THE BLOG
03/27/2009 05:12 am ET Updated May 25, 2011

How the Final Economic Recovery Package Helps Women and Families

The American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, passed by Congress last week and signed by the President on Tuesday, provides substantial economic help to women and families. Although it does not include all that we would have wanted, it represents a major re-ordering of priorities in funding -- not only for health care, but also for many other programs upon which women and their families depend.

Although we are disappointed that an important family planning provision to expand coverage was not in the final bill, the Act will help preserve access to vital health care services by helping prevent cuts in Medicaid -- a program that serves more than 20 million adult women -- and by providing funds for other health programs, including:

* $87 billion over two years in increased federal support for Medicaid (which includes family planning for those eligible for comprehensive coverage) -- protecting access to health care at a time when states are seeing increased demand for services while facing declining revenues.

* A 65 percent COBRA premium subsidy, available for nine months, to help workers who lost jobs after September 2008 buy health insurance coverage under their former employer's plan.

* $500 million for services provided at community health centers and $1.5 billion for construction, renovation and equipment, and for the acquisition of health information technology systems.

In addition to health care, the bill invests in education, child care, and Head Start - building human capital and creating jobs for teachers, health care workers, and early childhood educators, many of whom are women. For example, it includes $2 billion for the Child Care and Development Block Grant and $2.1 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start.

The bill provides funding to enforce important worker protections for women and for others, including civil rights laws. It helps eliminate barriers that disqualify many women from claiming unemployment benefits, in addition to extending and expanding unemployment compensation benefits.

The bill strengthens the safety net for women, their families, and others most in need by increasing direct assistance for low-income individuals, the majority of whom are women and children -- including nutrition assistance and income supports -- and by expanding tax provisions that help low-income families.

We commend President Obama and Congressional leaders for moving quickly on the economic recovery bill. But passing this provision is just the first step even for this Recovery Act. The Act must be implemented, and implemented effectively.

Now, let's get to work!

For a more detailed summary of how the provisions agreed to in conference will help women and families, visit action.nwlc.org/ConferenceAgreement. This article was cross-posted from RH Reality Check.