Continuing the tradition of advocating for federal initiatives important to women and their families during the annual appropriations process, members of the Congressional Caucus for Women’s Issues (CCWI) on April 3 testified before the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education. Caucus Co-Chairs Judy Biggert (R-IL) and Juanita Millender-McDonald (D-CA), and Vice-Chairs Shelley Moore Capito (R-WV) and Louise Slaughter (D-NY), were joined by Reps. Shelley Berkley (D-NV), Stephanie Tubbs Jones (D-OH), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Connie Morella (R-MD), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Loretta Sanchez (D-CA), Jan Schakowsky (D-IL), Hilda Solis (D-CA), and Maxine Waters (D-CA).
Five women currently serve on the subcommittee—Reps. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Kay Granger (R-TX), Nita Lowey (D-NY), Anne Northup (R-KY), and Nancy Pelosi (D-CA). Noting the progress that women have made, Rep. DeLauro said, “This is an amazing subcommittee. There are 15 members, and in terms of representation of women, there are 3 Democrats and 2 Republicans. So women have made a difference.”
Rep. Lowey commended her colleagues. “It’s always the highlight to have your presentation,” she said. Rep. Pelosi agreed, saying, “It’s one of the proudest moments we have when the Women’s Caucus comes before us.”
Subcommittee Chair Ralph Regula (R-OH) heard testimony on a wide array of topics.
Community Health Centers
Rep. Sanchez asked for a $250 million increase for community health centers, saying, “Safe health care is something that should not be an option in our communities; it should be a given.” Noting that community health centers are a “proven success,” Rep. Sanchez explained, “They provide cost-effective, high quality health care that keeps total health care costs for their patients 30 percent lower on average than for other providers serving the same populations.”
Rep. Tubbs Jones also expressed support for increased funding for community health centers.
Several members highlighted the importance of increasing funding for domestic violence programs through the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA). Rep. Berkley noted the importance of battered women’s shelters. “These shelters are often the only source of protection and relief for women who are fleeing from a violent situation,” she said.
Rep. Schakowsky detailed the need to appropriate $25 million for a newly authorized transitional housing program for women fleeing domestic violence. “When a woman leaves an abusive relationship, she often has nowhere to go. Lack of affordable housing and long waiting lists for assisted housing mean that many women and their children are forced to choose between abuse at home or the streets,” she stated. Additionally, Rep. Morella also urged the subcommittee to fund VAWA programs, particularly battered women’s shelters, transitional housing, and rape prevention and education.
Education for Homeless Children
Rep. Biggert requested $70 million for the McKinney Education for Homeless Children and Youth program, saying that “the lack of adequate funding for this program has been a major barrier to educating homeless children and youth.” She noted that children are one of the fastest growing segments of the homeless population; however, “according to a recent national survey, in 1997, states were only able to serve 37 percent of school-aged children identified to be in this difficult situation.”
A number of members highlighted the importance of increased funding for HIV/AIDS prevention and education. Noting that women are the fastest growing group of people with HIV, Rep. Morella urged the subcommittee to provide $75 million for the development of a microbicide. “It is critical that women have an inexpensive and easy-to-use method of HIV/STD prevention that they can control,” she said.
Rep. Jackson Lee also encouraged additional funding for HIV/AIDS programs, particularly for children.
Mental Health Services
Rep. Napolitano offered testimony about the need for school-based Latina mental health services. Saying that “nearly one in three Latina adolescents has seriously considered suicide,” Rep. Napolitano added: “These statistics are all the more alarming when one considers that fewer prevention and treatment services reach Latinas than reach girls in any other racial or ethnic group.” In FY2001, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration was directed to provide $680,000 for school-based mental health services in Southeast Los Angeles County. Rep. Napolitano asked the subcommittee to maintain funding for that program.
Rep. Jackson Lee also discussed the need to address mental health services, particularly for children. She urged the subcommittee to increase funding for the Safe Schools/Healthy Students initiative.
Office of Research on Women’s Health
Rep. Slaughter asked for an increase for the Office of Research on Women (ORWH) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), saying, “The ORWH is a tiny office with a monumental mission.” Rep. Slaughter noted that the increases for the ORWH were not comparable to the overall budget increases provided the NIH. For example, in FY2000 the NIH received a 14 percent increase, while the ORWH received a less than 4 percent increase.
Rep. Slaughter also requested an increase for the National Institute for Environmental Health Sciences “to enhance research on environmental causes of disease so we can improve the public health of America.”
Rep. Capito spoke about the need to provide less burdensome access to financing for small businesses. “Between the years of 1987 and 1997, the number of women-owned businesses increased by 89 percent. Today, there are 8.5 million small businesses owned by women,” she said, adding: “I can’t help but wonder how many more women and minority entrepreneurs we could have if we made starting and running a small business a little bit easier.”
Wellness of Women
Noting that the Caucus had chosen “The Wellness of Women” as its theme this year, Rep. Millender-McDonald urged the subcommittee to increase funding for cardiovascular diseases; breast, cervical, and lung cancer screening; lupus; and diabetes.
Other programs mentioned throughout the Caucus testimony were the Campus-Based Child Care Program; the Child Care and Development Block Grant; the Women In Apprenticeships and Nontraditional Employment Act; Head Start; tuberculosis; breast cancer research; workplace protection; and federal wage and overtime laws.