Pandemic leaves millions struggling with basic needs

One in seven families with children (14 percent) said that in the most recent week, there was sometimes or always not enough to eat in their household

Families require an immediate policy response to meet the needs of children during the COVID-19 pandemic, which has left millions struggling with finances, school, work and mental health, according to a new policy report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, a decades-long advocate for young people in America. 

In “Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond,” a 50-state report, data show children and families are suffering from the unprecedented disruption and economic storm set off by the global health crisis.

In assessing food security, the ability to make rent or mortgage payments, health insurance status and mental health concerns, the foundation identified four pain points for children and families that require immediate action for relief and an opportunity to build a more equitable future. Key findings include:

One in seven families with children (14 percent) said that in the most recent week, there was sometimes or always not enough to eat in their household.

The figures were 23 percent for Black households with children, 23 percent for those of two or more races or another race and 19 percent for Latinos, compared to white (10 percent) and Asian households.

Nearly one in five households with kids (18 percent) said they had only slight confidence or no confidence at all that they would be able to make their next rent or mortgage payment on time.

One in eight families with children (12 percent) lack health insurance, a figure which has been worsening over the past four years. 

More than a third of people with children in the household (34 percent) reported that they had delayed getting medical care in the previous month.

A fifth of respondents with children in their households (21 percent) reported that they had felt down, depressed or hopeless in the previous week, indicating a widespread need for access to mental health care.

“America’s children are in crisis,” said Annie E. Casey Foundation president and CEO Lisa Hamilton in a news release. 

“All across the country, families with children are struggling to overcome an unprecedented convergence of emergencies. We need immediate and decisive action from policymakers that prioritizes equitable solutions to help families survive this catastrophe.”

National data indicate that trying to educate children remotely while parents need to work is taking an enormous toll on families. 

Nearly half of the adult respondents (49 percent) indicated that they felt they were not equipped to help their children with schoolwork, and 32 percent reported lacking adequate broadband internet and online learning tools. 

More than three in 10 respondents with children said they are less likely to return to work due to the lack of child care (32 percent).

“Our federal, state and local decision makers need to mount a response to COVID-19 that enables America’s children and families to weather this crisis and yields more equitable outcomes,” said Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Casey Foundation. 

“The Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which earlier this year provided an unprecedented $1.8 trillion in support to families, businesses and state, local and tribal governments, is proof our leaders can intervene to reach families and children in pain.”

The foundation urges policymakers and child advocates to unite across differences and put COVID-19 response at the top of 2021 agendas to make sure children have what they need to survive and thrive.

The Gazette-Democrat

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