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TALLAHASSEE, FL — New data reveals what many policy experts have feared for months – the pandemic has taken a serious toll on the well-being of Florida’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.
Norin Dollard, director of Florida Kids Count, said the loss of jobs and income since March has destabilized many families.
“A lot of kids were food insecure before, but now 16% of folks who responded to the pulse survey from the Census Bureau said they sometimes or often do not have enough to eat,” Dollard said.
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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 15% of Florida families lack health insurance, and 20% of respondents reported feeling depressed or hopeless.
Dollard said with virtual learning and stay-at-home directives, the “new normal” was an especially difficult adjustment for kids. She encourages state lawmakers to find ways to fill these holes in the safety net.
“Ensure financial stability for families, extend unemployment benefits so that people can make their rent, they can pay their bills, they can buy food,” she said.
Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs at the Casey Foundation, said bold action is needed to ensure children emerge from the pandemic healthy and safe.
“We have to get back to the basics,” Boissiere said. “We have to make sure that the poorest and most fragile families in our economy 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 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.