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COVID Collides with Longstanding Disparities for MN Children

The group behind Minnesota's annual KIDS COUNT report says the state needs more targeted outreach and culturally relevant programming to combat decades of inequality. (Adobe Stock)
The group behind Minnesota's annual KIDS COUNT report says the state needs more targeted outreach and culturally relevant programming to combat decades of inequality. (Adobe Stock)
November 19, 2020

MINNEAPOLIS -- The fallout from the pandemic appears to be exacerbating disparities that were already evident among Minnesota children, according to a new report which examines how kids across the region are faring.

The Children's Defense Fund (CDF) Minnesota office has issued its annual KIDS COUNT Data Book.

Jennifer Bertram, local KIDS COUNT coordinator, said the state has a strong reputation for producing positive outcomes for children, but racial disparities continue to surface.

The most recent data, from 2018, show more than 33% of Black children in Minnesota living in poverty, compared to just 6% of white children. Bertram said there are concerns those gaps have grown in this tumultuous year.

"Especially after some of the events following the murder of George Floyd, we really need to do some analysis of how we are providing the best set of circumstances for all of our children in Minnesota, and how we could do much better," Bertram explained.

The report said among households with kids, a majority of stimulus money from the CARES Act was spent on basic needs.

That metric wasn't broken down by race, but CDF officials said it stands to reason children of color might be hurting more, because their families have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

The 2020 KIDS COUNT report highlights "Bridge Builders," programs and initiatives that offer ways to help struggling families reach economic stability.

Barti Wahi, executive director of CDF Minnesota, said despite a divided Legislature, Minnesota is capable of finding creative solutions to better the lives of children. She added that was on display at the start of the pandemic.

"Even in the last six months, with some of the stimulus work, and particularly in some of the areas around early childhood, we got some strong bipartisan support for some of the supplemental payments that went to childcare providers," Wahi noted.

The report stated tools such as tax credits can help low-income families stay above the "break-even" point.

The annual findings include census data, and this year's summary contained some of the bureau's pulse-survey data that's being collected as families try to weather the current crisis.

Disclosure: Children's Defense Fund- Minnesota Chapter contributes to our fund for reporting on Budget Policy and Priorities, and Children's Issues. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Mike Moen, Public News Service - MN