(Howie Hawkins is the Green Party candidate for governor of New York. The following was originally posted on his campaign website.)
Hawkins Says Rather than Create Women’s Ballot Line, Cuomo Needs to Do More to Help Poor Women
Hawkins Would Eliminate WEP for welfare
Howie Hawkins, the Green Party candidate for Governor, said today that Governor Cuomo’s effort to create a Women’s Equality Party (WEP) ballot line is a slap in the face to the many poor women he has neglected as Governor, especially women on welfare and minimum wage workers.
WEP ironically is also the NYC title of the forced work program for poor women on welfare – Work Experience Program. Hawkins said he would eliminate WEP and replace it with jobs.
“Instead of enacting programs that help the average New Yorkers, Cuomo and Astorino compete to create bait-and-switch ballot line slogans to sell their candidacies to voters,” like Hawkins. Astorino says he wants to create a ballot line called Stop Common Core.
“A vote for Cuomo’s Women’s Equality Party is not a vote for women’s equality but a vote for Cuomo’s agenda of public austerity to pay for tax cuts for the rich. His trickle-down economic policies don’t trickle down to working-class women, who need living wage jobs, a closing the male-female pay gap, affordable child care, paid family leave, and increased cash assistance and job and educational opportunities for single mothers in poverty,” added Hawkins.
“The creation of such a ballot line is an outrageous and blatant admission of the failure of the present system and both major political parties to adequately and authentically address the real issues of women’s lack of equality in New YorkState. The Green Party continues to be the only real choice for women’s rights and hope for equality,” said Theresa Portelli, the Green candidate for State Comptroller.
Poverty rates for women, especially of color, are much higher than for men. Nearly six in ten poor adults are women, and more than half of all poor children live in families headed by women. Poverty rates are especially high for single mothers, women of color, and elderly women living alone.
“The Democrats abandoned the poor, the majority of whom are women, decades ago, instead focusing their rhetoric on the so-called ‘middle class’. The Green Party has a much stronger women’s platform on a host of issues,” said Hawkins.
The federal government has repeatedly ranked the state’s welfare-to-work programs as among the worst in the U.S. in helping to move poor people into jobs. A major reason for the state’s poor performance is that NY relies on workfare /WEP far more than other states.
“Cuomo is naming his ballot line trap after the program that trapped women with poverty wages. It’s either oblivious or diabolical. Either way it’s fitting,” said Brian Jones, the Lt. Governor candidate for the Greens.
Cuomo has opposed the proposal (A7119 – Wright / S5120 – Savino) by welfare advocates such as Community Voices Heard to eliminate WEP, replacing it with a transitional jobs program to provide a paying job with training and education. Cuomo has also opposed most reforms promoted by anti-poverty advocates to improve New York’s welfare system and failed to appoint a state welfare (OTDA) Commissioner during the first several years of his administration.
Cuomo has slashed funding for transitional jobs programs to nearly zero, despite receiving an annual billion-dollar surplus as part of the fixed federal welfare (TANF) block grant. The surplus occurs because the number of poor women and children receiving welfare benefits has been slashed by more than half since Bill Clinton ended “welfare as we knew it” in 1996, while federal funding remains the same.
Welfare benefits in New York are so low that they come to only half of the federal poverty level. Cuomo not only has failed to propose any increase in welfare benefits, one of his first acts as Governor was to delay the meager three-year increase in the welfare basic grant approved during Governor Paterson’s tenure – amounting to an extra dollar a day for a family of three. The welfare shelter allowance falls far below the level needed to obtain adequate housing.
Hawkins, who supports a $15 an hour minimum wage, notes that the three-year deal to raise the minimum wage to $9 an hour continues to trap such workers, the majority of whom are women, in poverty. Cuomo has repeatedly undercut the minimum wage initiatives advanced by workers and anti-poverty advocates. He has also refused for more than a year to appoint a minimum wage board to provide an increase to food tip workers, 72% of whom are women.
The Green Party supports free universal child care as is standard in virtually every other industrial democracy.
Hawkins said that, when elected Governor, he would work with women advocacy organizations to pass an even stronger Women’s Equality agenda that deals with women’s health and reproductive rights, ensures pay equity and paid maternity leaves, curbs wage theft, combats sexual harassment, and includes stronger penalties for human trafficking.
“Unfortunately, Cuomo seemed more interested in using the Women’s Equality Agenda to score political points with the public than he was in passing actual legislation to deliver needed changes,” Hawkins remarked.
“Cuomo could have won 9 of the 10 measures in the Women’s Equality Act last year and this year. Instead, he insisted on all 1 0 knowing he could use them as campaign fodder. He should have got the nine adopted to help women now and then campaigned against the Senate Republicans who held up the the tenth measure to codify the provisions of Roe v. Wade in state law,” Hawkins added.