About Advancing Policy

In 2015 Cassandra Welchlin cofounded Mississippi Women’s Economic Security Initiative (MWESI) while working as the policy director at the MS Low-Income Childcare Initiative led by Carol Burnett. The initiative was funded and supported by the Ms. Foundation of Women and was the first of its kind to launch in the South.

Through local town halls and major summits held across the state, women crafted our policy agenda focusing on expanding childcare subsidies, affordable and comprehensive health care, jobs that pay living wages, pay equity and paid family leave, tuition assistance that covers childcare for single moms and protections from domestic violence.

The primary goals include building power and achieving progress toward an ambitious policy agenda on women’s economic security in a hostile political environment; strengthening, expanding, and engaging MWESI’s statewide network and leadership team; and deepening civic engagement of women of color across Mississippi. This policy agenda continues to be relevant to the women and families of Mississippi five years later. 

Workplace Justice

This can be accomplished in many ways. Mississippi needs to advance the enactment of a meaningful Equal Pay Law. A good Equal Pay Law will allow equal pay for equal work, promote transparency, protect against retaliation, prohibit salary history discrimination, and provide for recovery of compensatory and punitive damages for economic harm. The state minimum wage is still $7.25 an hour. It has to be raised to at least $15 per hour and index the wage to rise annually with the median wage. Mississippians need this stipulation to ensure the same minimum for tipped and non-tipped workers.

Increasing Access
To Healthcare

Pregnancy-related Medicaid and Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) eligibility is limited to 60 days after childbirth in Mississippi. The American Rescue Plan (ARP) included a temporary state option to extend that coverage up to 12 months postpartum. Seven states have approved or are pending to extend postpartum eligibility. Both pediatric and maternal health are improved with longer medical insurance benefits during the first year, a vulnerable time for the mother and child.

Our goals are to increase access to healthcare for Black women in Mississippi by the following:

  • Expand Medicaid
  • Extend Medicaid 12 Months Postpartum
  • Codify the ACA’s birth control coverage requirements in state law.
  • Eliminating medical management and other restrictions that can keep women from accessing the birth control that is best for them without cost-sharing. 
  • Require private insurance coverage of no less than one full year of birth control dispensed at one time.
  • Repeal medically unnecessary or unconstitutional abortion restrictions.

  • Enact proactive policies that would increase access to abortion.

Quality Childcare

Childcare is a lifeline for many working mothers yet, only 10% of Mississippi children that are eligible for child care assistance under federal law receive it.

Without any support or assistance, a single mother in Mississippi earning the median income would have to pay nearly 40% of income to pay for an infant and 4-year-old in daycare.

To ensure all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care that enables parents to work and children to get a strong start in school and in life, Mississippi should:

  • Provide sufficient state matching funding to draw down the full federal child care allocation.
  • Provide additional state investments in childcare and early education.

ending violence against women and girls

MS Black Women’s Roundtable seeks to improve responses to sexual harassment and assault in schools. To ensure girls stay in school, schools must be required to promptly and equitably respond to sexual harassment, regardless of where the harassment occurs. Schools should create equitable grievance processes that do not subject students to traumatizing processes or retaliation for reporting and student victims with accommodations and services to preserve or restore their access to education.

Annual climate surveys will help schools understand the environment students are facing and to help fill the gap between what occurs in school and what gets reported. And providing students and employees with culturally responsive, trauma-informed,
age-appropriate training on harassment and sexual violence, how to support survivors, and protocols for responding to sexual harassment and assault