Single Mothers Struggle to Make Ends Meet in a Slow to Recover Economy

May 9, 2011  |  

By B. Hutson

The economy may be in the midst of recovering from the Great Recession, but relief still has yet to come for the 13 millions of people who are still looking for work, especially for single mothers that are dealing with a struggle unlike their unemployed peers. Not only can they not find work, but they are also unable to find work that provides benefits, particularly when it comes to child-care.

The unemployment rate among single mothers has long surpassed those among married men and women. In 2010, the unemployment rate for single mothers was 14.6 percent, compared with 6.8 percent among married men and 6.3 percent among married mothers, reports Economix.

Though unemployment insurance has become an important source of assistance for single mothers, the Institute for Women’s Policy Research states that women have historically had less access to unemployment benefits compared to men. Unfortunately, states have established regulations that have consequently worked against single mothers. For example, most states restrict eligibility for unemployment against those who experience involuntary job loss. Also excluded are those who quit for reasons such as a loss of child-care assistance or the need to tend to a sick family member.

With conditions such as these, how is it expected for single mothers to be the nurturer and the breadwinner of their family?

Public programs haven’t been much help either. According to Economix, enrollment in the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families program, or TANF, declined from 80 percent in 1995 to 40 percent by 2005. Annual TANF benefits are below the poverty line and typically amount to less than $5 per person per day. Access to food stamps has improved but inflation has eroded the combined value of TANF and food-stamp benefits by about 23 percent between 1996 and 2010.

Then there is the dreaded time limit that single mothers face for receiving benefits—federal rules impose a lifetime limit of 60 months for TANF and 99 weeks for unemployment insurance.

Not to take away from the fact that jobs are being created, but a real concerted effort needs to occur in job creation and to provide more assistance for families who are struggling to make ends meet while their benefits slowly expire.

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