The pandemic is posing formidable challenges to the health, education and economic stability of kids and families—and children of color are most exposed.
These are the findings of a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and a Roadmap for Recovery a 50-state report of recent household data from the U.S. Census Bureau.
It shows how thousands of Washington families are challenged to meet their basic needs: finding themselves without health coverage, at grave risk of foreclosure or eviction, and facing the prospect of hunger.
Here in Washington, in a recent four-week period from mid-September to mid-October:
Nine percent of Washington households with children said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat, lower than the national number (14%). Yet here in Washington and across the country, Black, Latino/a and “Other” households of color—a category which includes Native American, multiracial, Pacific Islander and Native Hawaiian households—have reported higher rates of food insecurity.
Twelve percent had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time, lower than the national number (18%). Black, Latino/a and “Other” households of color with children have been disproportionately likely to be uncertain about making their next rent or mortgage payment.
Just 8% of Washington households with children did not have health insurance, compared to 12% nationwide. Yet Latino/a and “Other” households of color have been much more likely than their neighbors to lack health coverage.
Nineteen percent of Washington adults in households with children felt down, depressed or hopeless, about equal with the national average (21%). Black and “Other” households of color have been more likely to report feeling down, depressed or hopeless, both here in Washington and nationwide.
These racial disparities show that the United States’ history of segregation, discrimination and disinvestment continues to raise barriers to equal opportunity. In response, state and federal lawmakers should take the following steps:
Preserve and expand access to health care: State lawmakers must preserve health coverage for adults and children, such as Apple Health for Kids, Medicaid adult dental and COFA Islander Health Care for Pacific Islander Washingtonians, to prevent health inequities from worsening.
Provide direct cash assistance to families most impacted by the COVID-19 crisis: Low-barrier, flexible cash assistance to families with low incomes is one of the most effective ways to support the dignity and well-being of kids and families. State lawmakers should invest in a Working Families Tax Credit, our state’s version of the highly successful federal Earned Income Tax Credit program, and extend its support to caregivers, childless adults and immigrants who file taxes with an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN).
Reduce barriers to existing cash assistance programs like WorkFirst/Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) by easing strict program requirements that make it difficult for families to access support.
Bolster investment in a Washington Immigrant Relief Fund so that immigrant families can access crucial forms of income support during the crisis. Over the long term, they should create an unemployment insurance system that is available to people who are undocumented, so that job loss does not jeopardize immigrant families’ health and safety.
Prevent evictions and help families pay rent: State policymakers must ensure that Washington’s state-level eviction moratorium remains in place for the duration of the public health and economic crisis. They must also provide robust rental assistance so that families do not face homelessness when accumulated back rent eventually comes due.
Raise progressive revenue and fix our state’s upside-down tax code: Washington needs dependable sources of revenue to generate enough resources to invest in kids and families. This starts with cleaning up our worst-in-the-nation tax code, in which low- and middle-income families pay as much as six times more in taxes as a share of their incomes than the wealthiest.
Finally, Congress must pass a robust COVID-19 relief package that includes meaningful support for the urgent needs of children, families and schools.