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COVID Pandemic Brings Stress, Health Issues to Utah Kids, Families

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Tuesday, December 15, 2020   

PROVO, Utah -- The COVID-19 pandemic and its side-effects - job loss, poverty, hunger and the threat of homelessness - have hit Americans hard in 2020, and Utah families are not immune. A report out today from the Annie E. Casey Foundation studies how families are coping with the effects of the coronavirus.

Among other findings, it observed 20% of Utahns reported one or more family members have experienced significant mental-health issues. Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs with the Casey Foundation, said the pandemic has severely disrupted the lives of Utah's children.

"We can't even begin to address the social-emotional challenges that children are experiencing," Boissiere said. "The numbers are staggering, schools are reporting excessive absences. And I think we can expect an increase in learning loss when their education has been disrupted."

The study also found in Utah, 7% of adults do not always have enough to eat, while 12% of families are unsure if they can make their next rent payment. The national rates for food insecurity and housing concerns were almost twice as high.

Boissiere said the stresses people feel often come from being forced to make "impossible" choices.

"Many front-line workers have had to make hard choices between 'Do I go to work and risk my health, or do I stay home and risk not being able to provide for my family?'" She said.

Terry Haven, deputy director at Voices for Utah Children, said state policy-makers with a preference for lower taxes already had rendered Utah's safety net paper-thin by the beginning of the pandemic.

"How do we invest in kids? How do we make sure that we have the money available to do all the stuff we know we need to do - unless we raise taxes?" Haven asked. "We can't keep saying 'We're not going to raise taxes, we're not going to raise taxes,' when we have more and more kids every year in our public schools."

The report analyzed U.S. Census Bureau data gathered since the start of the pandemic to determine how well families were meeting their basic needs during a public health crisis.

Disclosure: Annie E Casey Foundation contributes to our fund for reporting on Children's Issues, Criminal Justice, Early Childhood Education, Education, Juvenile Justice, Welfare Reform. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.


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