Even before the novel coronavirus gripped the United States last March, about 12 million American kids were living in poverty and 4.4 million had no health insurance. But at least things had been gradually improving in some ways since the Great Recession.
Not anymore. This week, an Annie E. Casey Foundation’s Kids Count policy report came out, just in time to underscore the urgency behind contentious congressional efforts on Capitol Hill this weekend to birth a new $900 billion coronavirus relief and stimulus package before the end of 2020.
Should Congress and the Trump administration, inside its final four weeks in office, fail to come together by Dec. 31, millions of struggling American households with children fear the hammer will come down hard, according to the Kids Count report, released Dec. 14.
The report, which is based mostly on household survey data collected by the U.S. Census Bureau in the fall, found that a whopping one-third of American adults living in households with children fear they’ll have to leave their homes because of eviction or foreclosure. As usual in such surveys, the numbers skew higher for Black and Latino families.
“The events of 2020 have exposed holes in the safety net of programs and policies designed to catch kids and families in free-fall moments like these,” the Kids Count report said. “Moreover, the devastating and disproportionate effects of the pandemic on communities of color have made it clear that the national response to this current situation must address the racial inequities long highlighted” by the Casey Foundation.
As many state and local moratoriums on evictions and foreclosures edge perilously close to their year-end expiration, here are some of the report’s other key findings:
- Joblessness and underemployment are an even more intractable problem.
- Health and mental health issues are mounting amid dropping insurance coverage rates.
- Millions of families report that they aren’t confident they’ll have enough food to eat in the coming weeks. Some parents have already missed meals or delayed other payments in order to feed their children.
- With children largely not attending school in person, many are falling ever-further behind academically as they struggle to manage online learning — if they have decent internet access at all. Parents say the kids don’t have a quiet place to study.
- With the kids at home, some parents have a hard time managing their work requirements as they try to help with schooling.
All of this adds to the everyday stress of poverty and may have life-long consequences for children’s success and parental and children’s health.
“In the richest nation in the world, kids should not go hungry or endure illness without treatment or live on the brink of homelessness,” the researchers wrote.