WREN Testimony to the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children
by Ashley Crary Lidow on Sep 23, 2021
This testimony was presented on WREN ‘s behalf by our Director of Policy and Government Relations, Ashley Crary Lidow, at the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children Hearing, September 23rd, 2021 at 6:30 PM.
Members of the Joint Citizens and Legislative Committee on Children,
Thank you for the opportunity to provide testimony. My name is Ashley Lidow (she/her) and I am the Director of Policy and Government Relations of the Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network (WREN). WREN is a nonpartisan, nonprofit organization with a mission to build a movement to advance the health, economic well-being, and rights of South Carolina’s women, girls, and their families. We have more than 40,000 people in our statewide network, and we work with elected officials, advocates, nonprofit partners, and businesses to improve equity and opportunity in our state.
To unlock the full potential of our state, South Carolina must close persistent gender and racial gaps in health, safety, economic opportunities, political participation, and leadership.
As this committee looks to improve outcomes for children in the state, an immediate action item is to push for the General Assembly to reconvene to repeal or modify Proviso 1.108. With constantly changing public health conditions, local school districts must have the authority and flexibility to keep students safe and in school. Schools need to remain open as an economic imperative as well. Many caregivers do not work in jobs that allow for remote work and sudden quarantine or a switch to virtual schooling will push families to a breaking point.
In looking towards the second year of the legislative session, it is important to understand that the health and well-being of our children is indelibly connected to the health and well-being of their parents, guardians, and primary caregivers. I would like to outline some ways this committee could provide support.
Support the Childcare Workforce
Even before the pandemic, more than four of every 10 South Carolina families lived in childcare deserts, places where there are more children than available childcare providers (1). In a 2020 poll of South Carolina voters, the majority of respondents said that childcare is inaccessible (2).
One of the top factors in childcare worker retention is access to employer-sponsored health care. Many childcare centers cannot provide access to health care, which is why–for the sake of our children, families, and economy–Medicaid access must be provided for childcare professionals.
Right now, South Carolina childcare providers are being left out of Medicaid coverage and they cannot afford to purchase a plan on the marketplace. Their median annual salary of $19,480 which does not qualify them for Medicaid in a non-expansion state, but would they qualify for Medicaid in an expansion state if the childcare worker has a two-or-more-person household (3). Single childcare workers with no children would need Medicaid expansion to be at 200% of the federal poverty line to qualify, which is $25,760 (4).
Please support childcare workers and other caregivers in our state by expanding Medicaid. Care work is what makes all other work possible.
Prevent the Spread of Disease in Schools and Communities
In the United States only one in four workers can take paid time off to be home to care for a child. Women are less likely to have access to paid sick leave than their male counterparts (5), and those in care jobs are among the least likely to have access to paid sick days (6) This means that when a child has a cold, the flu, a fever, a rash or even COVID-19, many parents are forced to choose between caring for that child or protecting their jobs and financial security. This has real consequences for the health and well-being of our children and communities: when children go to school sick, they may struggle academically, get sicker and spread illness to their classmates, teachers and staff.
As our kids and teachers are back in school amidst an extraordinarily contagious Delta variant of COVID-19, now more than ever, is the time to advance the Paid Sick Leave Act (H.3469), which would provide earned paid sick leave to employees statewide.
Continue the Push for Paid Parental Leave
During this legislative session, the committee endorsed legislation (H.3560 and S.11) that would provide paid parental leave for state employees and has done an outstanding job in moving it through the legislative process. In the upcoming year, we urge all on the committee to continue a strong push for passage. As you are all aware, paid leave has multiple positive effects on the mental and physical health of both parents and babies (7). Research also shows that when we ensure workers have paid leave, we can reduce racial and ethnic disparities in maternal and child health (8).
Parents, teachers, and childcare workers are working hard every day to keep our kids safe and healthy, and it is our duty to ensure that our laws and policies support them in their efforts. Thank you again for the opportunity to testify and for all that you do to help the children of South Carolina.
- Center for American Progress. U.S. Child Care Deserts Map. December 2018. Retrieved from https://childcaredeserts.org/?state=SC&split=true
- Change Research, Women’s Rights and Empowerment Network, & National Women’s Law Center. (2020, January). Our Voice 2020: Poll of Women and LGBTQ Likely Voters in SC. Retrieved from: http://bit.ly/OurVOICE2020
- Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, 2020a; Economic Policy Institute, 2019; Health Reform: Beyond the Basics, 2019; U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2019b.
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, 2021.
- Schneider, D., & Harknett, K. (2020, April 14). Essential and Vulnerable: Service-Sector Workers and Paid Sick Leave. The Shift Project. https://shift.hks.harvard.edu/essential-and-vulnerable-service-sector-workers-and-paid-sick-leave/.
- Glynn, S. J., & Boesch, D. (2020, March 18). Lack of Paid Leave Risks Public Health During the Coronavirus Outbreak. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/issues/women/news/2020/03/12/481609/lack-paid-leave-risks-public-health-coronavirus-outbreak/.
- Van Niel, Maureen Sayres MD; Bhatia, Richa MD; Riano, Nicholas S. MAS; de Faria, Ludmila MD; Catapano-Friedman, Lisa MD; Ravven, Simha MD; Weissman, Barbara MD; Nzodom, Carine MD; Alexander, Amy MD; Budde, Kristin MD, MPH; Mangurian, Christina MD, MAS The Impact of Paid Maternity Leave on the Mental and Physical Health of Mothers and Children: A Review of the Literature and Policy Implications, Harvard Review of Psychiatry: 3/4 2020 – Volume 28 – Issue 2 – p 113-126