Senator Montgomery and Assemblywoman Millman Act to Transition Women From Welfare To Meaningful, Living-Wage Work

Velmanette Montgomery

June 12, 2007

Albany, NY (June 12, 2007): To help move women from welfare into meaningful, living-wage jobs, the state may soon by required to better prepare public assistance recipients for non-traditional employment that pays sustainable wages under legislation recently approved by the Senate and Assembly.

Sponsored by Senator Velmanette Montgomery (D-Brooklyn) and Assemblywoman Joan Millman (D-Brooklyn), the legislation (S.3201/A.3366) now goes to the Governor for consideration before becoming law.

“Our bill is necessary to help lift women and their children out of poverty and to keep them from returning to a life of hopelessness,” said Senator Montgomery, emphasizing that non-traditional jobs -- such as carpentry or truck driving -- generally offer women wages averaging 20 percent to 30 percent more than traditional female occupations, as well as good benefits and opportunities for advancement. Montgomery is the Ranking Democrat on the Senate Committee on Social Services, Children and Families.

“Initial studies of women moving from welfare to work have shown that a majority are steered towards jobs that are considered gender specific for them, such as bank teller, beautician or home health care worker,” said Assemblywoman Millman. “However, many of these jobs do not provide an income that can sustain their families and pull them out of poverty.”

Under the Brooklyn lawmakers’ proposal, education and training for sustainable wage jobs and non-traditional job opportunities must be included in public assistance employment programs offered by every social service district in the state. The new employability plan is to be developed with the input of public and private education and business institutions, child care providers, labor unions, and libraries, among other organizations.

According to guidelines established by the U.S. Department of Labor and adopted by New York, a non-traditional occupation for women is one which comprises 25 percent or less of total employment. Non-traditional employment spans all major occupational groups and provides many employment options for women, including jobs as detectives, architects, computer and office machine repairers, construction and building inspectors, railroad conductors, machinists, truck drivers, fire fighters, aircraft pilots, mechanics, and other career positions.

Senator Montgomery and Assemblywoman Millman want to be sure that women receive more than minimum wage for the non-traditional jobs they will be trained to perform if their bill becomes law. That is why they define sustainable wage as a salary that is at least 185 percent above the poverty line. In real dollars, Montgomery explains, a sustainable wage translates into annual earnings of $18,889 for a family of one; $25,327 for a family of two; $31,765 for a family of three; and $38,203 for a family of four.

“I am a huge fan of non-traditional employment education and training programs,” said Senator Montgomery. “I’ve witnessed the many benefits offered through Access for Women, a program which operates at New York City College of Technology in my Senate District. This program has enriched the lives of countless women and their families. Access for Women is a success story that should be replicated statewide and it can be if our bill is signed into law.”

“I am very proud to have worked with Senator Montgomery in passing this legislation. If enacted, this bill will ensure that local social service districts increase their emphasis on counseling, education and training for women in non-traditional employment opportunities and sustainable wage jobs.”