'Eleanor's Hope' Puts Retirement Gap into Races

WOMENSENEWS–As the midterm election heads into its final weeks, advocates for women’s financial security are girding up for another round of battles over Social Security and Medicare, the age-old safety net programs upon which women disproportionately depend.

The Washington-based National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare launched a national initiative Oct. 9 to create grassroots support for ending the gender gap in retirement benefits to decrease the nearly 11 percent poverty rate among senior women, which is 50 percent higher than that of male retirees.

Called “Eleanor’s Hope”–in honor of first lady Eleanor Roosevelt who championed passage of the Social Security Act in 1935–the initiative proposes sweeping changes to modernize the system to reflect women’s contributions as breadwinners as well as family caregivers.

“Women have a lot at stake in November’s election and beyond,” said Max Richtman, president of the National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare, last week at a press conference organized by the committee in Washington, D.C. “Although Social Security is vitally important to all Americans, it is especially important to women because they live longer than do men, have more health care needs and receive less in Social Security benefits because they worked in low-wage jobs or took time out of the workforce for caregiving.”