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Report Cites Inequality of Budget Cuts

April 14, 1985|JANICE MALL

The title "Inequality of Sacrifice" indicates the content of a new analysis of the impact of the proposed Reagan Administration budget for 1986 on women. The study was done for the fourth consecutive year by the Coalition on Women and the Budget, a group of more than 50 organizations concerned with civil rights, education, labor, religion and women.

For the fourth consecutive year, the conclusions of the analysis have been the same: "These cuts hurt women. Our message this year has not changed. In fact it's stronger than ever," said Chris deVries, chairwoman of the coalition, in the announcement of the release of the report. "After four years of neglect, many of America's women and children are at great risk in terms of health and economic security."

Citing Census figures, the report points out that the proportion of Americans living in poverty has increased from 13% to 15.2% since 1982. Two million more people have fallen below the poverty level since 1980, a majority of them women and children who represent 75% of the nation's poor.

The Obvious Reductions

Budget proposals singled out by the coalition as being particularly detrimental to women and children include the obvious--cuts in Aid to Families with Dependent Children, Food Stamps and supplemental nutrition programs for women, infants and children.

A proposed reduction of $8.4 million in special supplemental food programs that serve pregnant women, infants and children considered low-income and nutritionally at risk, would result in cutting almost 175,000 recipients from the programs in 1986, the coalition concluded. In addition, fourth-quarter 1985 allocations for this program have been reduced, meaning that almost 245,000 people will be cut from the program by September. As it is, the coalition said that the program currently serves only about one-third of the eligible people in need of this assistance.

Proposed cuts in Aid to Families with Dependent Children would bring to $5 billion the reduction in this program since fiscal 1982. A $100-million proposed cut in the Food Stamp Program would bring to $4.9 billion the cumulative reduction over the last five years.

The coalition found other proposed budget cuts that are less obviously detrimental to women and children. Medicaid, which serves the elderly as well as low-income families, is slated for a $6 billion reduction over the next three years. Almost 75% of recipients over 65 are women, the coalition said. Likewise, it said, a plan to terminate new public housing will have a disproportionate impact on elderly women; about 40% of the nation's public housing is occupied by the elderly, and 75% of these households are headed by women, most of whom live alone.

Legal Assistance to Poor

For the fifth year, the Administration has proposed eliminating funding for the Legal Services Corp., which provides legal assistance to the poor. Women constitute 67% of the clients. Even mass transit cuts--the proposal is to terminate funding to urban mass transit--hits women hardest in that low-income women workers comprise the majority of mass transit passengers.

The coalition report has been endorsed by church groups including committees of the Presbyterian, Catholic and Episcopal churches, B'nai B'rith Women and Church Women United. Sponsoring organizations also represent a spectrum of ages from Girls Clubs of America to the Older Women's League, working women's groups, the American Assn. of University Women and a number of other organizations representing diverse interests. Copies are available by writing c/o Chris DeVries, Federally Employed Women, 1010 Vermont Ave., N.W., Suite 821, Washington, D.C. 20005.

B'nai B'rith Women began at the turn of the century when men's lodges gave women permission to form auxiliaries. While it has been a long time since the organization has been regarded merely as auxiliary, the organization, with 834 chapters in the United States and Canada, is taking a new step toward independence.

The Executive Board of B'nai B'rith Women has announced that it has adopted a resolution to develop a plan to terminate its relationship with B'nai B'rith International. The purpose is to establish an independent women's organization with its own identity. Said national president Beverly Davis in the announcement: "We have a fundamental mission, which is to meet the needs and respond to the interests of Jewish women. It seems clearer and clearer that this can best be done by an organization that puts women at the center of its priorities and programming."

Meetings have been scheduled in 50 cities over the next few months to gather the views of members. The resolution will then be submitted for adoption at the organization's biennial convention in March, 1986.

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