New data reveals what many policy experts have feared for months: The pandemic has taken a serious toll on the well-being of Ohio's children.
Using data from weekly U.S. census surveys, a report released today by the Annie E. Casey Foundation demonstrates how families across the country are challenged to meet basic needs while managing school, work and mental health.
Kim Eckhart, Kids Count project manager for the Children's Defense Fund in Ohio said the loss of jobs and income since March has destabilized many families.
"One in six families in Ohio with children have reported that they usually or sometimes don't have enough to eat in their house," Eckhart explained. "And the same number don't feel confident that they can pay their next month's rent or mortgage."
The report shows the pandemic has exacerbated racial and ethnic inequities, with Black, Latino and native communities hit hardest by the crisis.
The report found 7% of Ohio families lack health insurance and 19% reported feeling depressed or hopeless.
Eckhart noted with virtual learning and stay-at-home directives, the "new normal" was an especially difficult adjustment for kids. She encouraged state lawmakers to increase investments in child well-being.
"We're recommending that we really put the whole child's social, emotional health and wellness at the core of our guiding principles for our next budget," Eckhart urged. "If we can get investments into community behavioral health providers, that would really help children."
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Casey Foundation, contended bold action is needed to ensure that children emerge from the pandemic healthy and safe.
"We have to get back to the basics," Boissiere stressed. "We have to make sure that the poorest and most fragile families are taken care of and that we're funding those programs that can have an impact and make sure that everybody's basic needs are met in this country."
The report offers several suggestions including guaranteeing that any COVID-19 vaccine be available without cost; improving access to programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families; and boosting investments in education and ensuring schools are more equitably funded.