Last week, we launched our report, Falling Behind: The Impact of the Great Recession and the Budget Crisis on California’s Women and Their Families, prepared by the California Budget Project (CBP). In addition to holding a press conference with CBP to reveal the report’s findings, we had the honor and privilege of testifying at a legislative hearing in the state capital. I gave testimony about why we funded this research, Jean Ross, executive director of CBP shared the findings, and at least 50 people spoke passionately about how the budget cuts have affected their lives and the lives of their families and neighbors.
Here is my testimony: It is the vision and hope of the Women’s Foundation of California that every woman, every family in California is economically secure. This is very big vision, but one grounded in our belief that equity and justice are possible. For us, economic security means that a family can meet their basic needs: a safe place to live, enough food to eat, quality child care, health care, transportation, and a good education.
As we have watched and listened to women across the state of California over the last 4-5 years, we have been continually made aware that a brewing storm threatens this vision: a deep recession in which low income women have been disproportionately impacted, coupled with a state budget process that has relentlessly cut programs designed to support and tide families over during difficult times. Moved by so many women’s experiences and stories, the Women’s Foundation of California commissioned the California Budget Project to conduct this important research and uncover the data behind the stories. Good data is the base of good policy work. It is important to build awareness in Sacramento and beyond because this puts pressure on policymakers to do the right thing. As a foundation, we invest in changing policy that impacts the lives of women and their families. Therefore, this research is very important to us.
As a Foundation, we are a bridge-builder between people impacted so severely by the recession and the budget crisis and policy makers, advocates and the donor community. Commissioning research like this helps inform all of us as we search for solutions to this ongoing problem. The first step to creating change is defining the problem. We believe this research does that very well. The results are sobering. It is imperative for policymakers to stand up and declare that better outcomes are possible, not just possible, but mandatory…that when the state chooses to invest in its people through workforce development, education for all, and public supports during times of crisis, we as a state will regain our strength.
We are here today to join you in standing up for equal opportunity and economic security for all Californians. This hearing is an opportunity for the state to look at where we are and understand the conditions faced by real people in our communities. You will hear some of these stories today from constituents of the Women’s Foundation’s grant partners. We hear these stories every day. They reflect the realities many, many Californians LIVE with every day.
Poverty has grown in this state, particularly for single mothers. This poverty crushes our potential, talent and aspirations. The opportunity to realize our potential is our rightful inheritance as Californians and Americans. We all must take steps to eradicate poverty and rebuild the hope of opportunity.
For 10 years the Women’s Foundation, through its Women’s Policy Institute, has cultivated grassroots leaders in our communities by building their knowledge about policy-making, including budget decisions, and how these impact everyday Californians. The policy fellows grow in confidence and conviction that we as a community—residents of this state—have the right to shape policy, and not just any policy – the policies that determine how our revenue is raised and how our money is spent. We own this budget — it belongs to us. The people of California absorb its effects and it shapes our everyday life.
As you know too well, California is at another crisis point. Women and their families are further away from economic security than they were in the recent past. Eroded by past decisions, economic security is further threatened by current proposals. We are here today to release this research. We are also here to renew our commitment to being part of the solution. We ask you to stand firm and to publicly declare the importance and moral imperative of the economic safety net. The Women’s Foundation of California strives to build public awareness and to change the policies that fuel the growing wealth gap. These policies erode the opportunity for poor and working women to improve their lives and contribute to the economy. We want to educate decision makers about the gravity and long term impact of the choices that are being made through the budgeting process.
Today, the Foundation launches a campaign to take this information to selected counties in the state to draw attention to the impact of budget cuts on women and their families and to engage everyday tax payers in developing solutions. Following the public forum model of our partner, the California Commission on the Status of Women, we will work with our partners, including elected officials, to coordinate local forums and press conferences to raise the voices of people affected by these policies and to engage them in solutions.
We are asking policy makers and candidates throughout the state to address these issues. These problems seem too big to solve, but we believe the solution will rise from the will of the people who refuse to accept a state where hopes are dashed, and poverty continues to grow. The future lies in building skills for California’s future workforce, maintaining public supports for those who need them and in reducing the enormous wealth gap. We have a moral obligation to change our current path and I am confident that we can.
Share your thoughts and opinions with us. Visit our Facebook page or tweet about this report using @womensfoundca and the hashtag #fallingbehind.