Photo: Lewiston resident Rose Walker, who works as an Ed Tech, has struggled to find and afford childcare for her own children throughout the pandemic. | courtesy of Rose Walker
A new report finds the pandemic disproportionately impacted women, but that gaps in data limit Maine’s ability to help those in need.
Women are more likely than men to be caregivers in their families —whether for their children, family members with disabilities or the elderly — and they’re also more likely to be employed in the care economy.
Anne Gass is an independent historian and the report chair for Maine’s Permanent Commission on the Status of Women, which released the report. She said there are barriers to adequate data collection, such as privacy concerns and lack of uniformity in the way data is collected.
“How many of the women are women of color?” asked Gass. “How many of them are refugees? How many of them had children who have disabilities, or are women with disabilities themselves? What we find is that, it’s just really difficult sometimes to parse that data out and find that information out.”
The report says better data is needed regarding women in the care industry and those who provide unpaid care to their families.
It also stresses the need for information on how many women are enrolled in social-service or public-assistance programs, and how eligibility and demand for programs lines up with enrollment.
Gass noted that many assistance programs are siloed, meaning they don’t share any data with each other.
She said when Mainers apply for assistance programs, they have to share personal information with intake workers they’ve never met — and sometimes having to do that over and over again keeps folks away from these benefits.
“We do need to make sure that they’re eligible, and that involves asking some questions,” said Gass. “But is there a way to do it so that it doesn’t just re-traumatize these women with as they’re going about trying to find help for themselves and their families?”
The report notes 141 child-care centers closed in Maine during the pandemic, and many more closed temporarily. Gass said two years since the start of the pandemic, child-care costs and availability is still hampering many women’s ability to return to work.
Beacon, April 25, 2022, https://mainebeacon.com/