The last year has not been kind to Kentucky mothers, who’ve endured the loss of their reproductive rights, defended their children from vicious attacks on their identity and, like all Kentuckians, watched their state prioritize tax cuts for the wealthy over funding for schools and other community needs. This Mother’s Day, Kentucky’s moms deserve more than flowers, chocolate and a few precious hours alone. They also deserve:
Too few jobs in Kentucky provide paid sick leave, which lawmakers have mandated in more than a dozen states and territories. Low-wage and service workers, who are more likely to be women, are especially unlikely to receive this necessary benefit. Paid sick leave allows workers to take care of themselves and their colleagues by staying home when they’re ill. It’s also good for the rest of society, with research showing that paid sick leave increases income stability for workers and their families, reduces turnover at work and results in health care cost savings for individuals, families, employers and the state. Kentucky also lacks a family leave policy, forcing many new mothers to choose between going back to work before they are ready and losing critical income to support their families.
Reliable child care
In the decade before 2021, Kentucky saw more than 1,700 child care centers close. Then the pandemic hit, laying bare the challenges of the industry and forcing more closures. The federal government provided Kentucky a lifeline in the form of $763 million that has propped up the industry for more than three years. But those funds will soon run out and without funding from the state in the next budget, even more child care centers will close. That will be devastating for the families who rely on them, the largely female workforce that is employed by them and the communities they sustain.
The income to make ends meet
Nationally, women are more likely than men to earn below $15 an hour and much more likely than men to rely on tips. Yet Kentucky’s minimum wage has not been raised from $7.25 since 2009, and the tipped minimum wage has been stuck at $2.13 since 1996. This has contributed to a gender wage gap between men and women in Kentucky of more than $10,500. Kentucky moms and kids also lack a state child tax credit, a policy now moving in 18 states. These payments would help all Kentucky parents address the high cost of raising a child.
The U.S. Supreme Court’s decision overturning Roe v. Wade allowed Kentucky to implement one of the nation’s most restrictive abortion bans, stripping away the fundamental right to decide when to have children. That affects mothers and those who don’t have children. Denying access to abortion jeopardizes long-term economic security and child well-being, while abortion access increases educational attainment and allows women to achieve aspirational life plans, including goals related to education, employment and change in residence.
To be with their families
Kentucky incarcerates women at the seventh highest rate in the nation. That harms the individuals who are locked away, their families and the communities they live in. Women are also at increased risk when in jail, where they have a higher mortality rate than men. They’re also more likely than men to experience mental health problems while incarcerated.
This Mother’s Day, let’s recognize that policy changes are the most meaningful gifts we can give those we love.