All children deserve to have their basic needs met – in normal times and in times of crisis. North Carolina is falling short on food and housing security during the pandemic, according to Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and a Roadmap for Recovery, a new 50-state report of recent household data released by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzing how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis.
This KIDS COUNT report examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are struggling to meet basic needs during this global public health crisis while managing school, work and mental health. Overall, the dual health and economic crises are exacerbating trends that show vulnerable families are unable to fulfill basic needs.
The choices policymakers make today in response to the pandemic can ensure that North Carolina’s children survive and thrive as the pandemic continues. State and federal COVID relief is critical to ensuring the health and well-being of families with children.
The Casey Foundation identified four pain points for children and families that require immediate action:
- Food insecurity: One in five families with children (19%) said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat. One in five NC children were facing hunger even before COVID-19 hit. Funding for local food banks and free school meals during the school year have helped alleviate the impact of the economic downturn on families, but thousands of families are still in crisis and long-term supports are needed.
- Housing: Nearly one in five households with kids (18%) had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time. The data also point to a looming housing catastrophe for communities of color without action to prevent an eviction and foreclosure crisis. Nationally, 31% of African Americans, 26% of Latinos, 26% of individuals of two or more races or another race and 16% of Asians felt they were on the verge of failing to pay the rent or mortgage.
- Access to Healthcare: Four out of twenty-five households (16%) lacks health insurance, a figure which has been worsening over the past four years. The economic downturn in 2020 has meant a new disruption in health coverage because most people still get their health coverage as a job benefit. Kids and their families need to have reliable health coverage, preventive health care, and access to medical providers more than ever.
- Mental Health: A fifth of respondents with children in their households (21%) reported that they had felt down, depressed or hopeless in the previous week, indicating a widespread need for access to mental health care.
Families need relief now
Policymakers and child advocates must put COVID-19 response at the top of 2021 agendas to make sure children have what they need to survive and thrive. Read the full list of policy recommendations for elected officials and other decision-makers in the full Kids, Families, and COVID-19 KIDSCOUNT report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation.
A number of positive actions this year demonstrate that we can take the kind of steps needed to really make a difference for families. State and local officials can do much to prevent long-term harm for kids by investing in the programs that are proven to insulate families against the harmful effects of poverty. Our future depends on the collective well-being of all our children.
Speak up today!
You can take action on this important issue today. Congress is running out of time to pass a pandemic relief bill that supports struggling families. Please join us in calling on our US Senator to quickly allocate emergency funding targeted to struggling families. Our children, families, and North Carolina’s economy depend on it.