more care and attention and services are cut to a point where they're not able to provide those more direct services.

Ted Simons:
Services being cut, it sounds like there's a dual effect here. The safety net, the services are cut, and the people providing the services are mostly women.

Jodi Liggett:
You're absolutely right. It's a double whammy. And Arizona and every, but our -- and everywhere, but our cuts are so catastrophic. So the safety net is not there to support the vulnerable folks who need them. Single women raising families so the clients aren't getting the help they need. In some cases, it's just supportive help so they can stay in the workforce and keep from being a greater burden on government. Childcare is my favorite example. The dual effect you spoke about, for every eight children that are cut off from or not admitted to childcare assistance, that center will have to fire one worker. Those workers are almost exclusively women on the bottom level jobs. And the clients are hurt and women hurt.

Marie Sullivan:
With the cuts out of the human services arena, the impact being felt by a majority of women just for that nature. Regardless of whether we're going to speak specifically of domestic violence or healthcare, it is across the board. Because the majority of women live at or just below poverty in our community and when we begin to cut the whole platform of human services, all the way from public education on, we're going to see the greater impact into women heads of household. Women generally, women as employees and subsequently their children.

Jodi Liggett:
It's interesting, in the year 2000, the number of single women headed households surpassed the number of male breadwinner households. And that's a lot of families.

Ted Simons:
The idea of people losing their job, women losing their jobs and especially those in domestic violence, again, the shelters, I would imagine it's difficult to find work when you're in a shelter to begin with. In a bad economy, this has to accentuate matters.

Allie Bones:
That's what we're seeing. Women are less likely to seek shelter if they have a job or secure housing because it's a scary prospect. If you have those things and there's a risk of losing them when you leave a dangerous situation, you might make that choice to stay and put up with the abuse.

Marie Sullivan:
In addition, in our work, we've discovered people who have struggled with domestic violence are less likely to stay employed for the conditions that have plagued them over a period of time. So it's not just now a matter of their fear factor, they struggle at work to begin with, and there's an added layer.

Ted Simons:
The concept of economic security being tied to the well-being of women. Some hear that and say, yeah, it's tied to the well-being of everyone. But talk about how much you want to emphasize economic security impacts women's concerns.

Jodi Liggett:
They're all tied together and when you have so many vulnerable women in that lower stratosphere and entry level jobs that don't have health benefits in the bottom rungs of the economy and downward, you're going to see a disproportionate impact on women. In the human services, our legislature so far has taken largely a cuts-only approach to balancing this budget. We talked about jobs and needing to attract jobs to Arizona, those cuts cost jobs and the majority of women's. 10,000 human services jobs lost just due to the '09-'10 cuts.

Ted Simons:
What happens to the women in these jobs?

Jodi Liggett:
They're low wage and they're go on public assistance or need to rely on the nonprofit sector. I think it's a misconception that churches will be able to fill this void. We're happy to meet the need, but there's no way we can plug this gap.

Ted Simons:
Is that a misconception out there? Are there lawmakers who feel there's other ways they can receive services?

Marie Sullivan:
We've been hearing consistently that it's the faith-based community that can fill the gap. Having worked with a faith-based community, our experience was that the numbers were growing and it was impossible to fill the gaps for all of the many health and human services care need that's people have in the community. That being said, I think it has to be a partnership, where everyone sits down, public and private, including the nonprofit sector, and figure out how to address the concerns. We're cutting out access to the conversation when we're looking only at cuts for health and human services needs. I would say our education platform is tied to the issue of economic security and we're having that platform as well. It creates dangers.

Allie Bones:
There's an assumption that the faith-based and community programs are already supporting nonprofits in the state and that's not true. The faith-based community, their partnership with domestic violence and homeless shelters and organizations providing services to vulnerable populations is already there, so to expect they can pick up and fill this void is not realistic.

Jodi Liggett:
Longstanding and very robust partnership.

Allie Bones:
Exactly.

Jodi Liggett:
The safety net already is a public-private partnership. A lot of nonprofit service providers would tell you they've actually been subsidizing government services for years, because the rates have been to inadequate. We've been working together, but when government withdraws its investment, it puts the whole infrastructure at risk.

Ted Simons:
What do you say to me -- I'm a lawmaker. How do you convince me when I tell you, we simply don't have the money?

Jodi Liggett:
We're sympathetic to that. We're realistic. The "she counts" report graphically details how Arizona doesn't have the money. We're in the worst situation as a percentage. But cuts-only is simply not going to work. These people are still here in our state and community. They'll be here; they don't go away just because you X them off a balance sheet. Someone will have to care for them. We think revenues must be addressed. There are a number of ways that revenues can be addressed but revenues must be addressed.

Ted Simons:
I'm a lawmaker; convince me this is so important that I need to find revenue because right now, I don't have any.

Marie Sullivan:
With each individual that's employed, certainly there's an increase to the tax base. With each individual employed, there's less small businesses struggling to make ends meet and serve their clientele. We want to create jobs and have people earn wages so they can contribute to the economy. So to the benefit of paying more in taxes, sales tax, property tax or some such thing will in turn generate more income into our community overall. It's a balance sheet of expense versus revenue. We're seeming to cut the expense without generating revenue.

Ted Simons:
And yet, lawmakers say they understand, they spend two dollars and earn three, but they don't have the dollars.

Allie Bones:
They have to find this. These are life-saving services. Domestic violence shelters provide a safe haven for victims of domestic violence who are trying to escape abuse. There was a situation out in the east valley last year where a woman and her four children found refuge in a domestic violence shelter and the perpetrator of domestic violence committed suicide while the five people were in a shelter. We believe that outcome would have been different had they not been able to access the shelter. They need do what is necessary to protect the citizens of the state.

Ted Simons:
We'll stop it there. Great conversation. Thanks for joining us.

Allie Bones:
Thank you.


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