2020 was a year of historic significance. A global pandemic. Economic hardship. Racial reckoning. But it’s in these moments of consequence that we’re reminded government does have a role to play. We need good public policy that actually helps people. So what comes next?
First and foremost in my mind: we need policies that support our working families who are struggling to keep their heads above water, just trying to make it work. Particularly working parents.
And hardest hit right now? Working moms who are having to take on so many roles all at once. So much that too many are finding it impossible to keep their balance, much less “lean in.” That’s why many working mothers are dropping out of the workforce. We must fix this.
We must finally create workplaces that work for people with caregiving responsibilities. Where to start? With policies that support working moms—like paid leave and affordable childcare. Read more on what this could (and should) look like in my op-ed authored with Sen. Tammy Duckworth.
Of course, these family-friendly policies benefit everyone, not just women. Nearly everybody cares for family members at some point. Caregiving is critical to restarting our economy and necessary for fully reopening. We need policies that reflect this basic reality.
And when moms—or anyone for that matter—get forced out of the workplace, they deserve easy access to unemployment. That didn’t happen when this crisis began because our unemployment systems were stuck in the past. It’s time we bring them into the 21st century.
Another way to make life easier for working families? Ensuring that all our kids have the tools they need in order to do their school work at home. In the United States, 14% of households with school-aged children lack broadband at home. Bridging the digital divide is essential.
As we reopen our economy and “Build Back Better,” we must place greater emphasis on supporting our small businesses—or we risk permanently losing the sense of community they provide us. A new federal relief package must guarantee that all small businesses who need help are able to access it.
And above all these efforts, something far more basic is required: that families have a roof over their head. As this Harvard JCHS report shows, far too many of our most vulnerable are falling behind on rent. We need policies to keep families in their homes.
Underlying all these issues is a common thread that we must address: people of color—especially women of color—are hit the hardest. Being forced out of the workforce in greater numbers. Going without broadband. Experiencing job disruption due to childcare. Falling behind on rent.
We must bring a racial justice lens to all these discussions. The incoming administration seems poised to do this; as Anna Gifty Opoku-Agyeman writes about the recent appointment of Dr. Lisa Cook, a Black economist to the Biden-Harris transition team, “the administration can now show how they will make good on rhetoric around centering Black women in economic policy, . . .”
Those are just a few of the many things we must begin to address. I’m committed to doing my part in the California Legislature—as are my colleagues and the incoming Biden-Harris administration. How about you?
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