The powerful message behind 'Maid'

Amy K. 松井 is director of Income Security and senior counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. She works on a broad range of economic issues affecting low- and moderate-income women and families, with special emphasis on federal and state tax policy. 这里表达的观点是她自己的观点. Read more 意见 在CNN上.

The new Netflix seriesMaid” — largely based on the bestselling memoir of the same name by Stephanie Landtells a story familiar to many mothers fighting to keep their heads above water. Fleeing a violent partner while trying to do right by her child, 亚历克斯 (portrayed by Margaret Qualley) finds navigating the requirements of emergency shelters and public programs a Kafkaesque maze that adds to the trauma of her own poverty. “I need a job to prove that I need day care in order to get a job?” laments Alex while filing for child care subsidies. “What kind of f**kery is that?”

 Amy K. 松井

Single mothers like the character of Alex have often been demonized for relying on public benefits like child care subsidies and nutritional assistance, especially if they are Black or brown. And many policymakers seem to go to great lengths to make relying on public programs the most difficult and humiliating of propositions. Whether it’s providing benefit levels so low that people are virtually guaranteed to run out of food 月底, or requiring in-person visits to benefits offices that aren’t accessible by public transportation, or mandating online reporting on websites that don’t work on mobile phonesthe goal is clearly to discourage the use of public benefits, rather than to provide a fallback plan when families hit hard times.
    Even in the midst of historic levels of unemployment precipitated by a pandemic, a shocking number of states turned down the federal boost to unemployment benefits. Centrist Democrats have floated 一些 “means-testingproposals that would narrow the cohort of people eligible for free community college or child care as Congress debates the contours of the Build Back Better legislation. And West Virginia Sen. Joe Manchin explicitly suggested adding work requirements to the expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC). But as bothMaidand the lived experience of any family in poverty can tell you, such rules when applied to child care and CTC only serve to further burden working mothers while denying support to the very children the programs are supposed to benefit.
      These moms explain how child tax credit checks will help them


        These moms explain how child tax credit checks will help them


      These moms explain how child tax credit checks will help them 03:05

      racist specter 的 “welfare queenexploiting public benefits to avoid work is so persistent in our politics it blocks out actual facts, research and data. 根据 estimates from the Treasury Department, 多于 97% of the beneficiaries of the Child Tax Credit, which was expanded under the American Rescue Plan and would be extended to 2025 under the House Ways and Means Committee’s draft of the Biden administration’s Build Back Better legislation, are working families with wages or self-employment income. Particularly after a pandemic that devastated the economic security of domestic workerssuch as Qualley’s Alex inMaid” — it should be a no-brainer to extend the fully refundable, expanded CTC as part of the Build Back Better bill.
        A recent study by Wei Zheng at the University of Connecticut found that increases in the average CTC led to increases in labor force participation for single mothers, and another study from Humanity Forward found that nearly 94% of parents were doing the same amount, 或者更多, paid work, due to the monthly CTC payments. The Niskanen Center concluded that the CTC promotes work by helping parents compensate family and relatives for child care. For workerslike the fictional Alexperpetually on the edge of financial disaster, $ 300 per month can make the difference between paying for a car repair and losing the job they otherwise can’t drive to.
        在 “Maid,” Alex’s job as a domestic worker is just enough to keep her from falling completely into the red, 但, as the nearly 800,000 US domestic workers accounted for by the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2020 know, an average wage of $ 13.48 leaves little slack for emergencies or planning for the future. Viewers get a close look at this constant state of precarity via a live tracker of Alex’s funds that periodically appears on the screen, getting ever closer to zero with every meal bought for her daughter Maddy or tank of gas pumped into her aging car.
          A benefit like the CTC is hardly enough to put real moms into the lap of luxurysuch as the lifestyle of Alex’s housecleaning clientsbut the breathing room it does provide their budget has a monumental impact for them and their children. 根据 the Urban Institute, making the expanded CTC permanent could reduce child poverty by more than 40%, giving millions of children across the country a stronger start in life.
          The CTC fits a pattern that stretches across America’s social safety net. Whether it’s tax benefits like the CTC or food assistance or housing vouchers, public investments have been shown time and again to help lift children (like the fictional Maddy) out of povertyimprovingeducational outcomes, 其 physical health 和他们的 overall well-beingby helping parents (like the fictional Alex) keep their heads above water. Congress regularly hands out subsidies to dangerous industries poisoning our planet with few questions asked, but then subjects working mothers to a litany of intimate scrutiny. To borrow a phrase from Alexwhat kind of f**kery is that?

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            The mythology of poverty often looms larger in our politics than the reality of poverty. The truth for millions of single mothers is laid bare inMaid,” which is that work is no guarantee against poverty. And Stephanie Land, on whose life the series is largely based, 公然 [object Window] the circumstances she faceddomestic violence, homelessness, poverty and domestic workare more commonly experienced by Black, 棕色的, and immigrant mothers than White women like herself.
            Humiliating and stigmatizing women who are striving not only to work but also to comply with burdensome requirements for public benefits, only perpetuates racial dynamics based on stereotypes about marginalized mothers that continue to shape our politics. With a historic opportunity to reshape public benefits before Congress, we should do everything we can to invest in the potential of parents like Alex and their children instead of further adding to their hardship.




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