Santa Clara County has approved contracts to fund two programs that support women who have been disproportionately impacted by the economic fallout from the pandemic.
When Young Moms Thrive will support more than 100 young mothers in East San Jose and South County by helping them find and secure part-time jobs. It will also provide financial stipends and offer childcare services.
The other program earmarks $1 million to provide free feminine hygiene products to women in need. “This was an attempt to recognize that Covid-19 has taken almost everything that is bad for low-income women of color and made it much, much worse,” said Supervisor Cindy Chavez, who introduced both programs.
Women, regardless of socioeconomic status or race, have been disproportionately economically impacted by Covid-19. And for lower income women and women of color, the gap is only amplified, county leaders said before approving the items at the Dec. 8 Board of Supervisors meeting.
“You take what was already challenging from an inequity perspective prior to Covid-19 and then Covid-19 hits and everything is exacerbated,” Chavez said during the board meeting last week. “So, you go from being at the back of the line to being completely kicked out of line and then you have to be focused on diapers, baby formula, period products, food for your family [and] those are not cheap.”
A study by McKinsey and Company found that women make up 46 percent of the nation’s workforce but accounted for 54 percent of jobs lost during the pandemic. The study also found that women were 19 percent more at risk for losing their jobs than men because more women work in sectors negatively impacted by Covid-19 such as the food industry, hospitality, education and retail.
“Women are disproportionately unemployed and that is really the challenge,” Chavez said. “We have a long way to go but we are getting there.”
When Young Moms Thrive
A one-year pilot program that would secure part-time employment, When Young Moms Thrive provides financial stipends and offer childcare services for mothers ages 12-26 in regions that have seen widespread economic fallout from the pandemic.
The $400,000 contract is a partnership between the county and two community organizations—Alliance for Girls and Young Women's Freedom Center—in an effort to close the gap and empower young mothers.
Young mothers in Santa Clara County face numerous challenges and barriers in accessing resources and social support services they need to thrive, Chavez said in a memo.
The birth rate for girls and women ages 15 to 19 in Gilroy is, for example, 15 times higher than that of Palo Alto. “The costs of raising a child and childcare in Silicon Valley are very high and often not affordable for families, let alone young moms,” Chavez said.
For Karlee Douglass, a self-determination life coach at the Young Women’s Freedom Center, programs like these are what helped her when she was a young mother.
“Financial burdens were a main source of stress and self-doubt, causing feelings of inadequacy and guilt for not being able to provide for my child,” Douglass. “Receiving support in those areas directly impacted my ability to be more present for my child."
The new program will help 110 young mothers from East San Jose and South County. The rest of the details are still being drafted and will be ready by February for the budget meetings, county officials said.
Period Product Funding
When women lose their incomes, they often can't afford to buy essential and often costly items, such as feminine hygiene products. The period products fund, which is set to come back to the board on Tuesday for final contract approval, dedicates $1 million from the county to help those in need of such products.
First 5, a community organization that is partnering with the county to distribute the funds, reported they needed 7,000 period products for 333 women each month to adequately address period poverty.
“There is an unmet need for period products across the county that has been exacerbated by Covid-19 pandemic,” said Shammy Karim who works for the Santa Clara County Office of Education. “[Lack of] access to period products can lead to isolation, infection and missed days of school [for students].”
“Young girls are often forced to go without needed products due to the overwhelming impacts of food insecurity, housing insecurity and lack of access in the community they live in,” Karim said.