Women, Children, & Families
Senator Menendez has spent his career fighting for change that makes a real difference in the lives of New Jersey’s families. Every day, he works to make our communities safer, provide tools to help parents with the challenges of caring for their families, and give all New Jersey children the chance to fulfill their full potential.
Senator Menendez knows personally the struggles many working families are facing, having just put two children through college and one through law school, while also helping his sister care for their mother who suffered from Alzheimer’s disease. Every family has its own story and its own challenges. Government certainly doesn’t have all the answers, but there are things we can do to help middle class families meet those challenges.
From protecting families from the abuses of the health insurance industry, to offering support for mothers suffering from postpartum depression, to creating a support structure for families affected by autism, to protecting children from online predators, to boosting programs that help find missing children, Senator Menendez has championed an array of initiatives to improve the lives of New Jersey families.
We have made significant progress in closing the women's equality gap in this country – whether through the women's suffrage movement, or the struggle for equal pay. Still, at the beginning of the 21st century, there are a number of challenges threatening women's rights, among them the threat to women's reproductive rights and inequality in the workforce. Women are also far too often the victims of violence. Sen. Menendez is proud to have supported legislation that helps guarantee equal pay for equal work and to have secured programs to address violence against women and families in the federal budget.
- Providing Equal Pay for Equal Work. Co-sponsored The Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, which helps end pay discrimination and was enacted into law in 2009. The law makes it illegal to discriminate in wages based on gender, race, religion, sexual orientation or disability and strengthens the legal recourse available to those who are subject to such discrimination.
- Ensuring Equal Rights For Women. Lead sponsor of the Equal Rights Amendment which would make women’s equality a fundamental right under the Constitution. Women have made tremendous advancements in our society, but Senator Menendez believes that we must continue to advance women’s rights by bringing our laws in line with 21st Century values.
- Protecting Women’s Access to Preventive Care. Fought during health reform to ensure that women were no longer discriminated against in the health insurance market, by being charged higher premiums and denied access to care solely based on being a woman. As part of health reform, insurance companies are required to provide preventive health care services to women, including cancer screenings and prescription contraception. Menendez stood up to those seeking to deny women access to these services, helping defeat legislation that would have lead to women being denied access to care at the whim of their employers. As a result of the Affordable Care Act, 1,445,004 women in New Jersey now have access to no-cost vital preventive services such as neonatal care, gestational diabetes screenings, breastfeeding support and contraception.
- Raising Postpartum Depression Awareness. Authored the Melanie Blocker Stokes MOTHERS Act, which was included as part of the health reform law, to provide support services to women suffering from postpartum depression and psychosis and to help educate mothers and their families about these conditions. In addition, the bill supports research into the causes, diagnoses and treatments for postpartum depression and psychosis.
- Creating a Women’s Medical Home. Ensured that new patient-centered medical home models take into consideration the unique health care needs of women and new mothers. This women’s medical home model is based on legislation Menendez authored, the Women’s Medical Home Demonstration Project Act.
- Leading Autism Advocate. Led Senate effort to reauthorize autism programs. With New Jersey experiencing some of the nation’s highest diagnosis of autism at 1 in every 49 children by the age of 8, Senator Menendez has become the Senate’s leading autism advocate. He introduced the Combating Autism Reauthorization Act (CARA; P.L. 112-32) in the Senate, which was signed into law by President Obama on September 30, 2011. The CARA reauthorized for an additional three years the critical autism programs established with the Combating Autism Act of 2006. This reauthorization will ensure the continuation of programs relating to the diagnosis and treatment of autism spectrum disorders, provide for further biomedical research on potential environmental causes and allow the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to monitor the disorder’s growing prevalence. Additionally, by providing for the continuation of the Interagency Autism Coordinating Committee, the CARA ensures that federal resources are efficiently and effectively utilized.
- Promoting Caregiver Assistance. Authored the Caregiver Assistance and Relief Effort (CARE) Act, which would help families afford the cost of caring for ailing family members or loved ones by making long-term care more affordable. The legislation would provide tax credits to family caregivers; encourage individuals to plan for and invest in their own long-term care by offering a tax deduction for long-term care insurance; and increase funding for the existing National Family Caregiver Support Program, which supports a wide range of important services for seniors.
- Fighting for Children's Health Care. Fought for protections in the new health insurance law to provide families with protection against insurance company abuses, such as denying children health insurance due to a preexisting condition. Additionally, Sen. Menendez had language included in the health reform law that ensures the availability of child-only policies on the health insurance exchange, ensuring that all children have access to quality insurance options. Thanks to health reform, more than 999,000 children in New Jersey have access to new no-cost preventive health benefits. New Jersey ranks among the highest in the nation for children in private plans benefiting from health reform’s focus on pediatric prevention.
- Protecting New Jersey’s Children’s Health Insurance Program. Led the 2008 and 2009 Senate efforts to protect and expand federal investment in the New Jersey FamilyCare children's health insurance program. New Jersey's strong program was targeted repeatedly by amendments aiming to reduce federal support for it, but Senator Menendez led the effort that overcame each of them. This program helps ensure that children from families that fall in the health coverage abyss between Medicaid and private insurance have access to quality and affordable health care. In 2009, a strong children's health insurance reauthorization was enacted into law.
- Keeping Kids Safe on the Internet. Authored the School and Family Education about the Internet (SAFE Internet) Act to help prevent children and teens from falling victim to new online and wireless threats, such as "sexting" and "cyberbullying". The legislation would create a grant program to support existing and new Internet safety education programs that meet guidelines based on the cybersafety strategies found to be most effective.
- Improving Child Support Collection. Authored the SAVE Child Support Act which would give states the tools they need to collect child support from parents who do not pay their support orders. This bipartisan legislation, introduced with Senator Charles Grassley, would help enforce interstate child support orders so that no parent can hide from their obligation to their children.
- Strengthening Child Abuse Reporting. Authored the Child Abuse Reporting Enforcement (CARE) Act to strengthen child abuse reporting requirements, and create consistency among the states. The bill would require a penalty of at least a year in prison and would specify that all witnesses report abuse to law enforcement authorities and child protective services.
- Locating Missing Persons. Authored legislation to make a federal investment in an effective program to assist law enforcement in locating missing persons quickly. The legislation would support the non-profit organization "A Child Is Missing", which generates 1,000 calls every 60 seconds to phone numbers in the immediate area where a missing person was last seen. This system can often be initiated quicker than Amber Alert, which requires a confirmation that the missing person has been abducted.
- Working to End Texting While Driving. Co-sponsored the ALERT Drivers Act, which would ban texting while operating a moving vehicle nationwide in a manner similar to the nationwide ban on drunk driving. The legislation would require states to bar the sending of text or email messages while operating a car, truck or mass transit vehicle, or else risk losing federal highway funds.
- Increasing Women in the Sciences. Authored provisions enacted into law as part of the 2007 America COMPETES Act to increase the number of women and minorities in the science and technology fields and aid in revitalizing high school science labs in rural communities. Provision originally included in Menendez's Partnership for Access to Laboratory Science (PALS) Act.
- Protecting School Children Affected by Foreclosure. Secured $70 million in federal funding as part of the 2009 economic recovery package for a program to help school children uprooted by foreclosures remain in their schools and receive educational assistance. As a result of the nationwide foreclosure crisis, potentially millions of students, including 50,000 in New Jersey, could see their families lose their homes, finding themselves floating from school to school.
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