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Study: COVID-19 pandemic exacerbated hardships for low-income, minority families :

June 3, 2020

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Financial hardships caused by the COVID-19 pandemic are hitting low-income, black and Hispanic families especially hard, according to a new report.

Job losses have left families struggling to pay for necessities like housing, food and medical care, while those who are still employed report difficulty finding child care.

The findings come from a nationally representative Urban Institute survey of just over 9,000 adults in March and April, which were released in a new report.

“The COVID-19 crisis has caused significant disruption to children’s daily lives, and the findings in this brief underscore the many ways in which the pandemic poses risks to children’s health, well-being, and development,” authors wrote.

Roughly 43% of parents living with children report they or a family member has lost a job or work hours due to the pandemic. That includes 62% of Hispanic families, 50% of black families and 36.5% of white families. Just over half of low-income families and one-third of higher income families reported job losses.

While 41.5% of those who are employed can work from home, only about one-quarter of low-income and Hispanic parents could do so. Roughly 65% of all families had paid sick leave, but only about half of low-income and Hispanic families had this benefit.

About one-third of all families said someone in the household stayed home from work to watch the children because of the outbreak while 16.5% had trouble arranging child care. Again, low-income and Hispanic families were most likely to report difficulty arranging care.

Surveys also found about one-third of families experienced a material hardship in the past month, a rate that rises to about half of low-income, black and Hispanic families.

One-quarter of families experienced food insecurity, including more than one-third of low-income, black and Hispanic families. Roughly 10.5% of all families were late with their rent or mortgage payment or didn’t pay the full amount, 13% didn’t pay the full amount of their utility bills and 16% had someone go without medical care due to the cost.

Authors said the pandemic exacerbated material hardship and psychological distress for low-income families and warned such stress can have long-lasting impacts on children.

They called for increased Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, school meal service during the summer, Medicaid expansion, mortgage/rent assistance, expanded federal paid leave policies and child care programs for essential workers. They also said support should not hinge on immigration status.

The author’s concluded: “Ensuring children’s home environments remain as stable as possible and that their educational, nutritional, physical, and mental health needs are met will be paramount to helping families and communities weather the current crisis, and to minimizing adverse economic, health, and emotional effects on children.”

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