Commentary: Women make the economy work: Now let’s pass a budget that invests in them!

The New Hampshire Legislature and Governor have the opportunity to support major investments in Granite State women’s health and workforce participation this year — that is, if they pass a budget including the MOMnibus Act and the Child Care for Working Families Act.

Every two years, New Hampshire writes a new budget for the state. The budget represents our collective priorities and values. What, as Granite Staters, do we care about? What should we fund? Who should we prioritize? The New Hampshire Women’s Foundation prioritizes investments in women and girls.

Tanna Clews
Tanna Clews

This year, the Women’s Foundation, along with parents, child care providers, health care providers and businesses, are advocating for a New Hampshire budget that values caregivers and women with kids by: giving women enrolled in Medicaid access to health care for a year postpartum and access to doulas, lactation consultants and donor milk banks; expanding access to the child care scholarship program; and providing workforce supports to child care workers.

Women make the economy work, but we must invest in women’s health and in the child care infrastructure so women can keep supporting their families and local economies.

When faced with child care issues, mothers with young children arrange reductions in their work hours that are four to five times greater than the reductions arranged by fathers. Without access to reliable child care, women leave the workforce.

If child care can be found, it’s often unaffordable. In our latest research publication, The Status of Women in New Hampshire, 2023, we found that the annual median cost for an infant in a Granite State child care center is $13,250, a cost that would consume 11% of the median income of a married couple, and a staggering 55% of a single mother’s median income. Child care providers cannot raise wages for their employees without passing that cost on to families. The Child Care for Working Families Act invests in our child care infrastructure to address these issues.

Currently, women who are enrolled in Medicaid under pregnancy eligibility lose coverage after two months postpartum. Women need access to preventive, acute, mental health and substance use treatment long after two months postpartum. The MOMnibus Act would extend coverage to 12 months postpartum, reducing maternal mortality and increasing rates of treatment for things like maternal depression. The bill would also provide access to doula services, lactation services and donor milk banks.

The good news is that the New Hampshire Senate passed the MOMnibus Act and Child Care for Working Families Act separate from the budget earlier this year. The Women’s Foundation is grateful to the Senate for their support. We’re at the finish line now. If the Senate includes these investments in the budget, the House agrees and the Governor signs the budget, New Hampshire will have a budget which prioritizes moms, women and families more than any budget in recent memory. It takes engaged stakeholders (including vocal moms, dads and child care workers) and a real bipartisan effort to make these investments possible. We’re grateful to the legislators who’ve had mom’s backs all session.

Let your local elected representatives and senator know how you feel about a budget that invests in women and their kids. Now let’s get a mom-friendly budget passed!

Tanna Clews is CEO of the New Hampshire Women’s Foundation. She lives in Portsmouth.

This article originally appeared on Portsmouth Herald: Commentary: Women make the NH economy work; budget should reflect that