Hopeful Signs for NC Families

New 2021 KIDS COUNT Data Book illustrates the power of pandemic relief measures like the historic Child Tax Credit

By: Vikki Crouse | June 2021

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New data show early signs that pandemic relief measures are having a measurably positive impact on kids, according to the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, a 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Critical policy solutions like the historic expansion of the child tax credit will help get North Carolina families on a strong path to recovery and lift thousands of children out of poverty.

The expanded child tax credit will be game-changing for thousands of North Carolina children. It will lift over 140,000 North Carolina children out of poverty, particularly children of color.

Families with the lowest-income will benefit the most from the expanded Child Tax Credit. However, families who do not file annual tax forms may not get their money. To get the Child Tax Credit payments, families who did not file taxes in 2020 must go to IRS.gov and complete the non-filer sign-up tool. Need help getting the Child Tax Credit? The United Way is providing support – get help by dialing 211, or go to www.211.org for assistance.

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Pandemic Relief Measures Fight Child Poverty

Before the pandemic, a startling proportion of North Carolina’s children lived in severe poverty. One in five children lived in households with an income below the poverty line in 2019. The economic downturn associated with the pandemic resulted in massive job losses in North Carolina that meant that thousands of parents lost their jobs and families experienced food and housing insecurity.

Data from Census Bureau surveys confirm that households with children were hit especially hard during the pandemic in 2020 – but that the United States appeared to be experiencing the start of a recovery in the first months of 2021.

Sustaining the Positive Impact

The figures from this year’s Data Book illustrate that simply returning to a pre-pandemic level of support for children and families would shortchange millions of kids and fail to address persistent racial and ethnic disparities:

  • One persistent indicator of economic distress is hunger. During the pandemic, in 2020, 16% of households with children in North Carolina reported sometimes or often no having enough food to eat in the past two weeks. By March 2021, the figure was down to 10%, suggesting the beginnings of a recovery.
  • In 2020, 22% of households with children experienced housing insecurity, reporting little or no confidence in their ability to pay their next rent or mortgage payment. In March 2021, that figure went down to 17% of families with children.
  • The pandemic has also taken a toll on parents’ and caregivers’ mental health. The percentage of adults from households with children experiencing depression symptoms increased from 19% during the pandemic in 2020, to 22% in March 2021.

>> Find more NC data points in the 2021 KIDSCOUNT Data Book

Recommendations for Building a Strong Path to Recovery

Investing in children, families, and communities is a priority to ensure an equitable and expansive recovery. Several of the Annie E. Casey Foundation’s suggestions have already been enacted in the American Rescue Plan, and additional recommendations include:

  • Congress should make the expansion of the child tax credit permanent. The expanded child tax credit is game-changing for thousands of North Carolina children. Every family in the United States earning less than $150,000 annual income will realize a significant increase in the child tax credit – and will be receiving it as monthly checks, instead of as part of a one-time tax refund. The $300 per child payments, beginning as early as July 2021, will help struggling families regain some of the financial ground they lost during pandemic.
  • North Carolina should expand Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act.  The American Rescue Plan offers huge financial incentives for our state to do so (a net $1.2 billion in investments for the state). North Carolina remains one of just 12 states who still have not expanded Medicaid. Closing the coverage gap would mean that an estimated additional 500,000 North Carolinians would have health coverage, including thousands of parents and frontline workers.

Sustaining the Positive Impact

Congress and our state legislature have made extraordinary one-time investments in kids as a result of the pandemic. We can sustain those positive effects by making some of these high-impact investments and policy changes permanent. Our leaders must act to strengthen the social safety net and to weave in new safeguards for children, families and communities.

Dive into the 2021 KIDS COUNT® Data Book, and the North Carolina state profile. We’ll be diving in all year, and bringing you crucial updates on the areas of children’s health, education, and well-being that matter most in our state.