The Ms. Must-Read: Biden Delivers Hope With “Transformative, Historic” American Rescue Plan

Every Friday, Ms. executive editor Kathy Spillar breaks down the week’s biggest stories, offering commentary. This weekly letter from the editor recaps critical developments in U.S. and global feminism—alongside the latest Ms. must-reads—right as they unfold. You can also get The Ms. Must-Read sent directly to your inbox every Saturday morning.


The Ms. Must-Read: Biden Delivers Hope With “Transformative, Historic" American Rescue Plan
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On Thursday, President Joe Biden delivered two things. He signed into law the $1.9 trillion American Rescue Plan, just one day after the House voted to pass the groundbreaking relief package. 

But just as importantly, President Biden delivered hope as he called on the country to come together to fight the pandemic. In a powerful speech from the White House on the one-year anniversary of lockdowns in the U.S., Biden praised the frontline and essential workers who had risked their own lives to help save others and the scientists who had rushed to find a vaccine. He reminded us that in a year of so much “loss of life and loss of living,” we saw “how much there was to gain in appreciation, respect and gratitude.” 

“Finding light in the darkness is a very American thing to do,” Biden declared. “In fact, it may be the most American thing we do.” 

And indeed, the Rescue Plan provides a way out of the darkness. There is funding to dramatically increase the vaccine supply and the medical personnel needed to put shots in arms. There are $1,400 stimulus checks and extended unemployment benefits that will take effect immediately, providing desperately needed help. 

But there’s so much more: The plan incentivizes employers to provide paid sick and family leave and the package includes critical provisions for addressing a variety of problems disproportionately impacting women, including investments in the child care sector, child tax credits, funding for Title X family planning and $447 million for gender-based violence programs. 

Included in the plan is $39 billion in direct funding for child-care providers and an additional $1 billion for the Head Start program. This comes on top of $10 billion in funding provided in December’s relief package. The package provides support for low-income parents, increasing the value of Special Supplemental Nutrition Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) vouchers for four months, The plan makes education a priority, allotting over $128 billion to K-12 schools to help them reopen safely, and $40 billion to colleges and universities to create emergency grants for students. Reopening schools will help take pressure off parents—especially moms—who are being forced to juggle working from home and assisting children with online learning.


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“This legislation is one of the most transformative and historic bills any of us will ever have an opportunity to support,” House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) said to her colleagues before the final vote.

Feminist leaders agreed. “It is the most progressive act passed since Medicare and Social Security, slashing childhood poverty in half by giving money directly to the families that need it most,” Feminist Majority Foundation president Eleanor Smeal said in a statement, included in this week’s must-reads. 

Looking ahead, this coming week the House is scheduled to vote on House Joint Resolution 17 to lift the arbitrary time limit on ratification of the Equal Rights Amendment. The time limit was placed in the preamble of the ERA by the amendment’s opponents when passed by Congress in 1972. 

“Congress can and should remove the time limit now,” writes Linda Coberly, chair of the ERA Coalition’s Legal Task Force. “By placing that time limit only in the [preamble of the ERA], Congress retained the power to change it later. It has done so once, with a simple majority, and it can do so again. … Some lawmakers may vote to remove the time limit because they believe Congress lacked the power to impose it in the first place,” continued Coberly. “Others may simply recognize the undeniable truth—that constitutional equality is as important today as it ever was.” 

This coming week, Ms. is launching a new series—My ERA Story—to showcase the multigenerational stories of people, ordinary people who have done extraordinary things to advance women’s constitutional equality in the United States. If you have marched or rallied or campaigned for the ERA, we want to hear from you.

You can share your story in one of three ways:

And to let your member of Congress know where YOU stand and learn more about ways to participate in this vital campaign for gender equality, visit ERAyes2021.org.


Ms. Must-Reads: March 8 to March 13, 2021


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About

Katherine Spillar is the executive director of Feminist Majority Foundation and executive editor of Ms., where she oversees editorial content and the Ms. in the Classroom program.