This is a guest post from Desiree Hoffman, Director of Advocacy at YWCA USA.
This holiday season, Iím wishing for Congress to pass a bi-partisan Violence Against Women Act (VAWA), and to extend tax cuts for the middle class. Iíll admit, itís a big wish: there is only a very short window of time ó†about 15 working calendar days ó†for Congress to accomplish these two things. But itís not impossible; in fact, itís absolutely critical that this wish comes true.
Throughout 2012, we have heard story after story about the importance of VAWA for women and families, yet this Act has been lingering with little progress for months. The House (H.R. 4970) and Senate (S.1925) have passed their respective bills, and the 2012 elections are behind us. Now, VAWA gathers dust, waiting for Congress to take it off the shelf and move forward. Meanwhile, our YWCAs across the country, who serve over half a million clients each year through anti-violence programs, know that VAWA is of vital importance to millions of women and girls. Our YWCAs want a bi-partisan VAWA bill that is similar to S. 1925 (one that includes protections for LGBTQ, Native Americans, and illegal immigrants who are victims of domestic violence) to pass before the end of the year. Read the letters that 82 YWCA associations sent to the House and Senate this week.
Recently, there has been a renewed effort in Congress for a final push on VAWA. A bi-partisan Dear Colleague letter is circulating in the House of Representatives, led by Representatives Louise M. Slaughter (D-NY), Judy Biggert (R-IL), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Mike Quigley (D-IL), John Conyers (D-MI), and Ted Poe (R-TX). These Representatives are urging House Leadership to move quickly to renew VAWA by bringing a bill that includes similar provisions as S. 1925 to the House floor for a vote. (You can reach out to these Representatives to show your support Ė find their contact information here.)
The other critical issue this month is the federal budget and our tax policy, or the ďfiscal cliff,Ē which has received intense media coverage. Much like VAWA, the fiscal cliff impacts all of us at the YWCA, as we are social service providers, advocates and working women who count on government funding for our programs. The fiscal cliff also impacts our clients, who are low-income women, women of color, young women, older women, military women veterans, and stay-at-home mothers who rely on our programs. Together, this is quite a large group! If Congress does not act to extend tax cuts for those making under $200,000 a year, and for families making under $250,000, the consequences will be widespread.
Hereís what it might mean for the average American woman: if Congress doesnít act and extend tax cuts for a woman making less than $200,000 a year, then her taxes will go up by $2,200 next year according to a new report, Middle Class Tax Cuts Impact on Consumer Spending and Retailers. Personally, as a new mom to an 11-month-old son, $2,200 helps me pay rent in an expensive city, obtain childcare so that I can work, and afford groceries so that I can feed my family. In fact, $2,200 equates to almost two months of childcare costs alone!
It is painful to see our nationís leaders considering cutting spending that helps fund vital programs run by service providers like the YWCA in order to address the nationís budget problems. Congress has already made cuts to these programs as a result of the Budget Control Act. In reality, the need for services that our local associations provide, like career development, child care, and shelter for domestic violence victims, has not diminished in recent times – it has ballooned. A more fair and balanced approach to addressing our nationís budgetary problems would be to protect programs like these, as well as to raise revenue by asking individuals making over $200,000 a year and families making over $250,000 a year to pay a little more in taxes. Doing this would not only benefit my budget as a mother and keep me safe as a woman; it would mean that my young son would grow up in a society that is committed to ensuring†safety and justice for women and families.