Somerville Ramping Up Pandemic Recovery Support for Women

Mayor, Council issue unanimous Proclamation for Women’s Advancement, Equity, and Opportunity

SOMERVILLE, MA – With women bearing the brunt of lost jobs and wages during the COVID-19 pandemic, the City of Somerville is planning a host of initiatives to facilitate a true recovery for women, their families, and the city in general.

Among these initiatives will be job training, grant money for women-owned businesses, and childcare support. This shared commitment by Mayor Joe Curtatone and the City Council was recently memorialized with the Proclamation for Women’s Advancement, Equity, and Opportunity initiated by Councilor At-Large Kristen Strezo, developed in collaboration with and submitted by the Mayor’s Office, and passed unanimously by the City Council.

All facets of Somerville’s city government have recognized the disproportionate economic setback suffered by women, particularly women of color, during the past 15 months and are working to put corrective measures in place. The proclamation coincides with work being done by Mayor Curtatone’s administration to direct funds from the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) to help women in Somerville get back on their feet after the economic hardships brought on by the pandemic.

“The simple truth of it is if women don’t recover, then our larger society doesn’t recover,” said Mayor Curtatone. “During the pandemic, we all saw the unemployment statistics and read the reports about people dropping out of the workforce to take care of their families, and an important human story behind those numbers was that a large percentage of those workers were women. To get our city economy thriving again — and as a matter of equity — we need to address the problem at its core so that the women in our community can rejoin the workforce and fully participate in local commerce. We need to make sure everyone who’s been dealt an economic blow by this pandemic has the opportunity to benefit from the recovery.”

During the pandemic, the City has awarded more than $1.4 million in relief grants to 142 women-owned businesses. The City’s Job Creation & Retention Trust has also offered workforce training programs during the COVID-19 pandemic, with women composing the majority of participants in job and language skills training. Councilor Strezo, a former member of the Women’s Commission who championed the Proclamation effort, emphasized the importance of following up on that work.

“We have a unique opportunity here. Together, we can overcome the devastating impacts of the pandemic and rebuild a better world through the COVID-19 recovery process,” she said. “In less than a year, women lost an estimated three decades of job progress, so we urgently need more job creation programs, mentorship opportunities, and more deliberate support. We must acknowledge that parents, families, and caregivers need more resources now. We can support women in our community through affordable and accessible childcare and caregiver support. We can also enhance economic recovery by investing in job opportunities for women. The Proclamation seeks to expand pathways to the trade industries and mentorship opportunities. It also provides additional support for women and minority-owned businesses. These are just a few of the support systems the Proclamation is seeking to strengthen. I’m grateful for the Administration’s support on the Proclamation, validating that we have a catastrophic problem affecting Somerville women, children, and caregivers. We have to build out of it. I am committed to the work, as I know so many Somerville residents are.”

The City is currently in the process of identifying the areas of most pressing need for its federal ARPA funding, which will include recommendations from its Child Care Access and Affordability Working Group that was formed in July of last year. In addition, the City’s newly formed Office of Racial and Social Justice also will be working to ensure Somerville experiences an equitable recovery.

“The pandemic has highlighted more so the intersectionality of inequities and disparities. Women, particularly women of color, have been especially affected during this pandemic,” said City Director of Racial and Social Justice Denise Molina-Capers. “We want to take steps to alleviate the added pressures the pandemic has put on women. Our immediate efforts will focus on pandemic recovery, but we must continue this work to sustainably address systemic factors that have created inequities for women.”

In the spirit of the priorities identified in the Proclamation, the City and City Council are committing to:

1. Continue to target additional small business support toward women and women-owned businesses;
2. Focus efforts on mentorship and job development opportunities for Somerville women of all ages;
3. Listen to the concerns and needs of Somerville women and proactively work toward policy solutions that validate and address those concerns and needs;
4. Prioritize support for women in a COVID-19 pandemic economic recovery plan, including support for Somerville women re-entering the workplace;
5. With the City’s Director of Racial and Social Justice, continue to prioritize addressing institutional racism that affects women of color;
6. Encourage and advocate for hospitable and supportive working environments for women, parents, guardians, and caregivers;
7. Continue and expedite focusing City efforts on expanding and creating quality accessible early education, out of school, and after school options for all Somerville children; and
8. Continue to support and engage with the Somerville Women’s Commission as well as with all volunteer commissions and stakeholders able to contribute to this effort.

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