Feministing, quoting from the Ithaca Journal, reports that “the U.S. Department of Labor has recently ruled that programs which fall under Displaced Homemaker Services cannot use federal funds help unwed single moms.” From the Ithaca Journal:
Dammi Herath, the executive director of the center, said on Thursday that the new regulations affect about 330 of the more than 500 women the center serves each year.
[…]centers will now only be allowed to use federal funds for women who can produce a divorce certificate or death certificate proving they have previously been in a legally recognized marriage.
Left out of the federal definition for displaced homemakers are those who do not meet the criteria for the word “family,” including unwed single mothers, mothers and children from broken homes where a marriage certificate was never issued, mothers and children who can’t afford the costs associated with obtaining a divorce certificate, and mothers from same-sex relationships.
This represents a significant change from how the federal government has defined “displaced homemaker” in the past. Typically, the government has defined the term like this (this particular example comes from a Federal Office of Technology Assessment report on displaced homemakers):
- are between the ages of 35 and 64, and are:
- divorced, separated, or widowed;
- or married but husband is absent, seriously disabled, or long-term unemployed;
- or losing income from public assistance because the youngest child is 17 to 19 years old;
- have had serious employment problems, including unemployment, working at pay below the minimum wage, working part time but preferring full time, or dropping out of the labor force from discouragement.
So what effect will this change have?
Well, in Ithaca, over 50% of current beneficiaries were cut out of receiving federal aid. According to Margaret King of the Everywoman Opportunity Center in New York (Buffalo News, February 12 2004), over 20,000 women in New York State were beneficiaries of displaced homemaker programs. If Ithaca is representative, then over 10,000 women have been harmed by the Bush Administration’s decision in New York State alone.
I suspect this is an example of what happens when ivy-tower “marriage movement” philosophies collides with real-world compassionless conservatism. The result is punitive measures taken towards women who were not “correctly” married – regardless of real need.
POSTSCRIPT: A cover-my-behind disclaimer: I haven’t seen this story reported anywhere but in the Ithaca Journal. Most likely that’s because the mainstream press doesn’t consider this sort of technical change news, but it’s possible the Journal’s story is off-base, and if it is then so is this post.