BALTIMORE, Md. — With Congress still wrangling over a COVID-19 stimulus package, a new report shows America’s children are suffering dire consequences from lack of support during the pandemic.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation Kids Count study shows food insecurity escalated since March for families with children. In Maryland, 15% of respondents reported there was not enough to eat in their households in the past few weeks, according to Nonso Umunna, research director with Advocates for Children and Youth. He said families in Maryland also are in a precarious position in terms of mental health and meeting rent.
“The report shows that this is actually a time for us to redouble our efforts to make sure we provide these families with children with the aid and the financial support that they need in order to be able to sustain them, especially through this particularly difficult moment,” Umunna said.
Almost 21% of Maryland respondents said they felt depressed or hopeless in recent weeks. And 18% said they had little or no confidence they’d be able to pay their rent or mortgage on time.
Umunna noted the pandemic has exposed already existing inequities for people of color in Maryland. About 20% of African Americans and 21% of Latinos report not having enough to eat, compared to 10% of non-Hispanic whites.
There’s also a wide gap for those going without health care coverage.
“Even in health insurance, where there is a little bit of improvement, African Americans are at 14%, while the Latino communities are going at 23%, while the white non-Hispanic is at 8%,” Umunna said. “So that’s a huge gap and a huge disparity, especially living with a health pandemic.”
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of internal affairs with the Casey Foundation, said all children are falling behind in educational and mental health support.
“We can’t even begin to address the social, emotional challenges that children are experiencing,” Boissiere said. “The numbers are staggering, schools are reporting excessive absences. And I think we can expect an increase in learning loss as a result of this year when children, their education has been disrupted.”
The report recommends putting racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking and expanding access to programs such as the Temporary Assistance for Needy Families and the Child Tax Credit to help with these challenges.