An Uneven Path: State Investments in Women’s Economic Self-Sufficiency

Income and work support programs are vital to a woman’s ability to seek and sustain employment while caring for her family. Rhode Island, like all states, has invested in programs that help low and modest-income working mothers and their families make ends meet. These programs include child care assistance, cash assistance, low-cost health insurance, and child support enforcement.

In recent years, state investments in these programs have been severely eroded. The state’s weakened economy and growing budget shortfalls have resulted in significant spending cuts to the programs that help families meet their basic needs. Today, as stagnant wages and record high unemployment levels have left more Rhode Island families in need of help, less government assistance is available.

An Uneven Path documents the importance of work and income support programs in the lives of women and their families in Rhode Island. It details how state investments in these programs have been significantly reduced and the impact that budget cuts have had on working mothers and their families.

Key Findings:

  • State investments in child care assistance have fallen by almost 90% over the last five years. After reaching peak enrollment of more than 13,000 children in 2003, program restrictions have resulted in fewer children being enrolled in 2010 (6,812) than when the program began in 1997 (7,159). Rollbacks of eligibility and increased co-payments have contributed to this decline.
  • State spending on cash assistance benefits has been so severely eroded that in Fiscal Year 2010, no state funds will be spent on benefits. A 2008 overhaul of the program that includes new strict time limits has caused close to one-third of families (3,000) to lose their benefits during the economic downturn and removed access to education and training.
  • While private health care costs have more than doubled over the last ten years, spending cuts and programmatic changes in the RIte Care/RIte Share health insurance program have caused significant declines in enrollment over the past five years.
  • The child support office has lost close to one-third of its staff over the last several years, resulting in very high caseloads per worker; the state lags considerably behind all other New England states and the nation when it comes to establishing child support orders.

View the Uneven Path 2009 Report (PDF, 129KB)

View the press release (PDF, 181KB)