NEW KIDS COUNT REPORT RELEASE: Looming COVID Housing Crisis Threatens Health And Safety of DC Families
WASHINGTON, DC — Nearly 1 in 5 families with children living in the District of Columbia are worried about paying their rent or making their next mortgage payment, according to Kids, Families and COVID-19: Pandemic Pain Points and the Urgent Need to Respond. A new, 50-state report of recent household data developed by the Annie E. Casey Foundation analyzes how families are faring during the COVID-19 crisis.
This KIDS COUNT report examined data from weekly surveys conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau that demonstrate how families across the country are struggling to meet basic needs during the global public health crisis while managing school, work, and mental health. The Foundation finds that concurrent health and economic problems are exacerbating trends that show that vulnerable families cannot fulfill basic needs.
DC families' concerns about housing security mirror families' worries in 25 states. They come as Republicans have failed to pass a COVID relief bill and with a growing number of bipartisan governors and mayors ringing alarm bells about the federal protections set to expire just after Christmas.
“This pandemic has stressed and stretched families all across the District. Many are struggling to make ends meet. They are showing up at food pantries where they once donated and volunteered, and they are consulting with lawyers at free legal clinics seeking advice on how to stay in their homes. Some of our partners report that free mental health counseling requests are exceeding capacity,” said Kimberly Perry, executive director of DC Action for Children, DC member of the KIDS COUNT network.
The report shows how urgent state and federal intervention is to families’ health and well-being with children. Almost a quarter of adults in DC living with children report struggling with their mental health as the pandemic lingers, and more than 10% are concerned about health care and having enough to eat.
By measuring food security, the ability to make rent or mortgage payments, health insurance status, and mental health concerns, the Casey Foundation identified four pain points for children and families that require immediate action. Percentages of DC families with children who have experienced challenges as measured by these four indicators are listed below:
- FOOD SECURITY: 13% percent said they sometimes or often did not have enough to eat in the past week. In the same time period, 21% of Black adults in households with children said the same (see the Kids Count data portal to see how these numbers have shifted over the summer and fall).
- HOUSING STABILITY: 19% percent had slight or no confidence they would make the next rent or mortgage payment on time. In the same time period, 27% of Black adults in households with children said the same (see the Kids Count data portal to see how these numbers have shifted over the summer and fall).
- AFFORDABLE HEALTH CARE: 12% did not have health insurance.
- MENTAL HEALTH: 23% felt down, depressed, or hopeless for more than half of the days in the past week. In the same time period, 29% of Black adults in households with children said the same (see the Kids Count data portal to see how these numbers have shifted over the summer and fall).
The global health crisis has set off an economic storm that is bringing Black and Latinx families across the country to their knees. Its impact on DC families is no different and in some ways worse because Congress shortchanged the District in its last COVID relief bill. “Unless Congress does the right thing and provides the District with state-level support, we will be looking at even tougher budget decisions that will affect the agencies that run programs and services that serve families at a time when needs are increasing. Congress can stop the pain from continuing to spread,” concluded DC Action’s Perry.
The Annie E. Casey Foundation urges policymakers and child advocates to unite across differences and put COVID-19 response at the top of their agendas to ensure that children have what they need to survive and thrive. The Foundation calls on elected officials and other decision-makers to:
- Put racial and ethnic equity first in policymaking by using disaggregated data and engaging community stakeholders. This should ensure that the policymaking process is informed by the diverse perspectives of those hardest hit by the crisis and created in partnership with communities. This approach should underpin any concrete policy actions.
- Prioritize the physical and mental health of all children by guaranteeing that any vaccine will be available without cost as a factor and by retaining and strengthening the Affordable Care Act. To promote mental health, particularly in crisis times, policymakers should reduce the student-to-school-counselor ratio in all school settings to levels recommended by mental health professionals.
- 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. Additionally, policymakers should eliminate barriers to accessing 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 funded, 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 at home and in the classroom.
The full report is available here. Those interested in creating maps, graphs and rankings in stories about the Kids Count report can use the KIDS COUNT Data Center at datacenter.kidscount.org.
About DC Action for Children
DC Action for Children is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research and advocacy organization dedicated to using data, public policy, and partnerships with a lens toward race equity to break down barriers that stand in the way of all kids reaching their full potential. DC Action is the primary source of data on conditions and outcomes for child and youth well-being in DC with the publication of the DC Kids Count 2020 Data Book.
About the Annie E. Casey Foundation
The Annie E. Casey Foundation creates a brighter future for the nation’s children by developing solutions to strengthen families, build paths to economic opportunity and transform struggling communities into safer and healthier places to live, work and grow. For more information, visit www.aecf.org. KIDS COUNT® is a registered trademark of the Annie E. Casey Foundation.