When we lift individuals out of poverty, the whole community benefits.
Too many people struggle daily to make ends meet, at a time when 6 out of 10 are the primary or sole provider for their families. We all become stronger and more vibrant when women can earn enough money to support their families and have economic security. This strengthens the next generation by opening doors to education and good jobs.
A host of issues—including pay equity, paid family leave, payday lending reform and access to employment and leadership opportunities—impact Nebraskan’s economic security. Public policies in these areas have been slow to change, but we are working to address them.
Paid Sick Leave for Nebraskans
No Nebraskan should have to choose between their paycheck and their health or the health of their family. That’s why we are working as part of a collaborative effort to collect signatures to get paid sick leave on the November 2024 ballot. Paid sick leave laws typically provide short-term time off with sick time being used because of a short-term illness (such as a stomach flu or bad cold), to attend a medical appointment, to seek preventive care (like vaccines and routine medical check-ups) or to care for a loved one who is ill.
Letting working people earn sick days is common sense and supports our Nebraska values—that includes letting people take care of sick kids or aging parents without losing their income—while advancing gender equity. Women in service-sector jobs are 11 percentage points less likely than men to have access to paid sick leave. Additionally, 43% of working mothers—which includes 54% Latina and 42% Black mothers—do not have access to paid sick leave, which is particularly concerning given that women shoulder a disproportionate share of caregiving duties throughout the United States.
It’s time for Paid Sick Leave for Nebraskans. Read the proposed ballot language, and then learn more about this initiative and find out where you can sign the petition to get paid sick leave on the ballot in 2024!
Salary History Bans to Disrupt Cycle of Pay Inequality
The cycle of race and gender wage pay discrimination can be disrupted by removing salary history from the hiring process. Although using salary history may seem like a neutral practice, it has a discriminatory impact by effectively affirming and reinforcing a prior employer’s bias. We advocated to make it unlawful for an employer to inquire about a job applicant’s salary history or require an applicant to disclose their salary list through LB 249 introduced by State Senator Patty Pansing Brooks during the 2021 Nebraska legislative session. The bill did not make it out of committee. Learn more about LB 249 via our fact sheets (English or Spanish).
For people who are in charge of hiring employees, you don’t have to wait until this becomes law and can enact a salary history ban now. Learn more about this best practice.
Everyone, no matter their gender, should be paid the same for doing the same work. On average, Nebraska women earn 73 percent of what men earn, with an even bigger wage gap for women of color and LGBTQ individuals. In Nebraska, equal pay for all could reduce the poverty of single primary caregivers by nearly 68 percent.
A typical working woman loses $406,000 over her lifetime due to the wage gap, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. By the time a college-educated working woman turns 59, she will have lost almost $800,000. In fact, the gender wage gap is widest for women with higher levels of educational attainment. For example, a woman with a graduate degree earns less than a man with a bachelor’s degree.
The first step in closing the pay gap is through pay transparency. Passed into law in 2019 and supported by the Women’s Fund, LB 217 prohibits employers from retaliating against employees who disclose and discuss their compensation. Knowledge is power.
See our fact sheet on LB 217!
Paid Family Leave
Caring for families has traditionally fallen to women, yet most companies don’t offer adequate paid family and medical leave. This continues to make women more vulnerable economically. In Nebraska, 71 percent of children have a working primary caregiver, who represents 44 percent of the family’s income.
Paid leave is a human issue and it’s a workforce issue. No family should have to choose between the job and meeting the caregiving needs of their family. We continue to advocate for paid leave, most recently during the 2021 and 2022 Nebraska Legislative Sessions through LB 290, introduced by Senator Machaela Cavanaugh, to Adopt the Paid Family and Medical Leave Insurance Act.
Affordable Child Care
In Nebraska—where the majority of parents work outside the home—child care is the engine that drives our economy. When parents don’t have access to quality, affordable child care, they are often forced to take time off, scale back to part time or drop out of the workforce altogether. A robust and high quality child care system will benefit our families, our workforce and our economy. We continue to advocate for policies like expanded access to child care assistance, paid leave and support for child care providers, but to fully support working parents, employers must also rise to meet demands.
In 2021, LB 485 increased access to affordable child care for low-income working families. This law increases access to affordable child care through the child care assistance or subsidy program (Title XX) by increasing initial eligibility from 130% federal poverty level (FPL) to 185% FPL and exit eligibility from 185% FPL to 200% FPL through the end of September 2023. And in 2023, LB 35 extended this child care subsidy eligibility through October 2026. At a time when Nebraska needs any and all workers, we should be doing everything we can to remove the very real barriers that child care access poses for workers to stay in the workforce and advance in their careers.
Promoting Workplaces Free of Racial Discrimination
During the 2021 session, State Senator Terrell McKinney re-introduced legislation to support natural hair nondiscrimination. LB 451 passed with a vote of 40-4 and will end natural hair discrimination in the workplace by clarifying language to expand protections for natural hair texture and protective hairstyles, including braids, locs and twists. We applaud the advocacy efforts of Black women, specifically the team at I Be Black Girl, to realize racial and gender equity in the workplace.
Strengthening Food Security
During the pandemic, issues impacting women and girls were compounded. This is true for food insecurity and the need for resources in our community has been at an all-time high during the pandemic.
During the 2021 Legislative Session, we advocated in support of LB 108, which was passed into law after overcoming the governor’s veto. This law strengthens food security by increasing income eligibility for the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and directly addresses the cliff effect in food assistance benefits that allows working families to accept raises or small wage increases without losing the financial support they need to put food on the table. In 2023, we worked to maintain this increased access to SNAP through the passage of LB 84. Every household has a right to consistent and reliable access to food and the passage of LB 84 is a critical investment in our state to minimize food insecurity.
If you need food assistance, you can apply for SNAP assistance through AccessNebraska.
Payday Lending Reform
All families need access to credit. But with annual percentage rates of more than 400%, payday loans leave families worse off. That’s why we advocated for payday lending reform—to ensure that loans are reasonable and fair for consumers.
We took a step forward on payday lending during the 2018 legislative session with the passing of LB 194. Then, we worked to stop predatory payday lending through a ballot initiative, MEASURE 428, during the 2020 General Election. Measure 428 passed and will ensure payday lenders cannot charge more than 36%.
The Impact of Housing Justice on Gender Equity
Safe and affordable housing is a fundamental human right that is inextricably tied to a person’s economic outcomes, educational opportunities, and mental and physical health. Economic security is critical to securing safe and accessible housing. For women, especially women of color, gender and racial wage gaps make it more difficult to find and maintain housing without spending most of their income on housing expenses. Additionally, single-parent households, the majority of which are led by women, must make the earnings of a single person stretch to account for other expenses in addition to housing, placing a potential strain on finances. Low-income women are particularly vulnerable to housing instability because of these factors.
Read our fact sheet on the impact of housing justice on gender equity and its intersecting connections to our work.