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Chairman Yarmuth’s Opening Statement at Hearing on Ensuring Women Can Thrive in a Post-Pandemic Economy

Mar 16, 2022

Washington, D.C.— Today, Kentucky Congressman John Yarmuth, Chair of the House Budget Committee, gave the following opening statement at today’s hearing on Ensuring Women Can Thrive in a Post-Pandemic Economy. Remarks as prepared are below:

Every March, we celebrate Women’s History Month to honor the vital role of women and girls in our nation’s history. From revolutionaries, abolitionists, and suffragists to labor leaders, equal rights activists, and elected officials, women have always been on the frontlines in the fight for progress. Generations of women have struggled and sacrificed to build a better country for the next generation of trailblazers to inherit. But despite the progress made and battles won, women – especially women of color – still face systemic barriers to opportunity. 

The COVID-19 pandemic and resulting recession raised these barriers even higher, worsening underlying inequities and disparities that have pushed women out of the labor force, compounded their caregiving responsibilities, and more. 

Last week marked one year since the American Rescue Plan was signed into law and Democrats delivered lifesaving and life-changing relief for working families, small businesses, and communities across the country. Since President Biden took office, we’ve added a record-breaking 7.4 million jobs back to our economy. But when you look below the surface, it’s not hard to see the challenges women are still facing. 

Since the beginning of the pandemic, women have been pushed out of the workforce at a shocking rate, losing 12.2 million jobs at the depth of the recession. Women accounted for 52 percent of jobs lost at the peak of the crisis, despite making up only 47 percent of the labor force at that time. Sectors in which women are overly represented – like education, health services, leisure, and hospitality – saw the greatest job loss to date and have been the slowest to recover. 

Because women typically bear the brunt of child care and caring for family members, as businesses shuttered, schools closed, and working from home became the norm for many, it was women - especially women of color - who found themselves laid off or forced to make the impossible choice between caring for their families or providing for them. Without child care, in-person schooling, or paid leave, the burden of this crisis fell disproportionately on the shoulders of women. 

Women also constitute the majority of our frontline workers. So even if they did not lose their jobs, these women faced increased health risks, fewer opportunities for remote work, and a lack of paid leave. Again, there is a disproportionate impact on women of color: Black women are more likely to be the sole earners for their families, meaning that they may be forced to take lower wage jobs or more dangerous work to make ends meet for their families.

Today, two years later, we have made tremendous economic progress, but we simply aren’t there yet when it comes to women in the workforce. When compared to February 2020 levels, there are currently 1.2 million women missing from the labor force. In contrast, the number of men in the labor force is above pre-pandemic levels. And not all groups have been impacted equally: the unemployment rate for white women is 3.1 percent. For Latina women it’s 4.8 percent, and for Black women it’s 6.1 percent.

Our economy cannot afford to permanently lose 1.2 million workers, and women should not be forced to stay out of the workforce because we have failed to respond to very obvious unmet needs in our country.  

Congress must address these issues, or we will be left with a partial recovery, diminished productivity, and curbed economic growth for decades to come. 

We have to lower the costs of child care and extend the Child Tax Credit expansion. 

Establishing universal pre-K for all three- and four-year olds is essential. 

U.S. workers, particularly women, need paid leave.

And they certainly need – and deserve – equal pay. 

These are the types of investments that will make it possible for more women to return to workforce. They will help business owners fill open positions and grow. And they will ensure we recover from the pandemic stronger than before, with a more fair and equitable economy, and can build an America that better reflects our values. 

That is what we are focusing on today at this hearing and what will remain a top priority of this Congress until we get it done.

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