Thursday, April 19, 2012

Stark Introduces Bill to Recognize Low-Income Mothers' Care for Their Young Children as Work

If passed, this bill would serve as a paid maternity leave act and go a long way toward raising this country's abysmal infant mortality rate. The USA is one of only 4 nations in the world too poor or too miserly to mandate paid maternity leave. Our unpaid Family Leave Act is simply a bad joke. For those who live paycheck to paycheck, TANF is and has always been the only Family Leave Act in town.

If raising children is ever to be regarded as critically important work in this family-unfriendly  nation, the work must be compensated and that would certainly include social security credits for the women (and some men) willing to perform the vitally essential work:  

WASHINGTON -- Today, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced the Women's Option to Raise Kids Act (WORK Act), H.R. 4379, which would recognize that all parents who stay home to raise young children are, in fact, doing important and legitimate work. Original cosponsors of the WORK Act include Reps. John Lewis (D-GA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Laura Richardson (D-CA). 

 Rep. Stark: "Mitt Romney was for ObamaCare before he was against it. Then, he was for forcing low-income mothers into the workforce before he decided 'all moms are working moms'."

"I think we should take Mr. Romney at his most recent word and change our federal laws to recognize the importance and legitimacy of raising young children. That's why I've introduced the WORK Act to provide low-income parents the option of staying home to raise young children without being pushed into poverty." 

Why we need the WORK Act: Current law does not count low-income stay-at-home parents who are raising young children as meeting the necessary Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirement. Current law also bans states from counting these individuals toward that state's work participation rate, which can result in financial penalties if not met. This effectively bars low-income parents who choose to stay home to raise their young children from access to the financial support of TANF. 

As reported by the New York Times and others, the TANF program has been particularly unresponsive during the economic downturn (see this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities). Today, TANF is only serving 27% of families living in poverty, compared to 68% when the program was enacted to great acclaim in 1996. The result is that more children are being pushed deeper into poverty and destitution. Congress needs to start fixing this problem to ensure that low-income families have access to needed assistance. The WORK Act is an important step in that direction. 

What the WORK Act does: The WORK Act would amend TANF law to recognize the critical job of raising children age three or younger as work. Under the legislation, low-income parents could work, receive job training, search for work, or raise their children until they are school-aged without fear of losing TANF support and being pushed deeper into poverty. This is the same option that wealthy families, such as the Romneys, enjoy.

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