New task force helps underpaid women

By Liz Tufts

One out of every four women in New Bedford and Fall River is living in poverty, and nearly half of children are too. A task force has been created to come up with new solutions to help women get fair paying jobs.

27–year–old Milagros Sanchez worries everyday if she’ll be able to provide for her 9–year–old twin daughters.

Sanchez is a single mother and also part of a scary statistic. A recent report revealed that just under half of all households in New Bedford and Fall River are led by single mothers and half of those families are living in poverty.

Women in New Bedford also make $10,000 less than men.

"In Massachusetts we have some of the highest unemployment and highest poverty rates," says Valerie Bassett, Executive Director of the Women’s Fund of Southeastern Massachusetts.

The Women’s Fund is an organization that raises money to invest in solutions to get women back on their feet. Bassett’s been crunching the numbers for years and says something needs to give.

"A lot of the businesses have left the traditional factories and mills that employed a lot of different people at decent wages," she says.

Nine months ago Bassett started the task force, "Pathways to a Living Wage." Members of several local agencies meet monthly to come up with recommendations to make things easier for women to make a living.

"The top concern is affordable child care… the need for affordable child care, " says Bassett. "We don’t want these recommendations to sit on the shelf, we want to work to make it happen."

Sanchez says she is a semester away from graduating college–a milestone she thought she’d never reach.

"Without a support system we can’t do anything," she says.

The organization is also looking at how affordable housing, transportation, and higher education will help.

The task force is representing some of those recommendations to the Attorney General next month.

© WLNE-TV 2015