Activist Toolkit: Putting Women at the Center of Crisis Recovery

Two multi-ethnic young women in their 20s walking across a city street. They are side by side, looking at each other, conversing. They are wearing protective face masks, trying to prevent the spread of coronavirus during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Rebuilding for a Stronger Tomorrow

As we begin to build back from the devastation of the pandemic, we must ensure that women not only survive — but thrive.

The COVID-19 crisis exposed the many inequities women in our society face. Women of color were especially hard hit — and the consequences of that continue to reverberate. Now, the recovery offers us a unique opportunity not only to tackle the immediate problems, but also to address the underlying issues that led to them. Let’s seize the moment to make certain that we recover and rebuild in a way that allows women and their families to thrive.

Crisis recovery requires a multi-faceted response.

Our nation’s infrastructure goes beyond our crumbling roads and bridges. For our economy to fully recover in the months and years ahead, we need access to good jobs, affordable health care, high quality child care and educational opportunities that prepare Americans for tomorrow’s jobs. We must shore up these aspects of our infrastructure, too, so we can all move toward a more secure tomorrow.

In 2020, policymakers primarily focused on emergency relief to help Americans weather the crisis. In 2021, our leaders have begun working toward a long-term recovery plan aimed at improving and building systems needed to ensure a stronger future for all. Here is a look at what’s been accomplished—and what lies ahead:

Checked boxCoronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act (passed April 2020)
The CARES Act of 2020 was the first piece of legislation addressing the public health and economic crises that emerged from the COVID-19 pandemic. With an immediate focus on emergency relief efforts and aid, the Act included expanding unemployment benefits, blocking evictions and rent increases and bolstering public health care. It also highlighted deficiencies in our nation’s child care system and included aid to young children, their families and their child care providers.

Checked boxBipartisan-Bicameral Omnibus COVID Relief Deal (passed December 2020)
At the end of 2020, Congress passed a long-overdue extension of relief measures. Part of an omnibus bill, it maintained many provisions aimed at protecting American lives and livelihoods, including a paid sick leave tax credit, enhanced unemployment benefits and rental assistance. It continued the Paycheck Protection Program specifically for small businesses and restaurants.

Checked boxAmerican Rescue Plan Act (passed March 2021)
This legislation provided more emergency relief to Americans—and took the first step beyond emergency response toward more long-term recovery. Women face a slow path to recovery, which will no doubt be eased by many measures in this bill, including expanded child tax credits, significant payments to child care providers, funding for education and nutrition programs and tax-free status for forgiven student debt. This law signaled the importance of addressing the needs of women and their families. (Read how we engaged to support this passing.)

INVEST Act (passed November 2021)
The Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act (H.R. 3684), which builds from the American Jobs Plan proposal, heavily invests in federal-aid highways, transit, broadband access and other infrastructure purposes. It passed with bipartisan support in November 2021.

Build Back Better Act (passed the House, awaiting a vote in the Senate)
On November 19, 2021, the House of Representatives passed the Build Back Better Act. This legislation will incorporate many key elements of the American Families Plan proposal — but some vital pieces may be left out. Despite their popularity, supports that profoundly benefit working women and families could still be underfunded or cut out of the final budget this winter. AAUW is calling on the 117th Congress to ensure that a permanent paid leave program, child care funding and the Child Tax Credit are included in the budget reconciliation process.