To eliminate gender inequality, we must eliminate the underlying vulnerabilities that render women susceptible to exploitation. Low-income and immigrant women, as well as single-woman heads of households, lack access to essential services and benefits necessary to work, raise children, and afford basic necessities. Due to various factors, including lack of information and complicated application and eligibility procedures, many women who are eligible for public benefits and services never access them, causing benefits to go unclaimed. Those who have benefits are constantly at risk of losing them. Women in need must have stable access to support services to cover basic necessities such as food, housing, and healthcare so that they have an opportunity to seek education, employment, and advancement.
In addition to expanding working-family tax credits and enhancing funding for public benefits to assist women at risk, existing public benefits systems should be reformed to enhance eligibility, access, and navigability. Application and annual recertification processes should be simplified. Unnecessary eligibility requirements should be removed (women should be able to pursue an education without being thwarted by public assistance work requirements). Adequate procedural safeguards and language access should be in place to ensure that recipients can maintain their benefits and can challenge termination of benefits. Agencies must act in concert to provide a continuum of care to assist women to navigate these complex processes under adverse conditions.