As a working mom, a proud woman of color, a social worker and candidate for New York City Council, Tricia Shimamura is committed to being a voice for working families. Below is a brief outline of her legislative priorities to reinvest in all New York City families, dismantle racism and bias from our healthcare system, and commit to addressing the needs of homeless children and families. The economic recovery of our city and overall path forward towards a more just and equitable society depends on how our City responds to the needs of our families.
Now more than ever, working families in New York City are struggling to manage the financial and emotional balance of work and family care. Prior to the pandemic, the resources offered to families with children under the age of three were all but non-existent. Now, nearly a year into this pandemic, New York City has failed to come up with affordable, consistent and high quality childcare options for working families. The impact of this failure is exceedingly clear: studies consistently show that women are being forced to leave the workforce in droves, stunting our city’s ability to economically recover, and halting women’s ability to achieve parity in the workforce.
This cannot continue. Women and families deserve more. Childcare should be a right and not a privilege. New York City should commit to enacting a Universal Childcare plan that will:
Ending Maternal Mortality
Maternal mortality, or the death of a mother from pregnancy-related complications while she is carrying or within 42 days of childbirth, is a growing crisis in the U.S. Nationwide, the CDC found that the maternal death rate for Black women was more than double that of white women (37.1 deaths per 100,00 live births versus 14.7). In 2016, New York was ranked 30th in the nation for its maternal mortality rate. Maternal deaths increased from 15.4 deaths per 100,000 live births in 2001-2003 to 19.6 deaths in 2014-2016.
In New York State, Black women are almost four times more likely to die in childbirth than white women. Things are even more dire in New York City where, from 2006 to 2010, Black women were 12 times more likely than white women to die from pregnancy-related causes.
It doesn’t have to be this way — maternal death is not an inevitability, especially in a country as wealthy as the U.S. The CDC Foundation estimates that over 60 percent of these deaths are preventable. Addressing this crisis begins with valuing women’s health, increasing access to healthcare and family planning services, and investing in low-income and minority communities. Tricia has outlined the following policy agenda to address the city’s maternal mortality epidemic and has gathered a coalition of over 50 City Council candidates who are committed to joining her in this fight:
Labor and Delivery:
Caring for our Homeless Children and Families
Advocates estimate that New York City has over 100,000 homeless students. Despite the City’s commitment to increase services for this extremely vulnerable population, the number of homeless children has steadily increased by more than 70% over the last decade. Research also shows that homelessness and educational outcomes are closely tied; fewer than a third of New York City students who are homeless are reading proficiently, rates that are 20 percentage points lower than their permanently housed peers.
There is no clearer example of our failures to serve our families than this. The City must take immediate actions to appropriately care for these children through:
Upholding Our Clinic Access Law
No one should be harassed, attacked, threatened, ridiculed, or made to worry about their safety just for trying to enter a medical clinic. The City must prioritize patient safety through strengthening and expanding NYC’s Clinic Access Law. We must expand the safety zone around clinics, as well as increase penalties for those who violate the zone. Tricia will also work with patients, advocates, and health providers to craft additional legislation that further protects everyone from intimidation or menace, and will work to ensure that the volunteers who continue to bravely escort patients to and from clinics are given the protections and safety standards they absolutely deserve.
Improving Paid Family Leave
While New York has been a national leader in establishing progressive paid family leave policy, the state still has a long way to go in establishing equity for low-income families and families of color. Paid family leave helps all parents and family caregivers, but especially women, stay in the workforce - an estimated 66% of all caregivers are women. Demands for family caregiving work are ever-growing. During this pandemic, family members have increasingly taken on added caregiving work for children, sick family members, and family members with disabilities. Moreover, in the last two decades alone, Manhattan has seen an increase of 30% in its older adult population. Family caregiving is work, and New York must ensure that family caregivers have the resources to both take care of their loved ones and return to our workforce.
As of January 1, 2018, paid family leave is mandatory in New York State and was extended to 12 weeks starting January 1, 2021. However, the New York City Department of Health has reported that, in past years, almost 20% of mothers did not return to work because they were unable to schedule or find affordable childcare. Approximately one fourth of all the women surveyed struggled with economic difficulty, with 17% saying they had food insecurity. Black mothers are also two times more likely to have economic insecurity in the first year of childbirth than white mothers. Of the mothers who did return to work, 90% reported that they had to return before they were ready - 70% reported that they returned due to financial need. Our road to economic recovery is paved by getting our families back to work, and we must enact a more robust paid family leave policy to strengthen our workforce. State law as it stands only provides families with 67% of their weekly incomes. With a median rent of $3000 a month in Manhattan, low-income families without sufficient safety nets cannot reasonably survive on 67%. Paid family leave should also be extended from 12 weeks to 6 months to ensure all families are empowered to return to work after a full recovery period. Additionally, Tricia is supportive of amending Paid Family Leave to support parents with at-home learning. Families should not have to make the impossible choice between caring for loved ones and working to live, and it’s time for New York to invest in our workforce through stronger paid family leave.
Serving Families of Children with Cancer
All too often, when a family discovers their child has cancer, the experience is not only devastating, but isolating. Families with children battling cancer face unspeakable emotional burdens, as well as tremendous personal financial costs and a never-ending maze of insurance forms, paperwork, and medical bureaucracy that can last years to overcome. With the Upper East Side being home to multiple hospitals and medical service centers, including Sloan Memorial Kettering and the Ronald McDonald House, thousands of families have found our district as a second home while seeking treatments for their children. These families deserve recognition and support and should never have to go through the experience of childhood cancer alone. The City should create a Families of Children with Cancer taskforce to ensure advocacy and support for this vulnerable community.
Making Room at the Table for Women and Mothers
Despite having an exceptional number of women candidates running for office in New York City (in large part due to the implementation of ranked choice voting) women are still being left out of the room and away from the table when it comes to leadership in the public and private sector. We can’t just stand behind women running for office -- we need to elect them to positions of power. All too often, our civic and political infrastructure has been designed to deny access to women and moms from decision-making processes. From Community Board meetings held at children’s bedtimes to City Council committees with only one woman in the room, we have created spaces where women are not only excluded but weren’t even considered. New York City is in a moment of transformational change, where we have the opportunity to elevate a City Council that reflects our values and truly looks like members of our community.
As a Council Member, Tricia will continue to make room at the table for more moms, more women, and more women of color. She will convene a task force to dismantle structural barriers that are prohibiting a pipeline of female leadership, from the grassroots to the board room to our legislative chambers. Tricia will call for a review of every City agency, with a focus on expanding advancement opportunities for women and BIPOC. She will fight to permanently adopt hybrid virtual and in-person community board meetings and will allocate funding for childcare services so that parents are more easily able to participate. She will also fight to increase lactation rooms in our legislative chambers, both in New York City and State. She will hold forums and educational campaigns on local representation and opportunities for civic participation, targeting underrepresented constituents - especially mothers and women of color. She will look to appoint diverse leadership to community boards and other commissions/task forces that reflect the diversity of our city, including our working families. She will also fight to break down barriers for mothers looking to run for office by advocating for increased financial support for childcare.
Tricia may be the first woman of color to represent her district, and one of the few working mothers to run for office in New York City, but she is determined to not be the last.