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Pandemic Widens Racial Gap in Meeting VA Families' Basic Needs

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About 11% of Virginia families with children don't have health insurance, according to a new report. (Adobe Stock)
About 11% of Virginia families with children don't have health insurance, according to a new report. (Adobe Stock)
December 16, 2020

RICHMOND, Va. - As the number of coronavirus deaths surpasses 300,000 in the United States, new research shows families with children are suffering from the unprecedented turmoil and economic crisis set off by the pandemic.

According to a new report from the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the pandemic has uncovered alarming trends in meeting basic needs.

Lauren Snelling, research director for the group Voices for Virginia's Children, said the report finds Virginia's communities of color are especially struggling with food insecurity, mental health and unemployment.

"For Virginia families, there's about 13% that said they often did not have enough to eat - but for Black families, that rate is nearly double," she said. "When we look at employment losses, 46% of Virginia families have lost some sort of employment income, but the rate is almost 60% for Black families."

The report also found 21% of all Americans reported feeling "down, depressed or hopeless" in recent weeks. In Virginia, that number is 19%, indicating a widespread need for access to mental-health care.

Snelling said 16% of Virginians described themselves as having "little or no confidence" that they can make their next rent or mortgage payment. That's near the national average of 18%. However, she noted that the Commonwealth, especially the Richmond area, is known for its high eviction rates.

"We know that some localities in Virginia have some of the highest eviction rates in the nation," she said, "and this is really due to redlining and other discriminatory practices, and systematic racism that led to a higher concentration of poverty and wealth gaps for many communities of color. So, it's all interconnected."

With Congress still negotiating a stimulus deal, Leslie Boissiere, vice president for external affairs at the Casey Foundation, said policymakers need to prioritize the COVID-19 response to ensure children have what they need to survive and thrive.

"We have to start with those programs that work and that have a proven track record," she said, "and do the things that are required to provide for the basic needs of kids in this crisis."

The report recommended pushing for more federal support for programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.

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.
Diane Bernard, Public News Service - VA