Letter to the General Assembly on COVID-19
by Ann Warner on May 12, 2020
As the South Carolina General Assembly reconvenes, our CEO, Ann Warner, penned a letter to each member. In the letter (below) Warner encourages each legislator to consider the lives and livelihoods of women as our economic recovery. In her letter, she emphasizes the need for a state-level response to the needs presented in this moment, read more below.
May 12, 2020
Members of the South Carolina General Assembly,
As a non-profit organization focused on the health and economic well-being of women in South Carolina, we are very concerned about the harmful impact COVID-19 is having on women, particularly frontline workers who are facing great risks to their health and economic security. Women of color, in particular, are at the greatest risk. As you develop a plan for the state to recover and rebuild from COVID-19 pandemic, we respectfully ask that you consider the following data and recommendations to prioritize their needs.
We consulted with the Office of Research at the Moore School of Business at the University of South Carolina to assess the risks women are facing in our state’s workforce and found:
- Women are at higher risk of acquiring the virus because of the work that they do. More than two-thirds (69%) of the highest-risk jobs in South Carolina are held by women. Nurses, home health aides, childcare workers, grocery store clerks, and delivery people are at great risk of acquiring the virus while they perform essential work.
- Many of the women in the highest-risk jobs are economically vulnerable. More than 70% of high-risk workers in our state earn below-average wages. For example, the average annual wage of a home health aide or a childcare worker in South Carolina is around $21,000.
- South Carolina’s households rely on women’s income. Prior to the pandemic, more than 66 percent of women with children 6 and under were working in South Carolina. With schools and most daycare centers closed, many women are struggling to bring income into their households.
OUR RECOMMENDATIONS: The pandemic has illuminated just how much our economy and society rely on the labor of women – both paid and unpaid. While women are working hard at work and at home, they are suffering because of low or lost wages, insufficient access to support for caregiving, and increased risk for domestic violence. We ask the General Assembly to prioritize the following:
1. Expand access to the paid sick time and paid family medical leave provided by the Federal Families First Act.
a) By moving forward a bill (S.997) that would provide 12 weeks paid parental leave for state employees. Supported by the Governor and a bipartisan group of legislators, this bill passed a Senate Finance Subcommittee unanimously on March 12, 2020.
b) On March 18, 2020, the “Families First Coronavirus Response Act” (FFCRA or Act) was signed into law. The FFCRA contains two different paid leave types related to the 2019 novel coronavirus (COVID-19) that apply to South Carolina state government agencies and institutions:
i) Emergency Family and Medical Leave Expansion Act (EFMLA): Expands the federal Family and Medical Leave Act to provide leave for employees who are unable to work, including work-from-home, as a result of having to care for a minor child due to a COVID19 related closure of a school or childcare center.
ii) Emergency Paid Sick Leave Act: Provides up to 80 hours of paid sick leave for employees for six qualifying reasons related to COVID-19. Both paid leave provisions take effect April 1, 2020, and both expire Dec. 31, 2020.
2. Increase the accessibility and affordability of childcare. Without access to childcare, women will not be able to return to work and our economy will not be able to function.
a) Direct the Department of Social Services (DSS) to fully utilize the federal funding available for child care supports to families. Quality child care is desperately needed for a fully functioning economy and recent studies suggest that the overall child care supply in South Carolina is now reduced to approximately one-third of pre-COVID capacity. In order to return to full employment, funding must be prioritized to support child care resources supporting working families.
3. Increase protection for frontline workers as SC opens.
4. Ensure that non-governmental human service organizations have the financial resources and emergency equipment needed to continue operating domestic violence programs, transitional housing and shelter programs, rape crisis centers, legal services, and emergency food programs.
5. Mandate tracking of state’s relief and response plan that includes, at a minimum, information on gender, race, and age of recipients.
These actions will help our state address the needs and priorities of the people on whom we most depend: women and others working on the frontlines. When women’s needs are met, our families and our economy will be vastly more equipped to thrive. We are standing by if we can answer any questions or provide additional information. Thank you for your service.
Chief Executive Officer