A new report (pdf) from the Institute for Women's Policy Research shows that especially for the 15.5 million women currently living below the poverty line, government assistance in the form of TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families), SNAP (food stamps), and publicly provided health insurance can lessen the extraordinary hardships for poor women and their children. Unfortunately, the study's entire purpose is to highlight how government anti-poverty programs are failing poor women and children, and there's no shortage of data on how hard the recession is hitting them.
The study reveals — or rather, reiterates — that women of color and younger women are the most likely to live in poverty. Sixty-eight percent had some type of health care, while nearly one third of adult women in poverty lack health coverage. Many do not solely rely on subsidized care from the government.
A shocking number of women and children in poverty do not receive TANF support or SNAP (food stamp) benefits. It isn't for lack of want. It's simply that not a single state provides TANF cash benefits enough for even half of its impoverished women with children, and 21 states had fewer than 10 percent of its impoverished residents enrolled in the program. Only 48 percent of women living below the poverty line received SNAP benefits, which shows no sign of improving after the Senate slashed food stamp funding earlier this year. As if the numbers overall weren't horrifying enough, benefits also vary widely from state to state with some providing even less than the pathetic federal average.
As Kathryn Baer writes over at Poverty in America, the one possible positive outcome from this report could be that we finally start reevaluating our safety net programs. It isn't enough to talk about women's rights. The government needs to step up and fix these failing programs that so many women and children desperately need.