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Discouraging Trends for MT Children Leading into Pandemic, Data Shows

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Monday, June 21, 2021   

HELENA, Mont. -- Troubling trends in Montana may have made the pandemic harder for children, a new report shows.

The latest Annie E. Casey's KIDS COUNT report ranks states based on 2019 data in four categories: economic wellbeing, education, health, and family and community. Montana ranks 22nd overall.

Xanna Burg, KIDS COUNT coordinator at the Montana Budget and Policy Center, said families have been struggling to afford housing, which became harder during the pandemic.

Burg added another concerning trend is the recent rise in Montana children without health insurance, up to about 15,000 in 2019.

"That was before the pandemic, and it's concerning because so many families, their health insurance is tied to their employment," Burg explained. "And so we're concerned that this number may have increased as a result of some of the job loss that we saw in the last year."

Burg argued Montana should support Medicaid and improve outreach in order to enroll more children in the program.

Leslie Boissiere, vice president of external affairs for the Foundation, said Congress passed pandemic relief quickly, including an expansion of the Child Tax Credit within the American Rescue Plan Act.

She explained the policy is expected to pull as many as half of the children living in poverty out of it, but noted it's only temporary.

"We are excited and grateful that lawmakers passed the expansion," Boissiere stated. "And we're calling on them to make that expansion permanent. We'd like to ensure that we don't have the largest ever, one year reduction in the number of children who live in poverty followed immediately by the largest ever one-year increase."

Burg noted Native American children in Montana face greater hardships than their white counterparts, including higher rates of poverty. She emphasized policymakers should look at the pandemic recovery as a chance to reimagine how we support children and families, instead of returning to the way it was before COVID-19.

"So when making decisions and creating supports for families, how can we think about specifically supporting Native children and other children of color in our state so that we don't see these disparities continue in the data?" Burg asked.

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


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