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Cutting support for economically vulnerable women is no way to celebrate Mother’s Day

Mom and daughter embrace on a park bench. (Getty Images/iStock)

Here’s a Mother’s Day idea for the Trump administration: Stop undermining the nation’s future by disinvesting in millions of women, mothers and their families.

A few facts help to frame the analysis. Compared with men, women are more likely to have low incomes and be the primary caretakers of their children. Most low-wage workers, about 60 percent, are women. Because there are so many more poor, single mothers than fathers, these moms are particularly vulnerable to cuts in safety-net programs.

Several policy actions by the administration and congressional Republicans are building toward a wholesale attack on many of the programs that have supported women and families’ health and economic mobility. They have proposed slashing nutrition assistance programs, taken steps to undermine access to health care for many low-income families, and cut holes in the economic safety net. And they have consistently failed to enact tax and labor market policies that would support low-income mothers.

Most immediately, House Republicans have proposed cutting more than $17 billion from the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), which helps struggling families put food on the table. SNAP reduces poverty and food insecurity, and it promotes families’ long-term health and well-being. This proposal could cut more than a million families’ SNAP benefits. The House is expected to vote on it as soon as next week.

The Trump administration has also targeted Medicaid, which serves nearly 40 million women.  As we’ve written, after Congress failed to pass sweeping cuts to Medicaid last year, the administration has started letting states deeply cut their own programs through policies that take coverage away from adults who aren’t able to meet work requirements, as well as impose steep premiums and cost-sharing that can make coverage unaffordable for low-income families. And the administration is continuing its attack on women’s access to family planning services, which are essential for women’s health and economic mobility.

The administration is also sabotaging the private insurance market in ways that will make it more difficult and costly for many women to find comprehensive health coverage.  For example, the administration recently proposed letting insurers offer “short-term” health plans that last up to a full year, as an alternative to comprehensive plans that meet more stringent standards. Short-term plans are permitted to discriminate against people with preexisting conditions, and they frequently offer skimpy benefits that don’t cover basic health care for women: In a recent analysis of the short-term plans available in 45 major cities, the Kaiser Family Foundation found that none of the plans offered basic maternity coverage.

In yet another example of policies that will hurt women and their families, the Trump administration recently unveiled legislation that would ultimately raise rents by an average of 44 percent on more than 4 million low-income households with rental assistance, three-quarters of which are headed by women. The proposal would raise rents in several ways, including by raising the “minimum rent” for the poorest assisted households to $150 a month. The typical affected household is a mother with two children with an annual income of $2,400 — just $200 per month. After paying rent under this proposal, she would have only $50 left each month for necessities such as clothing, personal care items, diapers or school supplies, as well as food or medical needs that other assistance doesn’t meet. A similar Republican proposal has already had a hearing in the House.

Those are policy acts of commission. In terms of omission, though the Republican tax cuts put almost $2 trillion on the nation’s credit card, not only did they fail to add a dollar to the earned income tax credit, a wage subsidy that disproportionately benefits women (there’s a working woman in more than 60 percent of EITC households). They actually cut it. Yes, they expanded the child tax credit, but a single mom working full time at the minimum wage would get all of $75 out of the CTC expansion, compared with $4,000 for a wealthy married couple with kids.

In fact, that mom earning the minimum wage needs an hourly raise. Enacting the Democrats’ proposal of raising the minimum wage to $15 by 2024 would lift the pay of 7.6 million working moms — a third of working mothers, the Economic Policy Institute’s David Cooper has found. These women’s earnings account for two-thirds of their families’ income. Ignoring the policy is, thus, a missed opportunity to help working moms.

Part of celebrating Mother’s Day is acknowledging the deep investments — the time, love, nurturing, maintenance — that moms make in their families. Every other advanced economy recognizes government’s critical role in supporting those investments for economically vulnerable mothers and their families. Medical coverage, nutritional support, safe housing and secure earnings are appropriately understood to be essential investments in families and their children.

By disinvesting in women, mothers and families, the Trump administration is not only sending a harsh message about its priorities. It is also undermining America’s future.