Opinion: Gov.’s Decision on Unemployment Benefits Hurts Women, Children and People of Color

Unemployment
Photo illustration from TayebMEZADIA/Pixabay.com.

The announcement by Gov. Larry Hogan that he will end the federal subsidies for unemployment disproportionately affects women and people of color.

According to Oxfam America, women in Maryland make up 35% of workers making $15 per hour or less. The percentages for people of color are even more daunting with 51.5% of Hispanics, 37.7% of Black people, and 30.5% of Asian people making $15 per hour or less. Compare that to only 27.6% of white people earning $15 per hour or less.

In Maryland, 57% of the workers making $15 per hour or less are over the age of 25. This negates the myth that only teenagers earn under $15 per hour. Because 78.9% of children younger than 12 have a working mother in Maryland, one can assume that most women who make $15 per hour are mothers.

The average cost of child care for infants in Maryland is $1,278 per month, while child care for preschool children (from the ages of 3 to 4) is closer to $855 per month. Even while working 40 hours per week, someone earning $15 per hour will only take home $30,000 per year, before taxes and expenses. Child care for an infant would take between 33% to 50% of that mother’s income before taxes.

Maryland is the seventh most expensive state in the U.S. when it comes to child care. In 2018, the Maryland General Assembly doubled child care subsidies so presumably these mothers could qualify for subsidies. However, single mothers can only qualify for the subsidy if they have sued their partner for child support. That puts some single mothers in a predicament where they have to spend time and money to sue their significant other.

There are also only 213,960 available slots for child care in Maryland, but 844,563 children who need it. That helps keep the cost of child care high and the availability for child care low.

In that case, where do women turn?

The Blueprint for Maryland’s Future, which Gov. Hogan vetoed, would help give families free child care for children who are 4. Thankfully, the General Assembly overrode that veto, but the Blueprint for Maryland still leaves a gap for mothers who need child care for children from the age of 6 weeks to 4 years old.

Gov. Hogan just announced that he would decline federal unemployment subsidies as of July 1 because “they are no longer necessary.” That gave people only approximately 30 days to find a job and find child care, if necessary.

Moms will be scrambling to find jobs and expensive child care slots that may not exist. This could not come at a worse time for parents. School will be letting out for summer and most parents who qualified for unemployment because their jobs disappeared due to COVID had anticipated utilizing that unemployment plus the federal subsidy to get their kids through the summer until the next school year begins.

That begs the question, why is Gov. Hogan targeting women, children and people of color by ending federal unemployment subsidies that were supposed to last until Sept. 6?

Someone should ask him.

CRYSTAL PETERS

The writer is a Baltimore County resident currently working with Maryland NOW to endorse candidates for the 2022 election and raising funds for the NOW state political action committee.