Common Good Iowa

Report: Iowa families with children are stressed, struggling to meet basic needs during pandemic

Posted on December 14, 2020 at 9:40 AM by Anne Discher

A troubling share of Iowa families with children are struggling to put food on the table, pay rent and stay insured during the current health and economic crisis, according to a new report, Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond, a 50-state analysis of how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation.

The KIDS COUNT® report examines data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that show the struggles families face in meeting basic needs while managing remote learning, work and mental and physical health. The Foundation finds the dueling health and economic crises are exacerbating existing trends in which vulnerable families are unable to fulfill basic needs. 

The report illustrates the need for critical state and federal investment in the health and well-being of families with children and identifies four main pain points for Iowa children and families. Here are the percentages of Iowa families with children who have experienced challenges in each of the four areas (with comparable nationwide figures in parentheses):

  • Housing stability: 21% had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time (U.S.: 18%)

  • Food security: 14% said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat (U.S.: 14%)

  • Affordable health care: 6% did not have health insurance (U.S.: 12%)

  • Mental health: 20% felt down, depressed or hopeless (U.S.: 21%)

“The scope of the crisis is unprecedented—and it’s not over,” said Anne Discher, executive director of Common Good Iowa, the KIDS COUNT organization in Iowa. “We need the state and national policy response to the COVID-19 pandemic to match the severity of the challenges Iowa families are facing each day.”

Policymakers and advocates must unite to prioritize a robust COVID-19 response that ensures children and families have what they need to survive and thrive. Iowans need policymakers to:

  • Put racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking by using disaggregated data and engaging community stakeholders. This approach should underpin concrete policy actions, ensuring that the policymaking process is informed by the diverse perspectives of those hardest hit by the crisis and created in partnership with communities. 

  • Prioritize the physical and mental health of all children by guaranteeing that any vaccine will be available without cost as a factor, retaining and strengthening the Affordable Care Act and protecting Medicaid. To promote mental health, particularly in times of crisis, Iowa policymakers should work to ensure adequate, predictable and sustainable funding for the state’s mental health system for children and adults.

  • Help families with children achieve financial stability and bolster their well-being by expanding access to unemployment insurance for part-time and gig economy workers, low-wage workers and students and by expanding child care access. Policymakers should eliminate barriers to Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF), the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). And beyond any temporary housing assistance programs aimed at heading off a foreclosure or eviction crisis, federal policymakers should expand the Section 8 Housing Choice Voucher program and increase the overall availability of public housing. 

  • Ensure schools are better and more equitably funded and ready to meet the needs of students disparately affected by the pandemic by boosting school funding to protect against the economic impact of the pandemic, build maintenance-of-equity requirements into relief packages and address disparities in technology access.

Tagged As: Data, Housing, Mental health

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